Original Sin

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Read Original Sin and other poetry by I. McMahon on instagram.

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Advice to my Younger Self

I’ve dealt with anxiety for 6 years and seasonal affective disorder for 4. Mental illness is not something I often talk about. I think that I, like many people, fall into this trap of thinking that admitting to vulnerabilities makes me weak.

About a year and a half ago, I was in a place where I was having anxiety attacks 3-4 times a week, dealing with lengthy suicidal episodes and was waking up with nightmares every night. That summer, I was hospitalized with anxiety three times. Don’t get me wrong – there is no overnight cure for a mental illness – but I am in a much better place now than I was back then. Here is a list of things that I would tell myself, if I could go back in time.

 

  1. Learn to let go of people. You love others so much, and once you get close to them, you see them as treasures for you to collect – but you cannot hold onto people forever. Relationships are not possessions for you to behold. Some people are eventually going to go down a different path than you, and you’re going to have to let them.
  2. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You cannot hold yourself up to such a ridiculously high standard all of the time. Stop taking every bit of criticism to heart. You are going to fail sometimes, and you’re going to learn that failure is where growth begins. If you run from the possibility of failure, you’ll never give yourself the opportunity to succeed.
  3. Reject likeability. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is goin to publish a book next year about this that will inspire you a lot. In her words, “I think that what our society teaches young girls…is that likeability is an essential part of the space you occupy in the world”, and she, herself, calls it “bullshit”.
  4. Write. As much as you can. As often as you can. Record your moods. Record your nightmares. Record your anxiety attacks. I know that sometimes, it’s a chore. Do it anyway.
  5. People are going to be mean, and bullies exist outside of high school. Eventually, you’ll find the strength to tell them to fuck off, the way you always wished you could have as a teenager. You don’t have room in your life for people that have a negative effect on your mental health and self worth.
  6. It’s not the end. It’s going to feel like it some of the time, and soon it will feel like it constantly, but it’s not.
  7. You are strong, beautiful, intelligent and kind. I know that a part of you knows it. Embrace that part of you with every piece of your heart.

 

Read more poetry, prose and short fiction by I. McMahon on instagram.