CONTENT WARNING: Discussions of Covid-19 and Mental Illness
This is going to be my last blog post before this blog undergoes MA assessment. At the moment, I am not in a very collegiate head space, but I figured attending to college work and trying to get something done might distract me, if even for half an hour. I had hoped to be more diligent over these last two months of blogging but… I’m so tired. I don’t really have anything left inside of me. I am exhausted – not by college, which really is one of the brightest and most wonderful parts of my life – but by anxiety. Anxiety about this pandemic, about my loved ones, anxiety for myself as I finish off my three weeks of isolation before I can be reunited with my mother. Being alone isn’t hard for me. In fact, it is my preferred state. But not being able to go outside, to go to cafes, to be “alone with everybody”, to quote Charles Bukowksi, is hard for me. To be stuck in small talk with housemates that are barely acquaintances is a kind of limbo for me. And, damn-it, I miss my dog. I miss my dog, and our walks, and the West Cork air, and the space, and the green, and the tranquility in the solitude of my home. Most of all, I’m just worried that people aren’t taking this pandemic seriously. I feel like the death of our loved ones is imminent and it’s something we can never be fully prepared for. How does one focus on blogging about literature at a time like this?
So, I’ve finished the My Solo Exchange Diary companion manga. Volume 2 dealt with much more extreme themes than the other two when it comes to mental illness. It dealt with self-harm, suicidal ideation, and hospitalisation. My overwhelming admiration for Nagata Kabi stems from her utter candidness about her mental illness. What started with a woman determined to lose her virginity and regain control of her mental health, has culminated in a three part series that shows just how difficult the process of healing really is. Break-through after break-through, relapse after relapse, but still, Nagata perseveres. From pulling out her hair, to binge/starvation cycles, to sleeping all day, to self-mutilation, and alcoholism – this series is a tough read emotionally. But what kept me coming back to it was Nagata’s unbreakable strength. No matter how bad her relapses became, she persevered, and, along the way, began to understand and accept her parents for who they are, and make friends of her own. Most of all, Nagata’s lack of “luck” in love… in the end it doesn’t really matter. In My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, her status as a 28-year-old virgin, who had never dated or even kissed anyone, was her obsession. But, into her early thirties, into her third manga, it is clear that what really matters is one’s perception of oneself, one’s mental health, and nurturing one’s existing and burgeoning relationships. In a world that emphasises the importance of romantic love, particularly for women, reading this queer narrative in which the main character does not get the girl, but finds fulfillment in other ways; through her career, her friendships, and her perseverance, was incredibly refreshing. The narrative in these manga is cyclical in ways, mirroring the cyclical nature of mental illness and recovery. Perhaps these blog posts are cyclical in nature, too. But I’m glad I read these books over the last few months. They inspire hope in hopeless times.
I think that’s enough from me. So, I will sign off here for the near future. I’m going to leave you with this:
- Read books by James Baldwin.
- Also read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.
- Listen to JONGHYUN’S solo music on spotify.
- Kiss your pet on their forehead for me.
Until next time, flatten the curve.
Nagata, Kabi. My Solo Exchange Diary, Vol 2. Shogakukon, 2019.
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