Mental Illness, Studying and Teaching

The Weight of Must and Have to

Perhaps language is nothing but a string of words we assemble like beads on a necklace, or maybe language creates the world as we experience it. Somehow, language influences the way we feel, the way we perceive others’ intentions and meaning, and the way we live our lives. 

One of the most striking examples is our use of the modals “must” and “have to,” both of which weigh more heavily on us than we would imagine. I personally find myself using them so often that sometimes it feels as though my entire life had become an obligation. I have to do the dishes. I must work. I have to paint. I must write in the blog. I have to post a drawing on Instagram. I must read. I must exercise. I have to be successful. I have to be pretty. I must not eat too much sugar. I must not use any plastic. I have to do something meaningful now. I have to shower. I have to cook… Even the smallest things, or even the things I love doing the most become duties, responsibilities, necessities and orders that I give myself when I use “must,” “mustn’t,” and “have to.”

Swallowed in the Sea
Swallowed in the Sea…

 

Every time I tell myself that I have to do this or that, my willingness to actually do it decreases and I find myself finding every possible excuse not to do it or every imaginable other task that I can do first. The result is I do not draw, I do not paint, I do not write in this blog – as is clearly visible from the time lapse between each of my posts – I do not take care of myself and I do not work. I am not even sure what I do with my time. The worst part is that I love all of the activities above. As to the things I order myself NOT to do – well, I invariably end up doing more of those. So the vicious circle works: you do what you don’t want to do because you don’t want to feel constrained and ordered around (even by yourself) and you don’t do what you love, and you feel like a waste of time and a little bit of a wretch. 

Something completely different happens when you tell yourself “I want to” though. I’ve come to realize that if I say: “I want to work” or “I want to paint” or “I really feel like dancing now,” I am much more likely to do what I was thinking about and also to enjoy myself. Obviously, working on my doctoral thesis is not exactly fun, but it’s stimulating and there’s something exhilarating about it. That’s how I experience work when I keep in mind that I want to do it and that it is meaningful to me. The same goes for painting and drawing – it can be hard, I can get very disappointed in the end result or I can feel the ideas in my head are always much, much better than what I can actually come up with on paper, but still. I love it – it makes me feel relaxed and energized at the same time, but it only does when I do not see it as an obligation. 

Living and feeling is hard enough as it is – making everything a responsibility and duty only makes it worse; so from now on, I’ll try and change the way I speak. Less of “have-to” and “must” and more of “want to” and “feel like” so I let off some steam and actually enjoy myself, which is also the best way to be more loving and compassionate.

Would you try and do the same? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box ! 


Love ⭐️

Laure-Hélène 

Prose, Studying and Teaching

Rape Culture

The other day, I found myself watching Steven Crowder’s “Rape Culture doesn’t exist: change my mind” on Youtube, and sadly enough, I thought he was rather convincing. I still did not agree with him, but I could see where he was coming from, especially as he limited his definition of rape culture to “tolerating and encouraging rape,” which he thought American culture clearly did not do because of course, rapists are convicted, and they get long sentences in high security jails. Of course no one goes around saying “Rape people, you’ll have fun”, “oh what rape? Yes, you should totally try it, it’s awesome.”

The problem was the people who came to try and change his mind were not convincing, and they could not respond to his arguments. Yet, as one was clever enough to say, he had come prepared and they had not. As much as I believe in empirical data, I still think it’s very easy to go around talking about facts that you have carefully collected without collecting facts that could possibly demean your argument.

Steven Crowder did not make me change my mind about rape culture, but it did make me wonder if we were too virulent or if maybe we were seeing things that were not really there, in a sort of social media induced paranoia about the world around us. To be honest, I do think some things go too far when I read tweets that say a man saying hello to you on the street is offensive, or someone naively calling you pretty is a form of harassment. While I think this goes too far, I still think catcalling and street harassment are a real thing for many girls and women. If you look around, you can see women crossing the street to avoid groups of men because they don’t feel safe. At that point, whether they are actually safe or not is not what deserves to be pointed out – the fear itself is what should be noted. Why are these girls and women so afraid?

Well… I guess misogyny and lack of respect for all women is the problem; the problem is that girls are taught from a young age that they have to be careful because the world is a more dangerous place when you are not male. Rape culture is part of that danger without a name. As much as I sometimes want to forget that it’s there, I am also constantly reminded of how present it is. All the time. Everywhere. There is no escaping it and it gets even worse when suddenly you realise that girls propagate the ideas themselves. So you go on Instagram, and you see a photo of a girl and the comments from females friends and herself read something like this:

Friend: “I’ll rape you any time”.

Instagram girl: “I’ll be waiting” winky face

Friend: “After you have a few drinks, I can get you to bed.”

Insta girl: “sexy winky face” repeat 5 times.

Here we are, we have just dived right into it. Of course they’re joking right? Of course they don’t MEAN it right? But the thing is… Rape is not a joke and can never be a joke. Rape breaks people’s lives. Rape creates trauma. Rape is violent. Rape is not trivial. And if girls feel free to joke about it this way and to make it seem natural to, how are men and boys to evolve? If this is so pervasive that even girls think it’s normal to joke about rape, what are we supposed to do? I mean… The comments even explain how to abuse a girl: make her drink. And then, if the girl seems to be open to the idea of being raped, how is anyone to know that rape is not ok?

And this, this is why the conversation about rape culture and misogyny has to go on. Because girls and boys and men and women need to value themselves and girls and women of all classes and races and ages need to respect themselves and be respected in return. Because things need to change. For the better.

Art, Mental Illness, Prose

Doppelgänger

The Doppelgänger … and apparition or double of a living person…

I am not sure why I am choosing this theme to start writing again. Perhaps it is because I often feel divided and it keeps me from working, or doing what I love or even being the best version of myself. When I last wrote here, I said that my soul felt exhausted, and it really, really was.

Doppelgänger

 This blog, art, my dissertation are all important to me, but then I feel as though I were becoming someone else. Sometimes, it is an empty, broken shell, and sometimes it is a soft body full of holes and a head that hears and sees and feels monsters all around it, or it can be shouts and eyes and obsessive thoughts… Suddenly I am not there anymore; I am only a stranger or a visitor in my own body. It is scary, but then again, it really isn’t as bad as it could be. And I can’t say if I’ll make it this time either, but I will try…

Mental Illness, Prose

Repetition and Rehearsal

I find myself thinking that I repeat the same words over and over again, as if I were rehearsing for the day when the thoughts I have, the words I speak and the actions I perform coincide. Anxiety builds up inside my chest; it makes my heart pound and my vision go blurry.

I have not worked on my PhD for two weeks and I have barely worked on the classes I teach. I have not drawn, written or even read – and I wonder: where have these weeks gone? What have I been doing all this time? Last month, on the 20th of October, I was at a seminar I had organized for grad students, and now I am in my room composing this blog post, but I am not sure what happened in between.

It is scary. I feel stuck – stuck on repeat, stuck on nothing. I tell myself that I could flee – that is the escapist solution and it would not solve anything though. I am so scared that I will not make it and that I will ruin everything I have built…

That is yet another repetition.

Another combination of words I have already used.

Where do I go from now? I must fight, but I am tired of fighting. I must go on, but my soul seems exhausted. There is hope… There’s always hope. I just need to catch it.

Miscellanies, Studying and Teaching

Splendour and Chaos

I am just starting the second year of my PhD and last Thursday was the first appointment of the year with my advisor. Before then, I was asked to write a summary of the research I had done during the first year so it could be reviewed by a research committee. I can gladly say that both the committee and my advisor were satisfied with my work and thought everything I had done so far was convincing and sensitive. They also concurred in saying that it was very clear and explained carefully… And that’s where I get to the title of this post.

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Because inside my head, everything looks quite the opposite. There’s a chaos of thoughts and doubts hiding behind the splendour of the summary that I gave to the professors. There is something about writing a dissertation that creates messes and confusions inside your brain. Sometimes, it feels as though I were facing a large ball of wool that I didn’t know how to disentangle. I have the intuition, deep down, that this ball, once it is  unravelled, will be the long, beautiful thread which will hold the thesis together, but now, it just lies there twisted on my brain-floor.

And I do have most of the elements I need to write and make an outline, but all of the ideas just keep floating inside my brain, and they are unwilling to come together. It scares me… All of these doubts… Teachers say it’s natural and healthy. Keats even believed the ability to remain in doubts and uncertainties was key to writing poetry and to easing the burden of being unable to understand everything about life. I agree with that… I really do, but what happens when positive, philosophical doubt turns into questions about whether or not you are capable ?

I suppose you have to push ahead. You have to take a step back and reflect on what you’ve done so far and how you can go on. You have to let the fog scatter and clear. And you have to write, even without a plan or a specific goal, just to see where the ideas take you. And hopefully one day, it will all make sense. So if there’s any piece of advice I can give myself, and anyone else, it is just that:  DON’T GIVE UP !

Love,

Laure-Hélène 💙

Mental Illness, Miscellanies

And I almost gave up…

Three months have passed since I last wrote a post. This is not the first time it has happened – I have to admit I am not entirely sure why. Is it writer’s block? Is it me being so caught up in everyday life that I don’t take time to write? Or it is the old feeling of worthlessness coming back to haunt me and make me want to almost give up everything?

Clouds of thoughts… Lack of confidence… Uselessness…. Mists of doubts…. Feeling nothing

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Clouds of thoughts… Lack of confidence… Uselessness…. Mists of doubts…. Feeling nothing

And I did almost give up, though I didn’t let anyone know the feeling was growing inside me – give up my dissertation, my writing, my painting, my caring for anything and anyone. I almost gave up living altogether. I had forgotten the feeling – like a hand blinding you, choking you, silencing and stifling; so when it crept back, I was overwhelmed. How could I possibly deal? All I wanted was to disappear – to become invisible and to stop being a burden for everyone. And I didn’t tell. I didn’t tell because it would have been bothersome to others, wouldn’t it? I was so ashamed of myself. The blame kept pounding my head relentlessly. I could hear them, and I could see them and they were everywhere. The voices, and the eyes and the hands. I could not tell. This is crazy.

Instead, I focused on my family, my beautiful, wonderful girlfriend and my friends. I concentrated my thoughts on the love I could give and that I kept being given. On the luck I had to be working in a field that makes me feel passionate and stimulated. On all the things that I can do and all that I have accomplished. I faced myself. I looked my fears in the eyes and loosened their grip so my throat would not feel as constricted and my heart as tight.

I painted a mental picture of my dreams come true – a life with the person I love, painting or writing while she was playing the guitar and singing. I saw us working or reading or travelling. I heard us laugh. I took a deep breath and invited these heart-warming thoughts to settle; their soothing warmth scared away the numbness and negative doubts. Now, I am sitting down at the desk writing and my heart is full of love, gratefulness and passion and all I wish is for these feelings to shine on through.

 

Miscellanies, Prose

I speak volumes

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I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot stop overthinking. I used to be thinking all the time – there it was, the unending flow of words, sentences and ideas, images sometimes, thoughts rushing so fast I could barely keep up. It still happens to me everyday, but at least it isn’t stopping me from enjoying life anymore. I do not overanalyze and observe every single little detail anymore. Or at least, I don’t do it so much that I cannot entertain a simple conversation or activity.

My thoughts are not as dark as they used to be either. But… I still feel bugged. It seems to me I speak volumes, and I think volumes, but I cannot feel satisfied because I don’t act enough. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

Happiness.jpg

The harmony between the do and the say/think association doesn’t even come close to being realized in me. I keep thinking and saying: I’ll write in my blog once or twice a week; I’ll read more books; I’ll complete a painting every week and draw a little bit every day; I’ll

make sure to write some poetry or prose each day so I can complete my art and writing projects; I’ll be hard-working and study well to make sure I make my PhD dissertation the best I can make it… I think all these things. I say them too.

I envision my life and my sense of self would be like and how I could, most importantly, help others in any sort of way by achieving all these goals, by making all these dreams come true… But, happiness set aside, what makes the difference between a successful writer or artist and a would-be artist or writer if not the “doing”?

I don’t want to become bitter over time, thinking of myself as some sort of failure because I simply haven’t got myself to do what I dreamt of. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that all my dreams have passed me by. I don’t want to let the fear of failure and rejection stop me. I don’t want to let the remnants of my depressions tug at me and chain me, so they can take hold of me again.

I have made progress though… I do not seclude myself as much as I used to, and thanks to that, I have met my wonderful girlfriend. But now, I need to find the drive and dedication. I want what is swirling inside of me to be fully realized on the outside too. I wish not to only speak volumes, I want to create volumes!