When I envisioned this blog, I intended it to be for people like me, who both study languages and have mental illness. These are the people I want to be talking with, the ones who feel subtly left out or denigrated in other language-learning spaces online because maybe we don’t have the energy, or focus, to study two hours a day after work. Or maybe we can’t do Skype conversation exchanges on days when our anxiety is super-high or we’ve been too depressed to get dressed and can’t bear the thought of other people seeing us. You get the drift.
Somewhat belatedly, it occurred to me that other people, people without mental illness, might find their way here too. Given previous experience with this online, I think it’s worth setting down some guidelines: I don’t want to deal with comments like, “Oh, you’re just babying yourself and having a pity party so you have an excuse to be lazy and not to become fluent!” I don’t want to be deluged with stories of someone who has depression and learned six languages in a year — spare me your inspiration porn (and yes, in the UK at least, mental illness can be considered a disability).
I’m not here for that. I’m not here to be judged, to have the validity of my lived experience dismissed or downplayed, to be cooed at to just think positive. I’m not here to hold anyone’s hand and give them a free Intro to Mental Illness course either. This is the internet. Welcome to Google.
That said, for future reference, Libba Bray’s Miles and Miles of No-Man’s Land is a description of living with depression that really resonates with me, and I think there’s a lot of wisdom in Depression Is Not Sadness (Again): those are not bad starting points!
What it boils down to is this: if you don’t have mental illness (or even if you do, but especially if you don’t), you are welcome to read and comment (respectfully! Like everyone else), but you don’t get to judge how hard someone is trying, the individual burden they’re carrying, or whether or not they really want to learn.
If you don’t have mental illness, please respect that these posts, and any conversations that may arise from them, are not aimed at you, and I do not want to center your experiences. I want to try to shape a space where the rest of us can talk through things.
I can’t speak for everyone with mental illness, of course; I can only speak from my own experience and my (potentially flawed) understanding of my friends’ experiences. Given that, though, I think it’s fairly reasonable to say this: we’re not looking for excuses to fail. We’re trying to construct our lives around what can be some really complicated constraints. We’re trying to save our lives. And sometimes learning another language can be intimately tied into that process (I definitely want to write about that in more detail in future posts!).
Haters, as they say, to the left.