The conventional wisdom goes that for any given thing you do or quality you possess, you will always find people who are better than you at it, and people who are worse than you at it.
I like to think of myself as a person with guts. And to a certain extent I guess I am. People occasionally tell me I am, at least. A friend of my father’s who hadn’t seen me since I was about 14 once asked me where my fearlessness came from. I don’t think of myself as fearless at all, but compared to some people who have never stepped out of their comfort zones, never jumped on the back of a motorcycle or taken a 3-day cross-country bus trip, I guess I am.
But this girl has more guts than I ever have.
I am a compulsive hair-puller. I have had to buzz my hair a couple of times in the past three years and I may do it again. I don’t know why I do it, any more than I know why I have a mole on my right shoulder blade.
I deal with depression and anxiety too. I don’t have panic attacks very often anymore– looking back on the past 12 months I think I’ve had two. Instead of with explosions, my messed-up thinking manifests itself with a low-intensity but almost constant buzz in my brain– my own voice saying my friends are only pretending to like me, I’m on the edge of getting fired from my job, I have no real skills despite 7 years of higher ed and to top it off I’m a coward. Even when, rationally, all evidence suggests the contrary, my brain cherry-picks and distorts the evidence worse than a partisan political columnist pretending to be objective. Even when my producer says, at a morning meeting in front of everyone, “You did really good yesterday.”
I’m conversant in half a dozen languages? * So what, says the other me. That makes you an idiot savant, not a talent.
When I was about seven, my grandmother came to pick me up from school and took my things out of my locker before coming to find me. I opened my locker– for whichI didn’t have a lock because no one had locks in grade two– and found it completely empty. I freaked out. I went to the school office and told the secretary, “Someone stole everything in my locker!” While she was talking me through an incident report, my grandmother appeared at the office door with all of my things in her arms.
“I knew that was you in there falling apart,” she said. “Any normal person would have just walked in and said, ‘I can’t find my books!'”
Later, at the house, she sat me down. “If you keep being hysterical like this,” she said, “your mother and dad and I will still love you, because we’re your family and we have no choice. But nobody else will ever love you.”
My grandmother doesn’t know I remember this incident. There were good times too. But the little voice, the same voice that keeps up this low-intensity buzz, my own voice, says “What if that’s true?”
Until now, I’ve never put any of this out there on the internet. What made me do so, you ask? Who is “this girl?”
“This girl” is a British girl who lives with depression, anxiety and compulsive hair-pulling as well as other mental health issues. Who dared to put a time-lapse of herself and her struggles on YouTube for the whole world to see. Watch it here.
Now that takes guts. it should not have to but it does.
* English, French, Russian, Slovenian, Kirundi and HTML. I would be able to put Spanish on that list if I used it more. I also know some Dutch, some German, some Portuguese and some Haitian Créole.