Battling Back

I’ve resisted turning this into a personal blog, but resistance gives way to determination.

Long story short: I got sick, I’m getting better.

Today, I’m seeing if I’m brave enough to start doing what I used to do back when I didn’t care how brave I was and did stupid things anyway. Doing those stupid things turned out pretty well for me, if I do say so myself.

Then I got sick.

It’s been twenty years. It’s been a long, tiring fight. The most difficult part today is knowing just how much of what’s left is illness and how much of it is post-traumatic stress.

I know the first bit that is post-traumatic stress is the shame over sharing what exactly went wrong and made me ill. I had a bad reaction to psychiatric medication in the late 1990s that sent my nervous system into conniptions that landed me on more psychiatric medication. Rinse and repeat.

It was only when I went off the medications, against the advice of the social workers and therapists, that I started to get better but only after initially getting a whole lot worse. For a long time.

I got very lucky and today I’m doing pretty well.

But I’ve been out of work for twenty years. That’s a long time and while it’s been a challenge to get my skills updated, that’s been nothing compared to putting those skills to use in the market. Yes, the market has changed quite a bit since I was last in it.

What appears to be the same is that there is that initial barrier to entry that needs to be pushed past. It’s clearly not an intellectual ceiling: anyone can see plainly there are plenty of dummies who’ve made it past. There’s no denying it’s difficult to break into the corporate world without having the correct credentials and kowtowing to the powers that be, but that’s not the direction I plan on going, so I need not concern myself with what some HR flunky feels are sufficiently dotted ‘i’s and crossed ‘t’s. Having bucketloads of venture capitalist cash, I’m sure, smoothes out the bumps in the road, no doubt about it, but it’s not necessary for success and all the evidence I’ve seen leads me to believe it’s detrimental to the creative process.

Nothing sharpens the mind like hunger.

I used to be a fairly creative person. Those psych meds stole that from me. I missed the ability to walk, certainly. I missed the ability to reason, absolutely. But the thing I lost that truly broke my heart was the ability to feel that taking risk was worth the possibility of loss. The belief that acting on a crazy idea was better than waiting for one that was certain. The joy of moving forward, even in the wrong direction, was worth it because the feeling of being stagnant was so unpleasant.

When we’re young and have our whole lives ahead of us, the value we place on all those years is minimal. We’ll take insanely risky chances with little promise of gain. When we are old and can see the end fast approaching, the value we place on those remaining years gets wildly inflated. Youth may be wasted on the young, but that’s nothing compared to the squandering of potential the middle-aged commit in their existential terror of upsetting hard-fought stability.

It’s time to focus on the basics, the trick is to throw myself at the ground and miss.

My struggle today is to relearn to throw caution to the wind, to make as many horrific mistakes as possible, to waste energy in wild endeavor that can’t possibly pay off, to leave projects unfinished when they cease to amaze, to burn with passion and obsession on a labor of love, to publicly humiliate myself so greatly and often I become inoculated to shame.

I’m the transsexual lesbian who helped create The Onion. Watch how I soar.

Published by

Johanna Wilder

Yes, indeedy.