Tag Archives: Mental Health

I Don’t Know Sartre–– Does Life Really Begin on the Other Side of Despair?

I think a lot. Right hand raised, I am a chronic overthinker. & sometimes my emotions literally consume me. Paralyze me. Compounds my guilt or worries or doubts like a never ending game of Tetris.

But that doesn’t matter.

Everyone over thinks, and I am not unique in feeling this way. I am not unique in feeling the gnawing anxiety that blooms when I think about the future, of what I want to do, who I want to be. I’m not even unique in feeling I am simultaneously doing the best I can while also feeling I am failing in nearly every aspect of my life. 

Some days I can push that all aside though– all the self-doubt, disappointment in myself, in other people– and just live and trust in life, in the universe. & other days it feels like there’s an ocean in my chest, pushing against my ribs and making my entire body feel heavy. 

And sometimes I wish I could just collapse within myself and silently drown in that sea of feeling or go into hibernation until it dries up and can no longer consume me. Sometimes I wish I could bury myself beneath a garden and grow into the orchids my mom loves and waters every day. & sometimes I wish I could evaporate into mist and become the clouds that change their shape with the wind. That would feel like a more productive use of my body.

Let me stop here for a moment. I am not suicidal. This is not a cry for help. 

I think we’ve been taught to fear negative emotions, hard things, intangible mental challenges like worry and anxiety and overthinking, & we believe something is wrong with us when we feel these things. So we fear being authentic with our feelings–– with others, but mostly with ourselves.

But I don’t believe our less desirable emotions define us. Negative emotions don’t need to exist in opposition with forward action, progress, or growth–– with movement. I think, a lot of times, they exist hand in hand. 

& I think we can still be sad, or anxious, emotionally paralyzed, or consumed with worry and still be our best, do our best. I think contrasting emotions naturally live and exist together at the same time, more often than we wish them to. And I think that’s exactly where I am at this time in my life. I don’t really believe anything defines me, us, more than our own actions despite our feelings, whether positive or negative. 

So no, Sartre. 

I don’t believe life begins on the other side of despair. I think life begins in the midst of despair. I think life begins despite that despair & I think the best of us are still trying to figure that out. 

“Life begins on the other side of despair”

Jean- Paul Sartre

There is no reality except in action.

Jean- Paul Sartre

I’m Insecure

When I was in third grade, I got into a fight with a boy named Johnathan. He was a total dick. He’d always pick fights with me. Tell me I was ugly. Hog the swing forever and I’d tell the teacher and get him in trouble.

Anyways, one day we were really going at it and he called me dumb. It hit my fragile third grade ego and I responded by telling him that his mother, who died when he was a lot younger, was “probably looking down on him disappointed.” And you know what he said? 

He said, “I know.”

I know. 

Not a condescending I know or an I don’t care I know. It was an ‘I’m sad’ I know.

I don’t remember much about elementary. I remember little snapshots of sharing Hi-Chews, trading chocolate gold coins for dollars, red fists from playing tetherball too long, and coloring only with pink. Vignettes of childhood. Yet, that memory always stays with me. Maybe every detail in my mind may not be absolutely accurate, but the feeling that I felt in that moment–– I will never forget it. I felt like the worst person in the world. 

I got home that day and cried. 

I felt like I disappointed my parents who always taught me to be kind to others; that I disappointed my teachers who often took my side, even if I was wrong, even if I lied, because I was a teacher’s pet; that I disappointed myself who wanted to be the best I could be; and that I even disappointed my ancestors for no other reason than I’m dramatic. 

I wasn’t cognizant of it then, but this year, facing my insecurities forced me to look at how insecurity is often derived from our innermost, irrational feelings of inadequacies but can metastasis in ugly and subtle ways, ways that hurt others. That day, I hurt someone because he made me feel less than I was but who likely only acted that way because he also felt less than he actually was. 

I was 8 then. I’m 24 now. And I wish I could say I have no more insecurities or that I’ve learned to be better at hiding or dealing with them. But I still suck my stomach in when I wear tight dresses. I’m still careful with what I share on social media because I haven’t learned to live without other’s validations yet. I still hide my thumbs because when I get anxious, I pick at the skin there. I still cry at night when I feel ugly, or stupid, or unskilled. I still think my cheeks are too “fat,” my eyes too small, my fingers too stubby. And when someone hurts me, I still want to hurt them back. Like 16 years ago. Like that day on the swing set.

I’ll probably never see Johnathan again and I don’t know if any of the thousands of heartfelt apologies I’ve came up with over the years would mean anything to him. He might have even completely forgotten about that moment.

But if I could go back in time, I would hope to find myself in that same moment. I would let him have the shaded swing set and content myself with the metal slide that literally burned my ass because it was always under the sun. 

And if I could go forward in time, I would simply hope to have found myself.