I feel like such an idiot. It doesn’t happen often. Being on antidepressants for over a decade kinda drills the routine in your head.
But it happens. My routine changes, something knocks my world off it’s axis, just a minute amount, and it slips my mind.
I wake up the next morning and something is wrong. My stomach twists and my arms are tingly and cold. I feel the panic begin to rise. My heart beats faster. Hands shake. I haven’t felt this in some time and I begin to struggle to breathe. I feel the anxiety attack rising.
There’s a nagging feeling in the back of my head. This doesn’t make sense. I’ve been better. I though I was stable. I want to sob. I don’t want to have one of these days. I have weekend plans, for once.
An idea drifts to the surface. I did take my pills yesterday, didn’t I? I can’t remember, although that doesn’t mean anything. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.
Breakfast holds no appeal, so I grab the bag of mini donuts I keep for this very reason. Two tiny chocolate covered pastries help me swallow the five tablets in my pill case. I say the colors to myself as I take each one, to make sure I don’t miss anything. Two maroon, then blue, white, yellow.
I’ve developed a routine for days like this. Step one is a comfort show. I choose Castle, putting the first disc into my DVD player as I think once again how much easier it would be if it was streaming somewhere.
The first season has 13 episodes and I know all of them nearly be heart. The familiar theme plays and I breathe a sigh of relief, feeling my anxiety recede just the tiniest amount.
I drink my coffee, more out of routine than for pleasure. The pilot episode plays and I can’t help but smile at Nathan Fillion’s antics as the playboy novelist Richard Castle.
I know how this goes. At best, I will feel “off” for the rest of the day. Periodically there will be little zaps to my brain, unpleasant but not painful. That will ease as the day goes on. I probably won’t get much done. It’s entirely possible that I’ll finish season one by tonight.
I struggle to not yell at myself and call myself names. I know it won’t help. I’m not perfect. This has happened before and it will happen again. I know what to do. I take deep breaths and pull out a coloring book while Castle quips on the screen. With any luck, by tonight I will feel normal again, or at least my usual baseline “normal”.
(This post originally appeared in my personal Instagram account, but it’s message is still utterly accurate so I wanted to share. There may be a few more like this.
Having depression means when you wake up happy, it’s unsettling. Instead of enjoying the feeling, you’re suspicious. You wonder why you have a smile twisting the corners of your mouth. Why is it here and when will it go away?
(Because it always goes away.)
It makes happiness hard to enjoy because you’re constantly questioning it. Constantly accessing it. Is it just a fluke or did you do something different? Was it that good therapy session? The new Vitamin D tablets you started taking? Is it the result of a normal upward swing in your serotonin levels?
Unsettling though it may be, one thing you do not do is waste it. Depression sucks, but it does make you more appreciative of the good times. You cherish them, make the most of them, because you never know what the morning will bring.
When I was a kid and a teen I had a huge imagination. I had so many story ideas I couldn’t write them fast enough. I kept
lists of novels I wanted to write, ideas that I wanted to explore.
I loved going to bed at night. I would close my eyes and daydream, usually about members of boy bands meeting and falling madly in love with me. Or I’d pretend I was one of my characters and mentally write scenes that were yet to come and exactly what I would write down the next day.
But when I got depressed, that all ended.
I stopped writing, except during November of each year, for Nanowrimo. But I never wrote new ideas, only ones I had come up with years before. I chipped away at my list of novels I wanted to write. When November ended, I turned off my laptop and never went back.
I didn’t daydream anymore. I genuinely couldn’t think of anything to daydream about. My life was so dark and colorless that daydreaming was pointless. Instead, when I went to bed I read fanfiction for endless hours. The familiar characters comforted me. I didn’t like reading original fiction anymore. The idea of reading about new people made my stomach twist into knots.
When I finally admitted my depression and went on medication to fight it, everything started coming back. First was my motivation. I wanted to do things again. I cared about my surroundings. People didn’t have to drag me out of the house. I had things I wanted to do.
When we moved here two years ago, I made a rule for myself that I could only read fanfiction at night. No more going back to bed after meals and doing nothing but read fanfic and nap. I had the ability now and I was going to take advantage of it.
Then came reading. I’d never stopped buying books, but they’d sat unread on my shelves. I bought books I knew I’d have wanted before I was depressed, and they were all sitting on my bookshelves, dusty and waiting to be opened.
Lastly, my imagination came back.
For the first time in years, I have new novel ideas. In fact, I’m starting to build up a list again of things I want to write. As I read, ideas pop into my head I need to jot down, complete scenes, characters, little blurbs for future books.
It hit me today how much I’d missed my imagination. Depression had come like a dark cloud, covering up all that was beautiful in my life. It had done so so slowly that I didn’t even realize what was gone until I came out on the other side.
Every day I see a little more of ME come back. And I swear on everything I love that I will never forget to be grateful. Because when the black days come back, I know that the bright days will return.
And the bright days make everything else bearable.
Participating in Camp Nanowrimo this month? How did your first week go? Remember, even if you aren’t meeting your goal, anything you write this month is more than you would have if you hadn’t tried at all.
I have to be honest, I’m not a poetry fan. I don’t read it, I don’t write it, I just don’t particularly enjoy it at all.*
*with a couple of rare exceptions, such as Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, and ysome Dorothy Parker.
Last Sunday I took a bathroom break while reading the book “Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone (if you enjoy YA at all I strongly recommend this book)and when I sat back down this popped into my head and I had to write it down.
So, without further adieu, I present the only poem I have written since my teen years.
Things Left Undone
sometimes I look around
and all I see
are things left undone
books to be read
crafts to be finished
kits to be sold
a storage box I never filled
mugs never put away
folder laundry sitting there waiting
dresses that should be hanging
a yoga mat gathering dust
oh the dust
there’s so much dust
projects I haven’t started
pictures never hung
paper that needs to be filled
notebooks never defiled
a planner I do not write in
a shirt I will not keep
outfits I have yet to wear
canisters just sitting there
everywhere there’s a place to start
a step to take, a move to make
instead I sit here typing
I cannot seem to move
I cannot seem to do
I shared this with my therapist yesterday and she found it insightful, so I thought I would share with my readers. If the mood strikes you, I’d of course love to know what you think.
Do you write/read poetry? Have you ever felt inspired to write poetry, even if it is not usually something you write?
The subject recently came up on Twitter about the strange things you end up knowing from novel research. It’s a favorite one of mine because you can’t help but retain bits of information that when repeated in polite company make you look like a psychopath.
Random Person: Joe got in a car accident yesterday. Me: Is he okay? Random Person: Yeah. He punctured a lung, but the doctors said he’s going to be fine. Me: Yikes. Can you believe that some people get collapsed lungs for literally no reason? Like, they’re just walking along and bam! Lung collapsed, trouble breathing. Some people it happens to regularly. Random Person:
Friend: (watching a crime show) Can’t they just dig up the body and test the DNA? Me: Depends what’s left of the body. Flesh is all gone by this point. And depending on the soil acidity there might not even be bones left anymore. Friend:
Yup, it’s interesting, to say the least, being friends with a writer. I’m full of all kinds of useless* facts and frequently frighten my friends and family.
* It’s actually all completely necessary. Knowing what to do if you’re confronted with a bear could come in handy someday!
So, without further adeau here’s a few of the miscellaneous pieces of information I’ve acquired while doing research that may or may not make me look like (more of) a lunatic on a daily basis.
1. Hearing aids are itchy, sweaty, and are pretty gross at the end of the day.
Ear wax gets everywhere, ya’ll.
2. Getting a family member’s body exhumed is a lot easier than you’d think.
It requires a judge to sign off, but moving Aunt Judy’s body to a closer cemetery isn’t that much of a hassle.
3. If you live in a building with a doorman, depending on his duties, you might not need to hire someone to feed Fluffy while you’re on vacation.
They’re also very useful if you frequently lock yourself out of your apartment or get heavy packages delivered.
4. DNA and blood testing results do not happen quickly.
Most take weeks or even months to come back from the lab and contain a lot less useful information than shown on TV.
5. A child with selective mutism may talk perfectly normal at home but clam up the second they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation like school.
They also might speak to selected people in that environment, often whispering in the person’s ear.
6. You can’t inherit a rent controlled apartment in NYC unless you can prove you were living with the relative for at least a year prior to their death.
Basically, forget everything you learned on Friends.
7. There aren’t any bears in Maine that are likely to attack, and even then the chance of you being killed are statistically minuscule.
(To my dismay, as I required a bear to attack two young boys in that particular story)
8. Depending on the soil content and the conditions under which the person was buried, bones can decompose in a matter of decades, leaving little to no trace of the murder victim.
Which would be a much less interesting episode of Bones.
9. A large percentage of foster children wind up homeless within a year after aging out of the system.
A haunting statistic.
10. Probably the easiest, least traceable way to kill someone is by injecting air into their veins, causing an air embolism which is often written off as a heart attack or stroke.
I swear I’m not going to kill you*.
*Outside of a book. And probably only is you piss me off.
What kinds of strange (but interesting) kinds of information or tidbits do you know? Has sharing that information ever caused your friends or family to worry that you were going to murder them in their sleep? Share your stories, my readers. I love learning and reading about new things. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer. (possibly a blog post for another day)
I’ve decided this is going to be my mottofor 2018. I’m a terrible perfectionist and have a tendency to avoid doing things simply because I know I can’t do them the way I want to be able to. This is the year I’m going to put that aside.
Those of you who suffer from mental illness likely know what it’s like to feel paralyzed. You see all those things that need to be done, like cleaning, and all the things you want t
o do, like writing, but you can’t seem to get yourself off the couch and actually do them.
It’s a terrible and frustrating feeling. Especially when you know that getting certain things done will do wonders for your mental health. I don’t know about you guys, but when my apartment is clean and decluttered I feel a sense of satisfaction whenever I look at it. I can’t help but feel better.
But that nasty perfectionism comes and bites me in the butt.
I’ve always struggled with it. It likely began with my mild case o
f OCD. I can remember as a kid my mom would send me to clean my room and two hours later she’d find me putting the finishing touches on alphabetizing my bookshelf. I couldn’t see the bigger picture. Everything had to be done just so. To this day my bookshelves are more organized than the rest of my home.
This year I want to put into practice something that I’ve learned from reading books by The Fly Lady (Sink Reflections), and more recently, UnF*** Your Habitat. Both books focus on building routines and doing something rather than nothing. Dust for ten minutes. Give the worst spots 20 minutes every day. Or ten, or five. ANYTHING you do is better than doing nothing.
On an extra hard day, it might mean cleaning my bathroom i
n increments over the course of the day. One bathroom trip I might wipe out the sink. Another, clean the toilet. A third, shake out my rugs and leave them in another room so next time it’s easy to run my vacuum around. At the end of the day, it might not be perfect, but it’s a million times better. And instead of putting it off another day because I can’t do everything at once, I’ve divided the chore into short steps that don’t seem so overwhelming.
Life is still frustrating. I was all excited, feeling like my new medication was kicking in and feeling ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, I was sick for the last two weeks of December and by the time I could get up and move, all that motivation was gone. I feel hopeful, however. Maybe the next dose increase will be the one that sticks. It’s obviously working at least a little.
Until then, I’m not going to let myself get tripped up by perfectionism. It’s an ideal I can never achieve and it will only cause frustration and hopelessness.
Be better, not perfect.
Do you have a mottofor 2018? Does perfectionism get in the way of your getting things done? Let me know in the comments. I love hearing from each and every one of you.
I’m not a rabid John Green fan. I like his books, but I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for his next novel.
Until I heard it was about mental illness.
After reading a short interview with the author, I opened up Amazon and pre-ordered myself a copy of Turtles All the Way Down.
The package came right on the day of release. The dust jacket was colorful and coated in something soft that made it impossible not to pet. I eagerly anticipated cracking it open.
The next day I did. I was immediately sucked into the story, into the journey of Aza and Daisy and Davis. But after reading about a third of the book, I had to put it down.
You see, reading this book was hard. Not because it was boring or pretentious, but because it was real.
I not only read but FELT Aza’s pain. My stomach twisted in knots as she worried away at the callous on her finger until it bled, feeling the pain of myself picking at hangnails and my lips in such a similar way. My eyes filled with tears as she isolated herself, both literally and figuratively, from her family and friends.
My fears are not Aza’s fears. But intrusive thoughts? I’m no stranger to them. I know what it’s like to have your brain take one passing thought and send it down a twisted path so fast you get mental whiplash. I know what it’s like to yell at yourself but be unable to listen to your own good advice. I know what it’s like to be so involved in what’s going on in your own brain that you can barely see what’s going on around you.
John Green has stated that he also suffers from Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He clearly poured himself into this book. He took his own fears and thoughts and applied them to Aza in a way that explains them better than any other book I’ve come across.
Turtles All the Way Down was an amazing book, beautiful and touching and honest.
But it was really hard for me to read.
Have you read Turtles All the Way Down? Do you intend to? Did you like it? Have you read other books about characters with mental illness that were difficult to read? I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether or not you suffer from mental illness also.
So, because this sounded like fun and Cait (paperfury.com) is awesome, I decided to join the Beautiful Books blog link-up and introduce the novel I’m writing for Nanowrimo!
Onto the Questions!
1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Like many of my novels, the idea came from two separate ideas that begged to be merged together: I should write a cozy mystery and people never write realistic books about mental illness recovery. (as in it doesn’t happen in the course of a single book!)
I’ve been thinking about this idea for several months. I’ve known a few basics about the plot, and that I want it to be a mystery series where I slowly progress the characters.
2. Describe what your novel is about!
Basically, it’s about a former NYPD cop named Meg who witnessed a traumatic event and subsequently ended up with PTSD and Agoraphobia. She hasn’t left her apartment building in almost a year but the new owner is threatening her home and she can’t have that. The entire novel takes place in her apartment building.
I actually wrote a blurb for my Nano page, so here’s that too:
Agoraphobic former NYPD cop Meg McGill just wants to be left alone. Her family thinks she just needs to “get over” her PTSD, her former partner wants her to come back to work, her psychiatrist won’t stop calling, and now the guy who just moved in down the hall wants her help.
Sebastian Reid can’t shake off his suspensions that something wasn’t altogether natural about his uncle’s death. He needs help and all his neighbors tell him to talk to Meg. Now if he can just get her to answer the door…
3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
Meg: Meg is in complete denial about her mental health. She’s totally fine! So what if she doesn’t leave the building? She can get anything she needs delivered and her best friends live upstairs. She’s a little prickly, but if she’s always willing to help a friend and has a weakness for fluffy things.
Enter Sebastian: Sebastian is a precious little cinnamon bun. He’s the kind of guy that you just want to pinch his cheeks all the time. He’s a trust fund baby that works at a non-profit animal shelter part time and has fluffy blonde ringlets. You just can’t help but like him.
There’s also Mac, Meg’s former partner who is now in a wheelchair, his wife Sonia, Meg’s best friend, and their daughter Cora who is probably Meg’s favorite person in the world. Not to mention my favorite building resident Jean, a hoarder with a cat named Gulliver who regularly steals newspapers from the trash room and knows everything that goes on in the building.
5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, ect?)
I try to learn as much about my characters as possible before November hits and do ALL THE RESEARCH. I’m filling up a binder with information so I will always have things to look at when I get stuck and am trying to plot out the mystery at least somewhat so it will look like I know what I’m doing.
6. What are you looking forward to about this novel?
I’m really excited to try writing a real mystery (I don’t count the one I did years ago, it was really terrible). I’m also really excited about my characters and seeing them come alive on the page. They’ve become so real to me and I just can’t wait to spend time with them.
This is also the first time I’ve written something completely new in a few years. Two of the past three years for Nanowrimo I’ve focused on a novel I’ve been expanding for nearly fifteen years, so I know the characters and the general story like the back of my own hand.
Fear Itself is completely fresh. Every day I discover new things about the characters and the story. No matter how much planning I put in before November 1st, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.
7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
I feel like this applies more the fantasy/historical novels, but I’ll give it a try:
My novel takes place in Brooklyn, NYC. Specifically the Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill area. (A million thanks to my good friend Christie for answering my endless questions about living in NYC and helping me decide on the exact correct place for Meg and Sebastian to live).
Meg might spend most of her time in her apartment, but her colorful bohemian style and overloaded bookshelves make it anything but boring!
The building’s residents are equally colorful and also the roof is an awesome place to hang out if you can’t sleep in the middle of the night.
8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
Meg’s number one goal is to keep anything from getting in the way of her staying in her home. Sebastian wants to know what really happened to his uncle. Standing in both of their ways is Sebastian’s cousin Lloyd, who recently inherited the building, and the developers he wants to sell the building to.
Meg is also coming to terms with her past life. It’s her own brain that’s standing in her way, specifically her denial that there’s anything wrong with her.
9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Meg is forced to confront her agoraphobia and PTSD and admit that she is not okay. She needs help, and by the end of the novel she’s starting to be ready to accept it.
10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
Themes include mental health stigma, making your own happiness, and not letting the past (or your family) define you. I’d like people to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling, the sense that everyone’s going to be all right, and looking forward to seeing Meg and Sebastian again in the next book!
That’s it! The working title for my novel is Fear Itself, and you’ll find me typing away during the month of November. You can find me spending way too much time on Twitter and if you’re doing Nanowrimo too I’d love to be buddies with you! (My Nano Profile)
Are you doing Nanowrimo? Does Fear Itself sound like something you might enjoy reading? What are you writing? Talk to me my friends.
I now have a Mailing List! I’ve yet to send one out, but I’d love it if you subscribed. At max you’ll get 1-2 emails a month, talking about what’s been going on in my life and letting you know about recent updates to this blog. And when I write a short story for this blog, you’ll get to see it first, before it gets posted to the public!
I’ve also recently figured out how to set up email alerts for new entries. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can find a link in the sidebar (or down below if you’re on your phone or tablet)