Like many people with mental health problems, disabilities & addictions & regressions I live in fear of someone asking me THAT question
'What have you been up to?'
1. Because they are usually only asking this so they can tell me about their new job/house/other thing that garners them 'productive human' privilege in painful, smug, insensitive detail.
2. Because when I answer honestly 'Nothing' it seems to unsettle them.
3. Because what I have been up to is eating nutella out the jar, crying & harboring resentment towards everyone in the world who doesn't feel as shit as I do.
I've not been writing. (In fact I've not been writing, working, smiling, exercising, socializing or any other verbs that are expected of me).
I've not been writing for a while now. Not writing poetry, not writing job applications, not writing much of anything. In university my favorite tutor once told me that writer's block was just ego. As if your particular words are so precious that you can only pour them out over a page when they have crystallized into a literary masterpiece. Get over yourself, learn some humility, develop drafts. But I don't have writer's block, not least because (like that tutor) I don't believe in it.
I have life block.
I have life block & I can't talk about it to people within the wider queer scene because our dominant ideas about mental health center around palatable, imagined try-hard-activists-who-somehow-manage-to-struggle-through-their-problems-to-contribute-in-a-meaningful-way. And I am not contributing to shit. I am regressing & retreating & relapsing into behaviors I used to need cushion myself from immediate dangers I don't even experience any more. I am breaking. Every aspect of my life seems to some how be on the verge of complete failure, I am in a grey area of my own inability to human, And if I'm honest it's fucking sad & boring enough without feeling like I need to create a long list of imaginary shit I've been up to.
The thing I've noticed most by my newly found desire to spend all day alone in my bedroom crying is this; productivity as a superior trait is not a concept that is challenged enough. And that little question 'What have you been up to?' eats into me, sets my brain desperately searching for a truthful response because I don't want to lie to you when you ask me. But given that you just spent ten minutes explaining how busy you've been (and leaving spaces for me to make impressed noises) I kinda need to. I know this because when I don't I see a flicker in your eyes that tells me it's not only that I'm not contributing to the conversation, I'm not contributing to the community. And that you think that makes me (get ready for some oppressive nonsense) 'Lazy'. Surely I have Things To Do? Surely I have Ways To Be Productive?
The fact of the matter is; this bullshit around productivity is capitalist, lifestyleist cuntery. And I've let it make me feel bad for too long. So I've stopped engaging in circles where capital is awarded to the people running the most zine making, lesbian knitting, yogurt weaving, beard recycling, vegan whittling, post grad smoking, guitar protesting workshops/marches/petitions/meetings.
I'm not even mad, kids, I'm just opting out of this verbal wankathon of Judith Butler/<insert relevant event>, I'm just sitting this one out.
It's not that I have no desire to do anything, it's that the big tasks in my life are so big that every time I think I might go for a walk or write a letter or take a shower my brain says 'Hey, what about all these things you should be working on/obsessing over?'
And here we come to my main point of writing this. I have decided that I'm stepping out of this unacknowledged privileging of productivity (in queer spaces particularly). And instead of meeting, and advising, and workshoping I'm going to give myself permission to do nothing. And I'm going to do nothing until I feel like trying another verb; healing (whatever the fuck that means).
I've lost count of the amount of times I've been knocked off my feet by wave upon wave of regression & relapse & I know I'm not the only one who is struggling to stand up and dust myself off to try again. I think those of us who experience life block, whose lives fold in on themselves every few months or years (who suddenly find themselves unable to leave the house or answer their emails or speak to family or friends, or go to work, or eat properly or wash or get dressed, those of us whose parents don't financially pick up & put us back on our feet, those of us whose conditions aren't curable) need to take time to recognize that our mental health problems, our day to day struggles aren't what most people are talking about when they are discussing mental health. Because recovery for us isn't a story ark, it's us bracing ourselves against the storm long enough to try and function (whatever the fuck that means to us) for a short while.
If you know that you, like me, fear that horrible question, and other variations of it (no, I don't know where my 'career' is going, and I don't want to hear about yours, thanks) let's make a pact. Let's decide instead to ask each other about how we feel (and genuinely care about the answer in a non-condescending manner), congratulate each other on getting out of bed, high five over surviving life thus far, even if we have gotten here in week old pyjamas with stains on them and our friends/family/partners have become repulsed by our endless ability to fuck up and freak out.
Even if we've not written anything for a while.