Thanks for your input on the Battle of the Narrators.
So, I decided to go with first person after all, and you can read the completed essay here: Anxiety Paints a Self Portrait on The Nervous Breakdown
Why did I go with first person? Well, because the piece was about me, and it felt dishonest to try and disguise that fact in any way.
Why was I considering using any other narrative perspective? Because first person can be annoying, for one thing. And because I do want to expand into writing about other things and other people, and because I was struggling with how to put this piece together at all.
There’s another reason for considering third person, though. When you’re writing about something personal like your struggle with anxiety, and when you’re describing strong symptoms that might make people thing, “Dang, she’s crazy,” it’s tempting to use third person as a screen so that even though everyone knows it’s about you, there’s a layer of “not you” that keeps them from making that direct association. I felt like if I wrote the piece in first person, I would need to attach some explanations to it, a little, “I’m not really crazy” caveat. I decided not to attach any explanations this time, though. I decided to just let the story speak for itself: This is what it’s like to have anxiety. Maybe another time, I’ll write about the other side, about being normal on the surface.
These questions are all part of the process and part of learning. The way this essay was written, I basically decided there was a subject I needed to write about, and I kept making notes as thoughts came to me over the course of a couple days. Some of the notes sounded right in first person, but in some of them, I started to explain something that I wanted a reader to be able to experience and relate to, so I made “you” the subject. That was OK for a couple more vivid paragraphs in which I try to make the reader feel a particular sensation, but it didn’t work as well in the idea-driven paragraphs (like the one I used in that example). Maybe I could’ve left it switching back and forth, but that felt like a lazy excuse for a Faulkner ripoff.