For the past decade or so, I’ve lived my life in a fractional manner.
When I first started blogging, I had read multiple stories about employers firing someone over what they had written online. So my plan was to keep a buffer between the day job public me and online writer me. Hence the creation of my penname Chris Carlisle (I used the Johnny Knoxville method of selecting a stage name, using my real first name and hometown).
As Chris Carlisle I went on to have a mild amount of success with my writing, and even parlayed it into a regular online writing gig for the better part of three years. But even as I was experiencing this success, I didn’t make it public or share it with many of my family and friends. I maintained separate social media accounts for writer me and public me with different sets of friends on each.
There were some rare occasions where writer me and public me crossed paths. One time I was published in a local paper under my penname, and they included my photo in the byline. The next day at work I was approached by a coworker who had read it. His response was positive and he even made the point to email my article to the rest of the office. When I saw the office-wide email come through with a link to the article, I almost had an anxiety attack. It felt like my Donald Trump-esque border fence had been breached.
It was all a game in reconciling who I was and my perception of how others perceived me. While this was going on it probably isn’t a huge shock to learn that I was dealing with some severe depression. I wasn’t happy with who I was, where I was going, and I needed ways to escape and be “me”, not a complete me, but a piece of me.
Writing was my personal escape, and even though I was sharing it out in the open, it was with a different set of people than the ones I saw day to day. They only saw me as the guy who wrote about trying to get his cat to take Prozac (that’s a true story) or how difficult it was to throw away a trashcan (also true). They didn’t know about how I disappeared into the internet and video games to escape from my job, my marriage, and myself.
Whenever I wrote, I went to great lengths to hide my work in progress. Whenever someone walked behind me while I was typing on the computer I would alt-tab out. I still do that to this day. The words coming out on the screen are still raw and often need tweaking, so in my mind reading my words as I type them was akin to opening the top of my head and looking through my brain. I don’t want questions about what I’m writing while I’m writing it.
Maybe sharing that information would have staved off a few fights and hurt feelings, but when you’re dealing with depression fighting was easier than opening up. It was easier being a moody, primadonna asshole who didn’t want to share his writing than own up to being depressed and withdrawn to the point that I needed my online persona as a release from the day to day.
It’s taken some time, but I’ve reached the point where I no longer need to have that barrier, so I’m merging them together like Power Rangers forming a MegaZord.
Writing is a part of who I am. I may not be able to build a house or fix a car, but I can create a world and a character who resides in it. I can give that character strengths and weaknesses, give him friends and enemies, and find entertaining ways to mess up their shit.
That’s who I am, and that’s what I enjoy doing.