Wednesday, 10 February 2021

The Awkward Armadillo: A Journey Into Writing

By Aimee Larson

Several years ago, I came across a memoir called Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I have to admit, as I stood at the bookstore, I did not know who Jenny Lawson was. According to her bio, she was a well-known blogger called “The Bloggess” and this was the first book she has ever written.

I stared at the front cover, a taxidermied mouse that was holding up a skull in similarity to William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. My random soul appreciated this very book cover, and I knew I had to get this book. I did not know about her writing style, and to be quite honest, this was the first memoir that I even thought about reading.

I checked out the book and remember running over to my then-boyfriend (spoiler alert: now husband) and showed him the book as though I found a unicorn. He smiled at me, not at all surprised that I picked a book based on the cover. I can always appreciate randomness, add in animals, and well, you have my heart and soul as a reader, and let’s be honest, my kid-like energy creeping up for topics and anything that I found of interest.

Fast forward that night, sitting up in bed and reading my first memoir. Jenny Lawson, I found out, dealt with many battles of mental illness. Not only that, she was random and absolutely hilarious through her storytelling and the odd events in her life. I finished the book in one sitting. I sat there, absolutely amazed. I couldn’t help but feel similar and yet different from Jenny.

I have fought through anxiety for as long as I could remember. Growing up as a kid though, no one really wanted to label it. I was thrown into the “she’s just shy” label even though I felt like I was trying to keep my heart from beating out of its chest with any small group or large group setting. No one ever wants to admit when something is not right, with themselves or individuals they care about. No, I didn’t have any mental illness label till much, much later. Not till I was in my middle 20s and had fought for years through my depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses that soon got labeled once I saw a therapist... again.

A few days went by and suddenly an idea came into mind. I had always wanted to write a book. I am not the best with grammar, and I always made excuses for myself. The monsters of self-doubt digging their useless comments into my brain.

“Why would anyone be interested in anything you have to write?”, “You’re just going to fail and waste your time, just like you always do,” among other lines that kept smashing into my brain and holding me back from what I wanted.

No, I always limited what I wanted if I thought I was going to fail. Why waste your time on something that will not be successful? My answer to that is this, there is no such thing as wasting time if you are working towards yourself. This is the same thing that goes through mental health. When one is experiencing depression or anxiety, there is this demand that we are not allowed to give ourselves self-care. That we are lazy if we decide to take that bubble bath we have been craving. Or perhaps take an hour to read that book we’ve been putting off because weren’t getting anything done at work or at home.

Spoiler alert, self-care is getting things done. Self-care and the ability to recognize when our brains need a break is one of the most important parts of life. Through many trials and errors, I continued to push myself past the point of wanting to shut down. I kept trying to work unpaid overtime at my job to show that I was doing my best. I kept beating myself for not cleaning the house when I felt like I was at the very edge of tears. Not because anything was specifically wrong, other than my brain is my worst enemy at the time.

My boyfriend, even before we got married, has always been the most supportive person in my life. He just knew from the vibe I would bring in, that the monsters beat me up pretty good that day. As soon as I mentioned or would even start saying “I should start cleaning...” he would say “Nope, not allowed. You’re taking an easy. Let me grab your favorite blanket. Do you want to stay in the bedroom by yourself, or do you want company?” It took me a while to get the hint, my brain was an absolute jerk. One that at times undermined my own values and tried to hide what I really wanted in this life.

Weeks after reading Jenny Lawson’s memoir, I started writing my story. My story growing up with Anxiety. My experiences witnessing my dad withering away on and off from depression. My own journey through this odd thing called life. It was not easy, there were many times I stared at the screen and wondered “why is my story important?” I couldn’t answer that for the life of me. Until many months later, I did answer that question to myself. There are many individuals that feel they need to be silent due to mental illness. That they need to tuck away self-care because it’s a waste. That there were individuals fighting their own monsters every single day and trying to scrape up another reason to continue to breathe.

The Awkward Armadillo was not easy to write. I took many breaks for the past three years writing my book. I think that was the best part though. I wanted a book that was pure and yet raw with emotion. I wanted to tell my story in a humorous way because, well, life is strange and sometimes we just have to shake our head and be, like, “Really, life? Do I really need extra life experience points in this route?”

Mental health is one of the most important aspects of life. Yet, it is so hard to speak up or put into words exactly how and what we are feeling. The only way to get better at expressing ourselves is by releasing that out into the world, whether that is through writing, art or communicating. Every day is a battle worth speaking for.

To this I say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your fight.

About the Author

Aimee Larson is a socially awkward girl who lives in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. She is a poet, writer and author of The Awkward Armadillo: A Mental Health Memoir. She hopes to dive into writing more books, including fantasy and poetry books.

Follow Aimee on Facebook (personal page, author page), Twitter (@AimeeBooks), and Amazon (author page), or email her at Larson4506[at]gmail.com.

 

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