Disclaimer: I do not speak for anyone else. Each person who struggles with mental illness has their own struggles. What works (or doesn’t work) for me, might have the opposite effect on others.
FWIW this is more of a Ramble, a sharing of a part of me I don’t think I’ve shared here before.
In 2011 I made a jump into self publishing. The story, The Shiny, was small, just a little concept/flash thing, but I self pubbed it and worked on others to get up. I was excited, I was motivated, and the more I look back at it, the more I’m convinced I was in a manic phase (not a good time to make major decisions such as self pubbing etc, fwiw). You see, I’m Bipolar. It is a condition in which the chemicals in my brain fluctuate wildly, and in cycles, I get really amped up, excited, go go go go, then I drop, I have a drop in mood I end up depressed and fighting to stay afloat.
I’m Bipolar 2, (I think that’s what they call it, I’m still trying to educate myself) which is the ‘milder’ form of the disorder. Most people don’t recognize my manic phases as mania, more ‘motivated, responsible, with it’. But my downswings, those are downright scary. I struggle to get out of bed, I struggle with feelings of self-worth, I fight the urge to just say fuck it and do something drastic, anything at all to feel better.
I was in denial for years until 2012 when I finally worked on getting it managed. Figuring out what worked and what didn’t and I found myself able to focus better and write. But writing when my depression was in full swing was like trying to pull teeth with a spoon. Made of warm jello. I wanted to write, I wanted to tell these stories that haunt me day and night, but I wasn’t enjoying it. Even with meds getting me on a steady mental state, I was still depressed, I was still chipping away at the iceberg with a toothpick and writing, writing became more a struggle than a release.
You see, when you’re severely depressed even the things that bring you pure joy mean nothing. My energy, my motivation, everything just gone. It’s weird, and annoying. I look over my plans and projects and I know I need to be writing, I know I need to finish stuff, to edit stuff to get stuff up and for sale. But then the doubts kick in and add to that the depression that has/had me convinced it was all shit anyways, well it made it harder to touch those projects especially when I was being crushed with guilt for not living up to my own high standards.
In 2014, in an effort to curb those feelings, I decided I was going to take a story I *thought* was ‘done’ and make it a serial. It shouldn’t take very long, I reasoned, to get it scheduled. Elemental Truth debuted and I was feeling good despite the depression. Then the bottom dropped out. In a matter of a few weeks our family’s life was turned upside down, we entered into a legal battle with our old landlord, my hubs started a new job and was suddenly away for weeks at a time, and I was facing legal issues with one of the kids and a major move all by myself. I didn’t pull E1, I was being stubborn. I can do it, I kept telling myself, I’m not going to pull the serial.
The problem is, the serial wasn’t as ‘done’ as I thought and the more I got into it, the more I realized that it needed a massive overhaul. But with everything else going on I just plugged away at it, the only thing I could really count on was getting that damn thing posted. For months, writing wise, I clung to that project, unmotivated but trying to force my way through it. Depression robs you of enjoyment, and though I enjoy that story I couldn’t feel it.
We’d just barely gotten things back to an even keel, into some semblance of normal when, last April, I got an unexpected call from my SIL; my FIL passed away unexpectedly.
Goodbye even keel. Goodbye semblance of normal. We hauled ass out to OK for the funeral, then returned only to discover my hubs company suddenly struggling. The last year has been spent trying to recoup from that. The depression got worse when, in Sept (or Aug) our insurance changed due to job changes and I was unable to get my meds.
Imagine a diabetic unable to get their insulin, imagine a person in chronic pain, unable to get their pain control meds. It is that serious. My depression was crushing, the stories, the writing, the serial in limbo. It was a struggle, fighting my own brain and I think that I noticed it even more this go round because I’d been on the meds, now off the meds and suddenly no management of anything at all. And the longer I go with it managed, the greater the drop when those meds are yanked away.
I’ve now been back on my meds just over a week, and I feel the difference. I’m starting to find focus, things are a bit easier. It’s still a daily battle, an ongoing struggle to keep myself frown drowning in the hopeless feelings.
So how is this going to affect my writing and future publications?
Honestly I’m not too sure. I’m hoping that as I get more settled I’ll be able to stick to my routines and get back to writing regularly. I’m not going to give a timeframe, not yet. Not till I’m sure I’m a bit more stable. Right now, every little paragraph is a triumph, every day I don’t just delete all my writing* it a success.
I do *hope* to have Elemental Truth ready for publication by the fall, and Bastard Prince for sale in time for Christmas. But I also have to be realistic, I have a lot going on in my life outside of my writing, there’s still fallout from last years job issues and money issues, and I don’t want to make promises I end up breaking. I always feel like a flake when that happens, I know logically it’s because I have this stupid chemical imbalance in my brain and that for a long time it was completely unmanaged. But I still feel like I should have done more, tried harder, followed my schedule, guilt, guilt, guilt…
Yeah I’m great with the self-guilt-ting. I once told a friend, I don’t need people to guilt trip me, I do a great job all by myself -.-
There you have it, mental illness and how it affects ME as a writer. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with it. If you, the reader, also struggles with it, just know you’re not alone. And what the depression tries to tell you, well trust me it lies.
*I almost deleted everything a couple months ago, I was that low.
Please note I had to make a couple edits after I posted it. Sorry.