Ruby Browne is a poet and autobiographical essayist who lays herself bare with raw and intimate writings on mental illness, addiction, and healing. With a blog and a recently published book devoted to these experiences, Ruby is no stranger to vulnerability, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I asked her what that’s like for her. Here’s what she had to say:
Writing is tearing your heart out and setting it on the ground in front of you. Hoping that someone is going to care enough to pick it up.
I try to pretend I write for myself. That I published a book because it’s a good exercise. That I don’t want feedback. That someone telling me, “It’s okay, you’re doing it,” isn’t exactly what I’m hoping for.
But I need it. That’s the truth. I spent my life buried by my mental illness, by my past, by my shame, and writing is the only way I’ve been able to claw myself out. The only way to live is to expose myself. Show myself. Tell people that I’m hurting, that I’m scared, that what I’ve been doing isn’t working.
I need the accountability. Need someone to notice if I’m not being honest about my struggle. Need to know that when I say I’m not hurting, someone will tell me it’s not true.
But just as importantly, I want people there to understand that it’s an achievement when I get out of bed. That life is really fucking hard and I’m lucky if I can get through another day of it. I want people around who understand how bad it can get. And I will never get those people by telling only half-truths. By shying away. By saying that depression, that anxiety, that PTSD really aren’t a big deal.
Because they are.
We know they are. We know we can shrug it off with stories about how much worse other people have had it, and we know we can tell ourselves that we just need to be a little stronger. But when we put it down in words and publish it, we’re giving it fire. We’re setting the whole damn thing aflame. We’re finally figuring out how to explain that, yes, we are hurting. And, no, we don’t know how to stop. And there is comfort in that. There is comfort in knowing that people know. That we know. Finally.
Because I pretended my whole life that maybe I just got sad sometimes. And I pretended my whole life that the things that happened to me when I was a kid didn’t matter anymore. And I pretended my whole life that depression, and anxiety, and PTSD happened to people that were not at all like me.
But I was wrong.
And when I started writing about it, when I started naming it, I finally had to face it. And in facing it, there is freedom. There is healing. There is release. In writing about it, it doesn’t get to control me.