Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about illness. Perhaps because of the flu raging around. Perhaps because of the novel I’m currently reading on the 1918 epidemic. But mostly because I saw my psychiatrist last week, and we decided together to have me try weaning off the medication I’ve used for the last year to help treat my Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I’ve done this before. Gone off, I mean. I was stable for six years before the monster returned. For a time I was naive enough to believe I had beaten it. But after this most recent episode I can see that, no matter the foolhardy promises of so many on the internet, this thing will always be with me.
And that’s OK.
Because though it is not ideal, generalized anxiety disorder is manageable. And each time it takes me down I learn more about it, become more adept at recognizing its approach.
I used to live in fear of my illness. I saw it as the drowning man, so desperate in its fight for survival that it became a monstrous, tentacled thing. And it was always my best self it took down with it.
Our culture loves to prop up the idea of the tortured genius. As though the cost for great art or literature or scientific enterprise is sanity. Maybe that’s an encouraging thought: better to be average, sane, but perhaps forgettable than to be extraordinary and unwell.
But as someone with no great genius, who is just as average and (perhaps) forgettable as you, and is, and always will be, companion to this illness, this myth is a great frustration. My illness doesn’t imbue my life with creativity. When it flares, I am reduced to the body. My mind so hot and twisted into itself that it is more than I can manage to go out in public, to eat, to sleep, to stop and just…be.
My best art comes only when I am well. She will not approach when I am wrapped in the tentacled thing.
And so now, as I reduce the medication that has kept my monster at bay, I wait. Has he been here all along, preparing to wrap his suckered arms around me? To pull us back down into the inky expanse of my illness? Or has he perhaps been placated? Have the drowning man’s feet been placed on the sand? Can he see we’ve been in the shallows all along?
I hope for the latter. Because when my illness is well managed I can see how beautiful it is here. This life I have cobbled together despite everything.
Want to make your own amigurumi octopus? This guy was made with Kate E. Hancock’s Claude the Octopus pattern. Find all her fantastic work on Ravelry under her design handle, Patchwork Moose.