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.
Today marks the two month anniversary of my adopting Nutmeg. To commemorate the occasion I’ve decided to share five facts about my furry little friend.
1. She tricked me into
The cat I brought home from the shelter was cuddly and subdued. She curled into my neck and purred constantly. Little did I know this was not her natural state. In actuality, she was sick and didn’t feel well. A round of antibiotics later I was suddenly faced with this crazy, energetic kitten constantly staring at me and waiting for me to entertain her.
2. She doesn’t play by herself.
I have bought dozens of toys of all kinds and Nutmeg has laughed in the face of 99% of them. I consider it a win if she half-heartedly bats at a toy. The only thing she really loves is Da Bird, which requires me to wave a stick around for hours a day. She will occasionally play with her own bird (I bought refills and let her have the old one) but for the most part it’s all on me.
Those cute little websites that say you just need to play with cats for 15 minutes twice a day? THEY LIE.
3. She hates wet food.
I was so ready to spoil her. I went out and bought a bunch of different grain free wet foods and the first time I served one she tried to BURY it. She barely even sniffed the food I so lovingly provided for her. Cheeky little brat. I have discovered she likes boiled chicken so it looks like she’ll be getting homemade food eventually. (because wet food is so much better for cats and she’s totally spoiled.)
4. She loves water.
When we brought Nutmeg home my mother said we were not going to teach her to drink out of the faucet. She was just going to drink out of a bowl. Guess who was the first person to carry her to the counter and offer water?
She’s not picky either. She happily accepts tub water upstairs and still drains her water dish daily. This is one cat who will never be dehydrated.
5. She’s a climber.
Mr Muggles never climbed anything, so I wasn’t quite prepared for a cat whose skills rival mountain goats. She can scale window frames. I was out on the porch one day and looked over to find her in the window, all paws extended like a suction cup Garfield.
(I wasn’t witness to it, but apparently there was also an incident involving a bug and the screen door.)
Bonus Fact: She’s very patient.
Unlike other cats who meow and climb on you and generally beg for attention, Nutmeg takes a much more passive approach. Instead, she sits in front of me patiently and stares until I notice her and give her what she wants (usually food or to play). I’ve seen her do it for a half hour straight, barely blinking.
So, that’s my Nutmeg. She’s getting more chill by the day and has already gained a little weight because I buy her the yummy food. And, I suspect, to fit in with the rest of the house.
Tell me about your pets! Cats, dogs, rodents, whatever. What kind of odd behaviors/habits do they have? I’d love to hear your stories!
First of all, this is a totally sappy and self-indulgent entry about my new kitty, so plan accordingly. It’s full of pictures and obnoxiously cute captions and I’M JUST GETTING THIS OUT OF MY SYSTEM, OKAY? Onto the entry:
Shortly before I started this blog my cat of nine years, Mr. Muggles, died suddenly.
I was heartbroken. We’d had no warning. He got sick one day, we took him to the vet, and the next day he was gone. I had no idea losing at pet would affect me that much. I remember crying when I realized I was going to have to update the about section because it mentioned him.
I’ve been really depressed ever since. It’s affected everything in my life, especially my writing. I knew I didn’t want to live without a feline in my life, but I had to put it off, first because my parents were both grieving too, and then because my nephew’s wedding was coming up and we were going to be gone several weekends.
Then this week I decided to just go to a shelter and take a look. There didn’t seem to be many kitties available at the local shelters, but there was one or two listed online that looked promising.
I didn’t really expect to find a cat that day. I hoped, I really hoped, but I thought it might take a few visits to find just the right kitty for us.
That morning, two eight-month old kittens had come up for adoption. Their owner was moving and couldn’t take them with her and they’d both just been spayed. Another person was in the kitty room playing with them.
They were cute, but I was more interested in Patches, a beautiful gray adult. Truthfully, I only played with the kittens because I was too shy to ask to take a different cat out. I figured I’d work up to it eventually, but until then I’d just enjoy being around them.
I was starting to get braver and I reached out to scoop up one of the kittens. I wasn’t even sure which one I’d grabbed, the shy one, or the outgoing one. Providing she didn’t freak out, I was going to give her a snuggle and tuck her back into her cage so I could take someone else out.
To my surprise, she didn’t protest being held at all. Instead, she leaned into me, purring up a storm. After a few minutes, she climbed onto my shoulder. I thought she wanted to get down, but instead, she just laid down (or tried too, she really isn’t little enough to nap on shoulders anymore).
I think I knew the second I picked her up. As much as we loved Mr. Muggles, he was a very difficult cat. He was affectionate, but only on his terms and quite frankly if he’d ever been in a shelter I don’t think he would have gotten adopted. He had too many behavioral issues. We had to be so careful when people came over, we never knew when he was going to lash out.
It was immediately evident that this kitten was the polar opposite of Mr. Muggles. She just wanted to purr and be held. She curled up in the crook of my arm and melted my heart. When I finally put her down, she came over to my chair and stared up at me, waiting until I picked her back up so she could snuggle some more.
I think it was obvious to everyone that I’d found my kitty. I wish I could have taken her sister too, but it was evident that they weren’t particularly bonded so I didn’t have to feel too guilty.
We picked her up the next day and brought her home. I’d planned on keeping her in my bedroom for a few days while she got used to things, but by the second day it was clear she was fine and we let her out to roam. She follows me around the house all day and she loves to be scooped up and snuggled. I’m loving every second.
The whole experience has been so healing. I don’t know how I survived being without a cat as long as I did. I had no idea just how important being a cat owner had become to my mental health. (That will be a future blog entry, I’m sure.)
I’m still a nervous wreck, despite not being a first-time kitty mama. I’ve spent a lot of time on Google (Is she peeing enough? How much should I be feeding her?) and worrying about squishing her (she weighs seven pounds, less than half what Mr. Muggles did).
I have a kitty again. And she’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. It’s been exactly a week since I met her and I’m already having trouble remembering what it was like without her.
Meet Nutmeg. If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen her and know just how besotted I am, but this is her official blog debut. Expect to see much more of her in the future.
If you came here looking for answers, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I’m not sure there are any answers. Depression is a terrible creature. It rears it’s head at the most random moments, leaving you with a terrible feeling of inertia that’s almost impossible to explain, even for a writer.
I guess it all depends on how depressed you are. Is it depression with a little d or Depression with a capital D? If it’s the latter, reading a blog entry or trying to psych yourself up probably won’t do anything. Then there’s situation depression vs chemical depression. Each requires different approaches, many requiring professional help. (Seriously, don’t suffer alone. Get help. There are so many places that can help you. No one should have to go through depression alone.)
Today I wanted to write. I really did. I’ve been busy with stuff related to a family wedding (congrats Cal and Amberlyn!) but now that it’s over with I finally have the time and brainpower to write.
But I couldn’t. It really is the weirdest thing. I know what I want to do, I know what I want to write, but somehow I just can’t make myself pick up my laptop. It’s right there but my body doesn’t listen to my brain and I just CAN’T.
Today I didn’t write. Sometimes it’s better to recognize the feelings and give yourself permission to just take care of yourself. I went on Twitter. I talked to my mom. I identified today’s depression as situational (I miss having a cat) and took a step to change that situation (I put in an application for adoption at a shelter. Don’t tell my dad!).
I even did something writing related. I picked out a notebook to make a ‘story bible’ of sorts in. I looked at articles I’d saved on Pinterest and made a list of things I want to include. I made a list of characters that need profiles or short bios (Dang this book has a lot of characters).
After all that, I felt a little better. I decided to write the blog entry I’d jotted down an idea for earlier. I’m ignoring my perfectionist side and posting this without a fancy graphic or making sure I share with every social media page I have. I’m just putting the words out there and maybe I’ll come back later and do the rest.
I don’t know how to write when you’re depressed. I don’t know how to write when you aren’t. All I know is what I do and whether or not it worked for me on any given day.
Do you suffer from depression? Or any mental illness really? How does it impact your writing life? Is there anything that helps you when you’re having a bad day? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Disclaimer: If none of this makes sense, I blame the cold medication.)
I went out and peopled and came home sick. (see? People are bad.) Not very sick, but sick enough. Sick enough to be exhausted and miserable but not sick enough to get sympathy. Just a general bleh. It’s been a week now and it still hasn’t gone away.
I haven’t felt up to writing, so I’m probably not going to make my 10k Camp Nanowrimo goal. I’m okay with that. I’ve mentally written a few scenes and at least know how my story is going to end.
Just to add insult to injury, I have an eye infection. I caught it early so hopefully it will be gone by Saturday, when I have a family wedding to attend. And for fun I forgot to take my pills yesterday so I spent a long morning anxious and twitchy, waiting for the withdrawals to go away.
I really hate weddings. I love my nephew, but I hate weddings. All the details have kept things busy this summer and I’m looking forward to it being over. I’m super anxious that I’m not going to feel better. Or that I’ll have a red swollen bump on my eye that will get immortalized in family photos.
I’m fairly certain I’m not making a lot of sense right now. This is why I haven’t been writing. Or blogging. I keep thinking of stuff I need to do, but then it either floats out of my head or I’m too tired to do it.
I do have writing plans. I want to finish my prequel of course, but I’ve also realized I need to do some backwards plotting. I need to re-read my novel and fill out a notebook with character details, events in order, ect.
But my brain is shot and I’m feeling very sorry for myself right now. So instead of doing that, or preparing for the trip this weekend, I’m going to read fanfiction and/or binge watch Psych.
Oh! Wait, one cool thing did happen. I reached 500 Twitter followers! *throws confetti* I have no idea how that happened. Wasn’t it just yesterday I got to 100? I love that there are that many people in the world interested in my rambles and talking with me about writing. So a very special thank you to each and every one of my followers. May that many people someday read this blog.
Actually, it was a fledgling. Big enough to get kicked out of the nest but still can’t quite fly. It’s mostly a lot of flapping and hopping.
We have an old cast iron tub on our porch that we put plants in. It has a wooden pallet cut to fit inside so the plants are raised about six inches off the ground. One of the plants is a small catnip I got to plant when we finally bury Mr. Muggles ashes. It keeps getting knocked over by wind and rain.
And boy have we had a lot of rain. This morning we had another rainstorm, the kind that pounds on the windows and makes it near impossible to hear anything else. Then it stopped as suddenly as it started and the sun came out.
I stepped out onto the porch to right the catnip pot. I heard splashing coming from under the plants. I thought maybe there was a frog or something inside so I peered between the leaves.
It wasn’t a frog. It was a very scared, very stuck, baby robin. I moved two of the plants to get a better look. There was about 3 inches or so of water in the bottom (the drain had gotten clogged during the storm) and this little guy was flapping and hopping as hard as he could.
He couldn’t gain purchase on the smooth sides of the tub. I was a little afraid he might scratch me, but I couldn’t leave him there so I reached inside and closed his little body in my hand.
I lifted him out and he immediately stopped struggling. I looked him over a bit to make sure he hadn’t gotten hurt while he was flailing about. He appeared fine so I set him down on the porch.
The poor little guy curled up on himself and stood still, except for the shivering. He made no effort to move, even let me stroke his little head without budging.
I saw the shadow of a few adult robins flying around so I went inside to see if his parents were going to come around. But right before that, I took a couple pictures of him. (I named him Tom)
After a little while, one of his parents came by and fed him a worm. Then another. And then another. He moved around a little and stopped shivering. Then he pooped, so clearly his digestive system was working properly.
As time passed, his feathers dried out and he appeared to fall asleep. His parents kept returning with food and he continued defecating all over our porch.
It’s been a couple hours and the last time I looked outside he’d finally moved. He was standing at the edge of the porch, next to the wisteria, likely working up the strength and courage to hop onto the vine and make his way in the world.
Every morning I take four pills. Three for Anxiety and one for Depression. I’ve been taking the first three for nearly a decade. I have no plans to stop.
Medication for mental illness is a hot button subject. Everyone has an opinion, including people who have no experience with which to form said opinion. Some are for it, some against it, and some think it only should be used in the direst situations.
I, for one, am pro-medication. That doesn’t mean I’m a pill pusher, or that I think it’s the answer for everyone. It just means it’s worked well for me and I would never advise someone to avoid it.
A year or so before my seventeenth birthday I had finally hit bottom. The anxiety disorder I didn’t know I had had been stalking me for over a year, manifesting in near constant nausea and the inability to focus on anything but the unpleasant physical sensations that were plaguing me. I followed my mother around the house, terrified to be alone. At that point, it was obvious something needed to change.
My doctor prescribed Paxil. It was new to the market, the new miracle anti-depressant. I was so convinced there was something physically wrong with me that I agreed to medication without even realizing what it was for. It wasn’t until I left that I realized she had prescribed me something for my anxiety.
Paxil was like a miracle to me. Within a month not only had I been pulled out of the deep hole I’d been living in, but I felt better than I ever had in my life.
Suddenly, my whole life made sense. All those little eccentricities I had as a kid? Anxiety. The strange fears that cropped up? Anxiety. The way I’d never been able to handle anyone being angry at me? Anxiety.
I remained happily on Paxil for a few years until the side effects prompted me to find an alternative. On the second try, we found one that worked for me nearly as well as Paxil had.
I take that medication to this day, along with the two others that were added over the years (if you’re looking back at the first paragraph and wondering if one of the side effects is losing the ability to do basic math, I take four pills but only three medications. Two pills are the same drug.).
I am one of the lucky ones, someone who responds well to most medications. They don’t cure me, they don’t change me, they just give me the ability to get up in the morning and be me, not Anxiety.
I will take these pills for the rest of my life if I need to, the same way my father will likely take heart medication for the rest of his life.
And I will never be ashamed.
*in addition to therapy, which is an integral part of treating mental illness. I’m very lucky to have found a great one. (Hi Julie!)
Welcome to An Anxious Author. I am said anxious author, Lydia Elizabeth Winters. I thought I’d take a few minutes with this first post to give you a little background information and a mission statement of sorts for this blog.
I was born and raised in Southern New Hampshire. I currently reside in a small town on the Vermont border (I can see Vermont from my window!). I have an upstairs apartment in a house I share with my parents and the memories of my tempermental kitty, Mr. Muggles.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. An avid reader from a young age with a big imagination, it was a natural transition. As a teenager I began writing fanfiction, something I’ve continued to this day. I ran a website for many years where I posted all my writings and where I made a lot of good friends I still keep in touch with.
I’ve never been bored a day in my life. My current hobbies include knitting, spinning (as in yarn, not on a bike), memorizing the Nations of the World song from Animaniacs, reading, and of course, writing.
I’m a thirty-something proud aunt of five and great-aunt of three who is trying not to feel ancient when I remember those things. My mom is my best friend in the world and we are freakishly close.
My apartment is full of geeky memorabilia, including my large Funko Pop collection. My bookshelves are overloaded.
1. I admit, starting this blog is at least partially in the hope that a little accountability will help me keep in a good writing routine. After all, if I don’t write anything, I won’t have anything to post!
2. Making some new friends. You can never have enough writing friends. People who understands having a search history that could probably get yourself on a terror watch list.
3. Share what it’s like to live with chronic mental illness and how that impacts my daily life, including how it impacts my writing.
4. Generally be an outlet for myself to talk about life and whatever else is on my mind.
If you made it this far, I’d like to say thank you in advance for giving my little blog a chance. Please forgive me while I figure out what the heck I’m doing.