"You must do the thing you think you cannot do"
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." She's also widely attributed with saying "Do one thing every day that scares you," though the internet's giving me mixed results on whether she actually said that one. Either way, you get the point; go out there and face your fears if you really want to live and achieve anything worthwhile.
For much of my life, I've been afraid of people realizing there's something wrong with me, that I'm not one of them, that I don't belong. This kind of imposter syndrome is, it turns out, completely normal and something pretty much everybody experiences at one time or another. But for me, as someone who's lived with bipolar disorder my whole life, the fear is deeper and omnipresent; people won't love me if they know about my scary thoughts, my uncontrollable moods, my sometimes inexplicable reactions to seemingly small things, panic attacks, manic episodes, depressive episodes, and severe anxiety. For a long time this fear kept me from telling the people in my life what was really going on with me, which left me feeling like I was playing a part, like no one really knew the real me.
And then, a thing happened. After three severe and prolonged (that, is, more than 10 days, sometimes up to 3 weeks) manic episodes in eighteen months, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder I. I underwent extensive therapy, FINALLY got on the right combination of meds (which was not a quick or painless process), and started actively and radically engaging in self care. For my graduate lecture on literature, I discussed representations of mentally ill women in contemporary fiction, and I stood in front of a lecture hall and said, "I am these women; I have a mental illness." It was terrifying. And liberating. And the response was incredible. So I kept talking. Since that lecture, I have been featured on the news and in numerous journals talking about my mental health, as well as spoken honestly about it with many friends and family members. And now, I've written a book about it.
My memoir, Feed Me, comes out in less than a month (December 12, to be exact). It's about the ways food, community, and learning to love myself have helped me heal and cope with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder in my early teens, alcohol addiction in my family, and other forms of trauma. It's about the ways cooking and sharing meals can bring us together, give us purpose, and, for me, help ease my anxiety. Mealplanning and cooking for others helps me navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters of my mental health. And to say that sharing my story scares me is a massive understatement. But here I am.
People will be mad about some of the things I reveal, the brutal honesty I've applied to my life experiences. The incredible vulnerability of my story will make some people uncomfortable. To those people, I say you don't need to read the book. But I needed to write it. It's the thing that scared me the most, the thing I thought I could not do, and here I am, doing it.
You can order Feed Me as of December 12 through Amazon or your local indie bookstore.
No go out there and do something that scares you.