Sunday, February 6, 2011

En Route to the Parlor

 An English teacher asked me once about my reticence to share my writing.

“Are you going to live your life like Emily Dickinson, lowering things out of your bedroom window instead of actually showing people what you can do?”

That may not be an exact quote, but I was about fourteen and still a little shocked that an authority figure bothered to pay attention to me. The idea stuck with me though, and for a long time the answer was, “Well I’m nice and comfortable in my room and people are scary so why not? Besides, it worked out for Emily in the long run…”

But I knew he had a point, of course. No one can write in a vacuum—Emily didn’t either. She still communicated with the outside world, even if toward the end of her life she could only listen through the door and occasionally pass notes or gifts to the social gathering beyond. And so I have tried slowly, very slowly, to ease myself into a place where I am comfortable with other people looking in on that private universe. I’m still afraid of rejection, naturally, but the terror has eased enough that I can live with it.

This also describes the gradual process of coming to a place where I feel comfortable enough to discuss my struggles with mental illness. I have believed for awhile that the best way to fight stigma around mental illness is to talk about it, but wasn’t brave enough to be the one to do it. I still can’t say that I’m comfortable bringing it up in casual conversation, but I know that often I can write about things more easily than I can talk about them. So, this blog is my way to transition from listening behind the door to dropping a few notes out of the window. Hopefully I’ll make it out into the parlor soon.

And so, as I make that transition, I want to clarify that this blog is intended for anyone it might speak to. I have received a few questions recently about how “private” it should be—the answer is, if I had wanted it to be private I would have made it that way. I am expecting that it will mostly be read by my friends and family, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you think you know someone who might be interested or who may be dealing with some of the same things (and I guarantee that you do, whether you know it or not) feel free to share it with them. Take it to your knitting group if you’d like, or your trampoline class. If you know a literary agent send them the link (haha…but seriously) or “accidentally” include it in the PowerPoint presentation at your next staff meeting or class. You get the idea. What I have to say is not necessarily any better than any other blog out there (I can point you to some excellent ones) but I believe that the more people there are talking about this the better. Naturally, I would prefer that the blog be used to start dialogue in a respectful way, but ultimately I don’t have much say in that. It’s the risk of leaving the safety of my bedroom.

So please, use it however you are comfortable: comment or just read, subscribe or don’t subscribe, share it or think about it on your own. If you are worried about missing even one witty and insightful post, just enter your email on the right side and you will receive automatic notifications.  If you would like to send me a personal message feel free and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner—I’m still a student after all. Suggest things you might like to hear about. Also, if you happen to live somewhere near me, don’t think that what I blog about has to stay in cyberspace. If you have a question or want to talk about something, please do. Remember, my goal is to get out into the parlor, where I can take part in the discussion and possibly even become a positive voice in someone else’s struggle.

For whatever reason, Emily Dickinson did not feel safe beyond the confines of her room. She still experienced a deep range of emotion and carried on relationships that lasted her whole life. It is impossible to say what might have been different if she had been able to share her poetry with the world or venture outside her bedroom door, but what she left behind continually reminds me to be brave enough to take that step.


  1. I could be enrolled in a trampoline class? Where do I sign up?

  2. I just wanna say that it is clear already that the writing fairy has visited you and left something under your pillow.
    Unca Donny

  3. My name is Kelly, I'm 17 and it seems that we may be very similar.
    Can't wait to read your story.
    If you'd like to check out my (very spastic) blog, the address is