Like the rest of my social media bubble, I watched the Hamilton musical film this weekend. And like everyone else, I was floored by how compelling it was. A piece of historical fanfiction where America’s founders tell their stories in the lyrical stylings of Big Pun (Lin Manuel Miranda has admitted that his Alexander Hamilton portrayal is a Big Pun impersonation), Eminem, Busta Rhymes (Hi, Hercules Mulligan), and Destiny’s Child sounds absurd. I resisted listening to the soundtrack for years for that reason. Then, I finally caved and, finding myself making a screwface to “Right Hand Man,” had to admit that the music held up.
The show is a different beast. So fun and well-developed that it lets you suspend belief long enough to enjoy the story. By the end, I was a weeping mess.
There is one particular idea that stands out to me: Miranda’s repetition that Hamilton “wrote his way out.” The writer in me relates. The Skinny Black Girl was born of a need to write my way out of my quarter-life crisis. For the uninitiated, this blog started in 2007 during a fun-filled first year out of undergrad that included: an intense, ill-advised relationship, two jobs I hated, loneliness, anxiety, a major depressive spell, a suicide attempt, a terminated pregnancy… It was a doozy, kids. And I wrote my way through every confusing, painful, ugly moment of it.
Some called it brave. Some (particularly, my relatives) called it insane and foolish. I called it survival. Like writing it out and holding it up for examination was the only way to make sense of it. To ground it in a reality outside of my head, where shame and self-loathing could cannibalize my thoughts and keep me trapped.
So twelve years later, living in an ongoing brain fog that’s distorted so much of my mind, I don’t trust my own thoughts anymore, “I wrote my out” calls to me like a siren’s song. An invitation to state a truth I’ve been dancing around for at least a year and a half.
I’m probably in a depressive episode. And have been since at least October 2018? Maybe longer.
It’s been easy to tell myself that I’m not because I’m functioning. My material life has not spiraled out of control as it did in 2007-2008. I’ve held the same job (a job that I like as much as one can enjoy labor) for five years. I haven’t lost my appetite or lost weight. I’m not gripped with anxiety when completing simple tasks like driving or sending mass emails at work. I do not wish to die, not even in a passive “I-could-not-wake-up-tomorrow-and-be-fine” way. I can still feel the sun’s rays on my face. Am still soothed and seduced by good jazz horns.
But my brain is eating itself.
That’s the best way to describe the 24/7 reel of thoughts that bounce between self-consciousness and self-loathing, Thoughts that crowd out everything else, and make even short conversations and problem-solving tasks feel arduous; that make every social interaction feel like performance art where I do my best impersonation of whichever version of myself the person in front me requires or expects.
So I live in a fog of automated functioning. And it’s fine. I’m fine. I could probably exist for the rest of my life just this way without shitting the bed. You’d call me average, at best. A recluse, at worst. And I could live with that.
But, no. A hip-hop American history fanfiction made me weep on a Friday night, so I’m here. Not because I need my life to change; like I said, I’m fine with what’s here and what isn’t.
I’d just like to hear myself think again.
So I’m writing my way out.