Tag Archives: depression

Sabbatical

You guys get the update before YouTube subscribers this time. I tried to do a video about this, about goals and taking advice and deciding what really makes you happy rather than just thinking you want what everyone else thinks will make them happy… and it just didn’t work out.

I can’t talk about it coherently yet.

But I did manage to post about it in my Facebook group this morning, and it seemed like a post that was worth sharing here (with slight modifications).

For quite a while I’ve been putting pressure on myself to do everything quickly. To follow the rules that say “publish or perish.” To have less than a year between book releases in a massive trilogy, to hold myself to deadlines that are supposed to be helpful, and to do it all with a smile while achieving my absolute best work.

It’s insane. It really is. For some people all of this works. Tight schedules. Multiple series. Cranking out books, drawing from the creative fountain without needing a break. But I’m learning that for me, it’s wrong. Everyone is unique, and has unique needs, gifts, and challenges. I have a family that doesn’t get the best of me when I’m buried under stress. I have physical pain that cuts me off from work, family, and life, and that’s made worse by tension and stress. I have depression and anxiety, and thanks to the pressure I put on myself to finish the Bound trilogy on time, my writing has become a real trigger for that.

I used to write to heal myself. Now I sit at the computer and feel like crying because I’m scared of not living up to my own expectations, because the words won’t come, because my brain wants to focus on ANYTHING but that blank screen.
And that’s wrong. This is not what stories should be for me. I shouldn’t feel like I need to hide from a part of my spirit.

So I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical.

I’m cancelling edits I had scheduled for a book that’s been suffering under my inability to let my imagination loose. I’m clearing the decks. And for a while—maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months—I’m not going to be “a writer.”

I’ll still be here.

I’m still going to write. I’ll post more on my blog. Maybe I’ll pick at that long-suffering book or my B project, but only if I feel drawn to them. Maybe I’ll take on flash fiction challenges that have no chance of making money, so they can be purely creative enterprises to share. I’ll read about writing craft and take time to apply the lessons. I’ll research whatever topics float my boat on any given day, and try to learn a new language. Hell, maybe I’ll try poetry. You never know.

Maybe I’ll learn to love reading again when there’s no reason to be competitive or to compare my work to anyone else’s. Maybe I can learn to lose myself in other people’s worlds.

Basically, I’m taking time to get healthy. To turn writing back into a playground rather than an assembly line. When I get back to “for real” writing, my hope is that the books I create for you will be filled with more magic, more surprises, more love, and more generous stories than I can even imagine right now.

It’s scary. Deadlines and publishing schedules feel so essential when writing puts food on the table. But my work deserves me at my best, and so do my readers. So here we go. A fresh, unexpected adventure.

This blog will be more active as I try to recover my creative spark and my will to write, as I get my headaches and brain fog and ongoing attention issues under control (or learn how to live and work with them. Sometimes you have to embrace what you can’t change, right?). I’ll post any new fiction stuff here, let you know how things are going.

For readers, this won’t make a huge difference in terms of when the next book comes out. Waiting for me to get better and do my best work shouldn’t work out to a longer delay than a miserable me forcing out junk and having to repair it. And the end product will be so much better.

The stories are there. I just have to get myself ready to welcome them into the world.

Hold on tight. It’s going to be a crazy ride.


Victory (again… for now)

I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago with the caption below, and enough people found it helpful/motivating that I thought I’d share it with you guys.

Screenshot 2016-05-06 09.24.05

I cried a little at the end of our run today. Not because it was hard, but because I realized that I had won again. A lot of you know that I went through another bad round with depression back in the fall/winter, and I’ve been fighting to get out of it using exercise, reading and taking action on self-help stuff (even the silly crap), and weekly self-therapy sessions (don’t laugh). It’s hard work, like dragging my reluctant ass up a steep and muddy slope. But as I collapse here with my running buddy/motivational canine, I feel like I’ve made it back to what passes for normal for me. I broke my reading slump. I have an amazing book coming out in less than 2 months. And I feel good.

Next challenge to add to this one: getting the headaches and brain fog sorted out. I can do this. Baby steps.

So there’s the update for people who have been following along since I started talking about pulling myself out of this pit (here and here). I’m still doing weekly question-and-answer therapy sessions with myself to dig down to the roots of things that are holding me down and trying to drag me back into the pit. Through that I’ve broken my reading slump, changed some of my beliefs, and found a bit of the balance I’m looking for in my life (still a long way to go there). I’m on week four of Couch to 5K (C25K) training, and having that challenge to look forward to/achievement under my belt in the morning/extra exercise is helping a lot with my motivation.

This doesn’t mean my depression is cured. It means that for now, I’m finding ways to change my brain chemistry and thought patterns in ways that allow me to be less anxious, less hopeless, more motivated, and on an upward spiral. Most days are still challenges. There are still triggers that can snap me back into a low mood/closed-off state, but I’m learning to identify and deal with them through changing my perceptions and reactions. (And THAT, my friends, is slow going. But I’ll get there.)

It’s hard work, and I know how fortunate I am to have the time to do it. I’ve been in a lot of different places with my mental health. I’ve been crushed under panic attacks. I’ve been depressed enough that I lacked the motivation to kill myself, but passively wished I was dead. I’ve survived times when none of that responded to medications until I was on high doses of antidepressants that turned me into an emotionless, anhedonic zombie (but hey, they helped me survive). I’ve suffered withdrawal symptoms from coming off of those drugs that were worse than the side-effects. I’ve wanted to exercise and eat better and lacked the time, energy, and resources to do either.

This post isn’t to say “LOOK WHAT I DID, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT TOO,” because screw that. This isn’t advice or a how-to, but an encouragement. My path to feeling better is the one that’s working for me right now, and if sharing my journey helps one person decide that it is possible to feel better, that the fight is worth fighting, or that they’re going to speak up about the shit that they’re going through and seek help, my mission will be accomplished. Maybe for you that means speaking to your doctor. Maybe it means admitting to your family that you need help to find time to get ten minutes of walking in. Maybe it means opening up to a friend who’s been there who can tell you that it can and does get better.

If you’re fighting depression (or not fighting it… I’ve been there, too) or any other mental illness, you are not alone. You are not a weirdo. You’re not defective. You are amazingly strong, and the proof of that is the fact that you’re still here. You are not your illness, and YOU are still there under it.

And if you don’t believe that right now, that’s okay, too. I believe it for you.

It’s Mental Health Week. I’m getting loud.

(As for the end of that facebook status, about the headaches and brain fog… CT scan results are in and my doctor asked to see me next week. Fingers crossed.)

*Though it is a cycle. When I took the baby step of walking for 20 minutes a day, I gained the energy to walk for 30. And my mood lifted a little. And I found motivation to make other changes.

 


Adjusting My Sails (Part 1)

back on my feet

 

(Language warning if you need that. *waves to family*)

I got knocked down, guys. Hard. I thought I had depression under control… I forgot that control is shaky at best when dealing with a black dog this big and mean.

Much as I don’t like to talk about it and hard as it is to post about this, I think it’s helpful to do so. I wish I’d known more people with depression when I was first struggling with it. I wish more people I liked or admired or just knew about showed me how they dealt with it, how they live good lives in spite of the fact that this shadow is always hovering over them. I wish I’d had more people to say “Yeah, this thing fuckin’ sucks. This is exactly as hard as it seems, so don’t let anyone minimize your struggle. But you are so much stronger than you think. You will beat this. And then you’ll beat it again. And it will always be worth fighting.”

So here we are, talking about it. I was really low for a while. This is a snapshot of me getting back on my feet, promising to blow shit open and get back in control of my life.

Note: This is how I’m approaching the fight this time around. It’s not advice. It’s not necessarily the best way of fighting, but it’s what’s working for me right now. And if you’re lost in your own Despair right now, this is me saying that you’re not alone. This thing is beatable, and there’s no shame in your struggle. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or with taking care of yourself.

‘Kay?

‘Kay.

This was my fourth or fifth big battle with depression since I was diagnosed about fifteen years ago, but this round seemed particularly unfair in its origin. It started in November, when a doctor decided to put me on antidepressants to treat my migraines in spite of the fact that I don’t have a great record with the drug he prescribed. It knocked me flat, emotionally speaking, and made my previously non-existent anxiety spike hard. I started getting off the drugs before Christmas, but the damage was done. I was not only down, but stuck.

See, when someone pushes you into a pit, the fact that they’ve stopped pushing doesn’t magically get you back to the surface. And eliminating the trigger, whether it’s chemical or situational, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to bounce right back from depression. Sometimes you do, and that’s wonderful. But not always.

It took two weeks for the pills to turn me into an emotionally-flat-yet-terribly-anxious mix of Eeyore and Piglet. It’s taken me months to get myself back to anything like normal.

Well, you know. Normal for me.

I haven’t been sad. That would require energy. I’ve been… not. I was not myself. I was not enjoying anything. I was not functioning as well as I should have, though I forced myself through editing and a book release during the worst of it. I was not thinking clearly. I was not able to take care of myself. I was just not.

Except for that frigging anxiety. That was a something that was, but that contributed a great deal to the not.

But this wasn’t my first rodeo. Though the trigger might have been a new one for me, I was walking through a dark country I’d seen before. Hell, I have the souvenir t-shirt, and I’m pretty sure my next trip will qualify me for dual citizenship. And I’ve found my way out before. I’ve had help, and I’ve fought hard. I knew I could do it again.

And I am. I’ve waited to post about it, because I didn’t want to bring anyone down (and quite frankly, I didn’t want to worry my mother if she was reading). I’m feeling better. We’re cool. I’m back to the edge of the pit. Dangerously close, but confident enough to turn around and raise my middle fingers to the depths.

So how am I fighting the drag, the lag, the damned inertia of depression? Again, this is not advice for anyone else. This is just me. NEVER TAKE ADVICE FROM ME ON ANYTHING EVER.

I force myself to move. To do something. To roll out of bed. To shower. To make the bed. To cook one good meal. To walk the dog when a nice-ish day presents itself. To stretch for five minutes. To write one blog post (hi, there!) or work for ten minutes. Sometimes one thing is all I can do, but sometimes I get a little momentum that I can use for one more thing. And one more.

I let myself breathe. I extend deadlines when I can so that anxiety has less to scream in my ear about. I let myself bounce from book to book when nothing is grabbing me during reading time, and I refuse to feel guilty when the popular thing I should love doesn’t make me swoon. I refuse to feel guilty about not being up to cooking an amazing supper every night.

I make sure my kids know that I love them, that my mood isn’t their fault, and that it’s totally cool to wear the same shirt three days in a row if someone isn’t 100% on top of the laundry. *cough*

I take days off from social media when it becomes more stressful than relaxing, and I use that time to read or re-focus.

I take my damn vitamins and get as much sun on my skin as I can. Winter in Newfoundland is hard.

And I give myself therapy. Sort of. I ask myself questions, I dig deep, and I figure shit out. It’s hard work. Really hard. But I’m making progress.

This post is already running long, so I’m going to leave it at that for now. Next time, I’ll tell you what I dug up when I asked myself some hard questions.

Yeah, it’s writing-related. And it could change everything for me.

 

(PS: check out the song I referenced at the top. I loves it, I do.)

Part 2 here

 


A Bad Time (Day 20)

SKIP THIS ONE. SERIOUSLY. I’m only posting so as not to leave the challenge incomplete. Go look at something entertaining. Now.

I really wasn’t looking forward to writing this, but stupid Past Me didn’t write this one in advance, so Present Me has to take care of it now. Up yours, Past Me!

I’m supposed to tell you about a difficult time in my life. I can think of a few. Four BIG rounds with depression (and many other times when it just sneaked up behind me and punched me in the back of the head for fun. Asshole).

The single “difficult time” that comes to mind is when I was pregnant for the second time. Now, you all know I love my children. I think they’re amazing, and they were worth every bit of pain I went through to get them this far. But they were both surprises, and our situation was less than ideal for having children both times (yes, we were using birth control. Apparently only performing demolition on my insides could stop this from happening again). At the time, all I knew was that I didn’t think I could go on. Looking back, I can see this highly-imperfect storm of factors:

  • Simon (#1) still wasn’t sleeping through the night, and I was exhausted
  • AJ was working full-time and I was working part-time when he could be home. We hardly ever saw each other, and it was putting a lot of strain on our marriage
  • I was on antidepressants that turned me into an emotional zombie before I got pregnant, and that did other horrible things to our marriage. I actually don’t know how Ike happened…
  • We were both working, but in retail. We lived in a crappy basement apartment. We had less than no money. We were in debt recovery over credit cards we’d used to buy groceries, trying to pay off that and student loans and still buy those groceries.
  • AJ was miserable, but he’s never agreed to be checked out for depression. He was definitely depressed at that time, but not getting any kind of help for it. He worked, he hated his job, he came home to a messy apartment because I had no energy or motivation or will to live. Not good, and I felt guilty about that. I still do.
  • Pregnancy hormones do horrible things to me. 40 weeks of morning sickness was actually the highlight. I was in so much emotional pain (the hormones got past the antidepressants and pushed me into the sub-basement of depression) that I couldn’t function. I was having panic attacks. I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep all the time, but I had a kid who needed me.
  • I wanted to not be alive anymore. I couldn’t kill myself (not with a kid who needed me and another one that literally couldn’t survive without me). I just wanted to be dead.

When you have depression (major depression, clinical depression, not emo-ism), pain and darkness consume you. You want to look on the bright side, see that life is worth living, but there’s just nothing there.  Most of the time when I was dealing with it, I felt so much like this comic that it’s frightening for me to read this:

Depression part Two (really worth a read if you haven’t yet, whether you have Depression or just want to understand why we can’t just pull ourselves out of it and BE HAPPY, DAMMIT)

When I was pregnant, I had that emotional nothingness AND tears,  anxiety, soul-crushing sadness and hopelessness. Don’t ask me how you can have both, but you can.

How did that turn out? Well, the sun kept on rising, so I had no choice but to keep plodding through my life. I went back to the psychiatrist who had treated me during my first pregnancy, and she put me on a second antidepressant, because obviously Effexor (the drug from hell) wasn’t doing what it should. I got through it. AJ got through it. Simon got through it without being neglected or damaged. The cats got through it, but probably could have used more-frequent litter box scoopings. We survived. There were some better days, especially with Simon (have I told you how he used to do all of the dances from Hairspray?), but mostly it was survival. Existence. Trying not to let the bad parts consume me.

GOOD EFFING TIMES.

And then AJ got into the RCMP. When Ike was two months old, he had to leave for six months. Things got better once he was back with us, but I think I’ve put you through enough for today.

Well, I feel better. Or not. Thanks a lot, blog challenge.


Off My Meds… kinda

*runs around screaming*

Aah, but sadly, it’s nothing that fun or crazy. All that’s happened is that I’m trying to get down to a lower dose of antidepressants. Cutting it in half, in fact (though not cutting the pills themselves… that’s a no-no with this one).

Have you ever talked to a doctor about Depression? I always have a hard time not laughing at them. There are certain questions they have to ask you about your mood, etc. When they get to the ones about thoughts of suicide or self-harm, they always look at me like I’m a dangerous animal. Maybe not a tiger, but definitely a mangy raccoon that may or may not have rabies. They approach cautiously, gently, and very apprehensively. All of them. It’s kind of adorable.

When I mentioned it last week, my doctor looked at me like I was asking her for a referral to have my nose grafted onto my forehead. Things have been going well. Really well. I feel good, I’m sleeping well for the first time in years, my brain is functioning on many levels (even if my memory is still crap), I’m getting writing done, though I still can’t concentrate on anything that doesn’t interest me. Why would I want to change anything?

Because I don’t like being on more medication than I have to be. My body is sensitive to a lot of chemicals: MSG and aspartame give me headaches, and I’ve had to switch meds several times because of nasty side-effects. I don’t think I’m suffering now, but who knows? Maybe I’ll feel better once I adjust. I’ve been told by several doctors that I’ll probably never not need something. I have Depression, I’ve learned that needing medication for that is no more shameful than someone with diabetes needing insulin (this seems to be the go-to comparison), it’s part of my brain chemistry, runs in my family, all of that. That doesn’t mean I want to be on more than I need to be.

It’s not an easy adjustment. Missing a dose leaves me feeling cloudy-headed and muddled, and today, after four days of half-doses, I’m experiencing the same thing. I’m moving at regular speed, but my brain is processing everything around me in slow-motion. I feel like I’m sitting inside of my head looking out through my eyes. I can’t focus on editing; those words won’t come. I did that WIPpet Wednesday thing after one reduced dose, and that was OK; I wrote 6,000 words on it yesterday (and I owe the house and my kids an apology for kind of letting chaos reign while I did). I guess letting new ideas flow is easier right now than perfecting the ones I’ve seen a hundred times already. But I’m not in pain, and so far my mood isn’t crashing. Well, I’m feeling a bit down this morning (Friday). It’s partly because of that, but partly because of a simmering stew of other factors, including the fact that I forgot about Ike’s last KinderStart class.*

So why now? Because I’ve been getting more exercise, and they say that’s as good for depression as antidepressants are. I can’t get out with Jack every day, but we do pretty well, working around AJ’s work schedule and the weather. If we get an elliptical for the basement, even better. I think the exercise is doing a lot for my mental health (darn them for being right, I hate sweating!), and I want to see if it holds up without as much pharmaceutical support as it’s been getting. I’m trying to eat better, but that’s hard sometimes. The days are getting longer, and sunlight helps. There’s no perfect time to try this, but now seems better than January would have been. *shhudder*

I’m going to keep writing, even if editing my beloved primary WIP has to be put on hold until my head is de-muzzified, one way or another. Writing helps as much as the exercise does, but it’s harder to do when I’m feeling all stupid-like.  I’ll keep going with those vampire types, just for fun. I’m excited about the club, the food-people (better name pending),  Shivva and Trixie’s first assignment, the bad guys who are just SO persuasive about their cause, and the possibility that one of these young ladies isn’t going to stay true to hers… It’s just a jumbled mess of ideas right now, but it’s been a while since I really explored something new, and the excitement might keep me going through the tough days.

I’m also going to get outside more with the boys; we’re starting a vegetable garden, and I want to get them out to the walking trails when the snow is all gone from down there. I’m going to read more. I might need to sleep more, but I’m not going to let it become an escape.

TL;DR – I apologize in advance if things get weird around here in the next few weeks.

Er… weirder 🙂

20130502-213019.jpg

…but at least I don’t feel like he looks.

*It was only an hour or so, less than once a month on an irregular schedule. I don’t do well with irregular schedules. I feel like a bad mom. 😦


Everything You Thought You Knew

A few days ago, I remembered another super fun thing about Depression that I don’t think I’ve mentioned before- mostly because I don’t think I even realized it, myself. Ready for it?

You will never be able to really trust your own perceptions or moods again. Not when things are going well, and definitely not when they’re going badly.

Shall I explain?

Take a hypothetical example of someone with Depression who’s been doing really well with it- maybe still a little (lot) on the forgetful side thanks to the disease,  but not spending a lot of time crying over nothing, and finally getting back to normal. This person has her moments of despair, like when she looks at the housework she has to do every day and realizes that she never, ever gets to retire from that much-hated job, but she generally holds up well under the stresses of daily life. She has moments of real joy, and is able to be grateful for the ridiculous number of blessings in her life.

Maybe this person has a dream. Maybe this person thinks she has talent at something (let’s say painting), and maybe her particular, life-long dream is to do it professionally. Perhaps this hypothetical person sometimes lets herself really dream, to think big, to wish for the best and to take steps toward it. Maybe she thinks, “This is going to happen. Maybe not right away, but it will.”

And then maybe… honestly, maybe she’s a bit hormonal one day*. Doubts start to creep in. She wonders if maybe she was wrong about the whole damned thing, that God was playing a joke on her when he put this one desire in her heart, that she’s not good enough. That she’ll never be good enough. Maybe she realizes that there are literally thousands of people in the world with the exact same dream as her, dreamed just as passionately, who will never see the result they’re wishing for. And she wonders why the hell she should have ever thought she was any different.

So she recognizes feelings of depression and goes back to what she learned about identifying negative thoughts and changing them… and she stalls.

Why? Because for the first time she honestly doesn’t know whether these negative thoughts are actually coming from the Depression. She’s struck with the realization that there’s a chance reality is actually tapping her on the shoulder and saying, “Um, honey? It’s time we had a little talk.”

Is she feeling down and wondering whether she should give up (not give up painting, God forbid, but give up The Big Dream) because it’s a bad kind of day for moods in general, or because it’s the kind of day when reality can break through the shell of artificial hope that our hypothetical case study has built up around herself as a defense mechanism?

So yeah, it makes you question everything, and therefore feel like shit for not just appreciating what you have and being willing to let go of what’s probably an absolutely ridiculous dream, anyway. Or is it? There’s no way for you to know.

Depression’s a slippery, slimy, dishonest bastard. But maybe it’s the same for everyone… I wouldn’t know.

*I read about a study once that showed that bad moods due to PMS are mostly in the sufferer’s head. Studies are bullshit.


Jack Attack (late edition)

Sorry for the lateness of your Monday Jack Attack. He looked sad yesterday, but he’s downright depressed today- his dad’s away this week. Soooo sad.

20121030-213527.jpg

Sad enough to travel back in time and make you feel better about your own Monday? Perhaps.


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