Yes, I low key stole that title from a Sandra Bullock movie that I have yet to see, and I have no idea what it’s about, but the title fits.
Ever since I started writing about my mental health, it’s been cathartic, terrifying, transformative, empowering, and vital for me to keep going. Along the way, my brand became crisis, and more importantly, overcoming crisis. My personal brand became enmeshed with conversations about positive change for mental health, and going on about how “it’s okay to not be okay”, and advocacy became the prime goal. And I love the work I do, I really do. It’s given me purpose and connected me to so many people – I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
The thing about being in crisis, is that it’s exhausting. And even more exhausting, is feeling like you somehow have to be through that crisis to share it, or I have to be an “inspiration” to others who may be in their own crisis. Every time I’m in crisis, it takes presedence and I feel like I lose myself along the way. Crisis is consuming. Sometimes I don’t know who I am outside of crisis. I often wonder, if I didn’t have a mental illness, if I didn’t deal with depression and anxiety and panic attacks and suicidal ideation and all the other pieces that build up my crisis brand, who would I be? Who am I outside of my struggles? Who am I?
I bounce back and forth between two entirely opposite ideas. One, a deep fear that people in my life can no longer see me beyond my brand of crisis, that they see my mental illness and find it annoying or exhausting, or see it as a played out attention grab. Two, that the people in my life don’t see the all-consuming crisis because of how much I can function, and how much I can kick ass or inspire others. Both extremes make me feel equally nauseous.
I don’t want my brand to be crisis, and I don’t want it to not be part of my brand either, because I guess it’s still kind of a part of me. I want to get to know myself beyond crisis though. It seems like everytime I start to get to know myself, crisis creeps back in to take over. It’s sort of like learning to surf with some huge waves – you’re starting to stand up and with just a bit more calmness you’ll be able to hop up and ride the wave. Crisis averted. I’ve been trying to stand up on my board for over a decade now. I’ve been swept up in more waves than I’ve ever dreamed of riding. And I’d like to surf more than anything – to see what kind of surfer I’ll be, what kind of tricks I can do, what kind of fun I can have, if I can just catch a wave and not get swept up. After years of watching my friends surf with no problem, I begin to wonder if there’s something I’m not doing right, if I’m not trying hard enough, if I’m just destined to stay on brand with my repeating crises.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been VERY on brand. And for the first time ever, I haven’t really been apologetic about it. Sure, there’s still guilt and shame that I deal with for being in crisis and struggling yet again, but I’m trying not to fight it. I’m trying not to hate myself for this happening again, and I’m trying to let myself be open to love and support. Because that’s what you need when you’re having a rough go at it. My brand is crisis, and up until now, it’s been a lonely brand. I’m going to take that step to not do it alone, to let people see the crisis part without a carefully selected instagram filter, or some inspirational quote. Letting people in is absolutely terrifying for me, and admitting that I need people and can’t do it alone makes me reach for a Gravol, but it’s about time I own it and lean into it. I’m going to go with the messy, authentic, tear-stained, hyper-ventilating brand. And maybe, just maybe, the crisis part will melt away and the only brand that will be left is just me.
Keep Surviving by Living.