I’m going to make a somewhat embarrassing admission. Well, it would be embarrassing if most people did not already know it about me. Ever since I was a wee gal, I have wanted to be famous. Specifically, a famous writer. Sure, I have entertained fantasies of being a rock star, or an Oscar-winning actress. On my especially bad days, I’ve contemplated what it would be like to be an infamous serial killer. But my dream has pretty consistently been rich famous writer.
I know, it’s a very difficult dream. Especially when you add the “rich” in there. I think it may actually be easier to gain recognition as a writer than it is to a make a comfortable living as a writer. But dreams are dreams. For better of for worse, we all have our big shiny pie-in-the-sky aspirations. Being a famous writer is mine–don’t get me wrong. I definitely have other motivations for writing what I’m writing these days. Reporting on stigmatized populations is not the most surefire route to fame or fortune…regardless of the practicality though, I’ve had big dreams since childhood.
I have not yet accomplished my dream of being a rich famous writer, in case you were wondering. But I have accomplished some success with my writing, which is a start! Betty’s Battleground was recently ranked number 26 on Feedspot’s list of top 75 PTSD blogs! HealthyPlace, which I also write for, was ranked #2. Pretty sweet! Writing for VICE was definitely a bucket list item; I just turned in my third assignment for their health sciences channel. I’ve had two widely circulated articles on Vox, both of which landed my subsequent radio spots. One of them showed up in my treatment counselor’s inbox as the title post for a mental health & addiction e-newsletter. I’m paying my half of the rent with my writing. Interesting people with blue checks by their names are following me on Twitter. There are still no guarantees on that fame, but it looks like I’m on the road to some form of success.
Problem is, this all doesn’t feel half as awesome as I expected it to. And it’s definitely because of my damn PTSD.
Fame, Fortune, and PTSD
The irony of my first published article on VICE was not lost on me. It’s called “I Have a Pathological Fear of Being Happy,” and it focuses on my experiences of cherophobia, the fear of happiness. That’s not a clinical term by the way, but I love it regardless. I was introduced to it by Sarah Schantz, who also wrote a blog post about her difficulties celebrating the success of her debut novel.
Having that article published, especially as my first published piece on one of my favorite news/article publishers, was a very meta experience. I was living the story while others were reading the story. The day it went live, I loaded my kiddos on their vanpool to daycare. Images of gory accidents flashed through my mind’s eye; Penelope’s skinny limbs entangled in the mesh of the metal; Anabelle begging for her binky while gurgling on a throatfull of blood. It was fucking horrible.
My cherophobia has gotten a little better since that day. Maybe it’s because I’m gradually building my tolerance to success, or maybe it’s just because I am getting farther and father from the days when I had to interact with my abuser in court on a regular basis. Whatever the reason, I don’t compulsively imagine my family’s destruction so much anymore. Which is great! But I still experience a good amount of numbing and dissociation when it comes to my own success.
The Disappointing–And Fucking Unfair–Reality Of Success While Living With PTSD
Everyone wants to be successful. I certainly do. But I also have this terrible abuse history that leads me to feel as though the only way I can “deserve” success is by balancing it with trauma. I don’t want tragic things to happen…as much as I want to be a rich, famous writer, I’d rather see my children flourish. This can sometimes lead me to subconsciously self-sabotage. I have to actively fight that urge on a regular basis.
The other problem is placing too much stock in my success, and having overly high expectations. I spent many years abusing drugs, then recovering from abusing drugs (I’m still recovering, in fact). On top of that, I have a history of extreme abuse at the hands of a man who is very likely a sociopath. I have pretty debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms that get in the way of accomplishing many tasks. I may want to be famous tomorrow, but the actual fact is that what I’ve already accomplished is a big deal. Nonetheless, I feel like a failure.
Right now, I have only one assignment. Notice that wording? Only one assignment. It feels like not enough. That’s in addition to my recurring HealthyPlace assignments, and my recurring Betty’s Battleground posts. That’s not including the five articles I have slated for publication soon. That mentality is demented, possibly a little narcissistic, and it really undervalues my achievements. I actually get depressed on the days when I don’t hear from at least one editor.
Worse, I’m obsessing over success that I can barely enjoy. Success makes me anxious. When I’m not anxious, I’m numb. My traumatic past is robbing me of an enjoyable future. That is not okay.
How Do Those Of Us With Cherophobia Cope With Success?
In my latest post on HealthyPlace, I grapple with this issue. How can we appreciate our success, when we’re kind of afraid of it? If this is something you can relate to, I hope you’ll click over to HealthyPlace and check it out. Watch my video too, and leave me some love in the comments!
Til next time.