Please Don’t Make Me Talk About What I Write
I write about my personal struggles because I don’t want to talk about them.
It happened during a professional discussion about possible collaboration.
“Yeah, I read your work and I read your blog”
It happened at school pick up.
“Yeah, even behind your mask I know what you look like because I googled you and read your blog”
It happened during coffee with a colleague.
“Yeah, you’re so brave because I read your blog and I wouldn’t be able to do that”
When I began to write in public forums about my personal life, and especially my struggles with bipolar disorder and chronic pain, I decided not to write anonymously. In these days of blurring personal and public there was little point. As a google detective myself, I knew that where I attended school and what I was studying (cause I wrote about that), how old I was (cause I wrote about that), how many kids I had (because I really wrote about that) — you could probably find me. Like most of us, my personal is public.
When I began to write publicly, I was a new graduate student in a young marriage, in the throes of unmanaged mental illness, parenting very young children and far, far from home. A year or so after I began to write, I admitted myself into Stanford Hospital’s psychiatric ward in the middle of a quarter, dropping all the balls. I stayed for a week. When I was released, I walked out of the hospital spiritually naked, completely without protection from the elements of stares, judgment, and pity. I didn’t tell anyone. I wrote about it. So everyone knew.
I write under a name that is not my own, but more as a nickname and a catchy placeholder, not in place of my real name. I like my catchy names — Dr. Mama Esq., playing on my academic and personal life as one identity — but I directly attach them to me as I’m known off the page. I want to be seen but not stared at, my words center stage while my identity stands in the wings. But I’m not trying to hide. A depressive tweet, a painful Facebook post, a tortured post: everyone who wants to know that it’s me can and will. They can know that it is me, LaToya, in my flesh, that’s hurting.