Me, My Boat & The Sea of Self-Doubt
Hello. This is weird. I’ve never thought I’d be the type who would have a proper blog. Not like a bloggy blog where I think “it’d be good for my business”, force a photo heavy post of nothingness out of me and then it gets neglected for months at a time. Like a place where I write my thoughts down and share them on the world wide web.
The last time I sat down to write like this was probably for my essay module at uni and BOY did I hate that. So writing has been tainted for me for a long while. I always remember my main critique from my A-Level English Lit & Lang teacher was that I don’t explain myself very well and I don’t expand on subjects enough. I don’t think I trusted myself to write and didn't feel like I could write. I draw, I paint and I make. That’s the extent of what I am good at. But alas, here I am, trying to make words out of how I feel.
I’m doing this because I need another outlet. Even if it’s just monthly, weekly or even daily (let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, babe), I just need to put these words somewhere and then leave it there and come back to it so I can make sense of it all.
I’ve been having CBT for 9 weeks now. The BEST thing I’ve ever forced myself to go through with. Although, now, I’m very aware I’m becoming dependant on those weekly sessions. And they mostly just consist of talking at 160mph to my lovely CBT therapist, hoping she can reassure me that what I feel and how I feel is okay and normal. Now. She’s away for 2 weeks and I feel myself losing that grip. I feel myself sliding into an old routine of self-doubt, comparison and general anxiety that I have let rule my life for years. I had a hold of it. I was the one in control. I had rough days but I learnt not to punish myself for it and move on. But it’s like I’ve lost it all. All my hard work. But I’m trying my hardest to regain that control.
Last night, I had the worst case of those pesky self-doubts and spent that time thinking it would be really useful to compare myself to every single person I admire. Yeah, that will do it - that will get you out of that awful mood and make you feel productive and not anxious at all (not). Why do I do it? Why has my brain been programmed to fall into a bigger, darker, more scary hole when I get an inkling of doubt?
Are you ready for a really rocky analogy? Hear me out..
It feels like I’m on a boat in the middle of the ocean at night with no land in sight. Okay - I’m doing well, the boat is sturdy and the stars are actually really great at shedding some much needed light and I can cope. It’s fine! And then one by one the stars disappear. It gets that little bit darker. That’s fine! I can still manage. Just don’t panic, I’m okay. They’ll reappear soon, or better yet, the sun will rise. Hang on, why are my feet wet? Oh, there’s a hole in the boat. Alright, don’t panic. Let’s just patch it up. It’s just a blip, we can manage, can’t we? And then another stream of water bursts through the wooden panel of the boat. And another. And I’m trying my hardest to not panic. It will make it worse. Try to keep still. But I can’t. My arms are flailing, I’m scrambling from side to side trying to stop the water from coming in but nothing is fixing it. It’s done. Too far gone. Then I just have to wait for the inevitable. The sturdy boat, that was my safe place, had failed me. The stars that made me feel hopeful and calm were now just darkness. The kind of darkness you’re scared to look into incase you see everything you fear. The deep, cold water is swallowing me up and I have given up trying to help myself.
Sometimes, a hand appears from above the water. They try to help me out. Sometimes, there’s a lifeboat on the horizon even before that point. They’ve seen me flail, they’ve noticed the stars fading one by one. But right now, I’m drowning. I’ve not flailed, I’ve lost the ability to shout out. No one knows I’m below the surface.
But even by writing this, I’m aware of it. I’ve gained strength and I’m swimming back to shore to get back on that boat. It’s still a bit rickety but I’m on it. I feel like this analogy represents my life as an illustrator. I work alone. That boat is my business and only I can keep it secure and afloat. I pass other boats. Fancy boats that are shiny and make lots of waves. My goal is to not let those waves impact my little boat as much as I have let them. Just focus on me and my boat. One day, we’ll be fancy. But we’ll go through so bloody great big storms before we get there and that’s ok.