Should is a 4-Letter Word

“Should is a 4 letter word.”

This is possibly the most helpful thing my therapist has ever told me. She explained that the word “should” to the mentally ill mind is as offensive as certain four letter words. It tells us that we are failing in some way by not acting in a certain fashion.

For example, someone might say “I should be eating healthier”. The phrase immediately conjures up guilt at something you aren’t doing. What if you said “I WANT to be eating healthier”? Instead of shaming, it is a statement with a goal you can work towards. That make sense to you?

I try very hard to stop myself from making ‘should’ statements. I restructure them in my head and remind myself over and over how it is having a bad effect on me.

Unfortunately, one place that advice never made it to was my writing.

When I first joined Twitter, I was almost immediately enchanted. There were so many writers out there to interact and chat with, and they wanted to talk to me! It was so inspiring to share little tidbits of my process with people and read all about theirs.

At first, my writing was boosted. It was motivating to get my words written every day so I could share it with people. It was that tiny bit of accountability that I need. Until it started to do the opposite.

Like with everything else in the world, writers on Twitter have very forceful opinions. Most have the best of intentions, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting that everyone has to find their own way, and just because someone is more experienced about something than me it doesn’t mean they are right about everything.

It played up on my fear of publishing. I openly admit that I never plan on traditional publishing because I know my works isn’t “marketable”. Even though I write romance, I don’t fit into a narrow niche. (more on that subject in a future post) When I’m done with something, I plan on setting it loose in the world, whether or not anyone else reads it. Writing is something I have always done for me, not other people.

That’s all fine. Although there can be a stigma attached, lots of people self publish and are quite happy with their results. Naturally I was attracted to posts with tips and tricks in them.

I let people get in my head. I started worrying about making mistakes. I heard people who clearly have much harsher standards than I say that they would stop reading a book after finding a single typo (which listening to several podcasts by published authors recently reminded me was not something uncommon to traditionally published works too). I listened to people who talked about how you had to have this, and you had to have that before publishing, even if it cost more money than you could ever reasonably spend.

I believed them when they said you had to pay someone else to make your work the best it could possibly be.

My anxiety sent obsessive thoughts swirling around my head until I didn’t want to work on my novels anymore. Sure, I wrote little bits here and there, but whenever I thought about editing one of the many things I have first drafts of I would get that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that said it would never be good enough.

I let the world psych me out. I forgot that I know what I want out of my writing, and it doesn’t involve perfection. I want to write the stories in my head down and edit them until they say what matters to me. Me, not the rest of the world. Would I like people to read and like them? Of course! But that cannot, nor do I want it to be my main goal.

I’ve known for a few months that I needed to find a way to stop other people from stealing my joy of writing. Amusingly, it’s only been during a very stressful family crisis that I have been able to sort through my feelings and come to a sort of solution.

The solution was basically to think a lot about writing, listen to some of my favorite writing podcasts, and sort through the negative thoughts and “shoulds” that my brain had been infected by. I found the nest, sprayed for pests, and with any luck I can keep the infestation under control from now on.

Writing this entry was half the battle. What better way to sort out thoughts and feelings for a writer? For the first time in a long time, I feel positive about my writing. I’m looking forward to sitting down at putting words to page.

I’ve stopped ‘should-ing on myself’. And it feels great.

Do you find yourself plagued by ‘shoulds’? Has it negatively impacted your life (writing or otherwise)? As always, I hope something I’ve said resounds with someone and makes their life just a little bit easier.

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The Only Thing I’m Not Afraid of is Cancer

I have two basic types of anxiety: Obsessive Anxiety and Bad Feeling Anxiety.

Obsessive Anxiety

People with Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder both deal with obsessive thoughts. Your brain is constantly firing and nearly impossible to shut off. I often can’t fall asleep without television when I’m experiencing this type of anxiety. My brain is going so fast I need something to focus on to doze off.

I often don’t even realize I’m experiencing this type of anxiety, unless there’s a specific thing I’m obsessing about. Often I realize my anxiety level is rising when I start making more frequent google searches about various ailments, aches and pains, and problems I probably don’t have but could easily convince myself I do.

Everyone does this to a certain extent. Most of us have seen more than one meme about how they have either a headache or a brain tumor. How WebMD has diagnosed them as dead. Etc. We all do it, but when my Obsessive Anxiety comes out the searches get more and more frequent, until they’re happening multiple times a day and ever strange sensation is being investigated like it’s potential cancer. (Ironically, the one thing I’m NOT afraid of getting is cancer.)

“Bad Feeling” Anxiety

Bad Feeling Anxiety is much harder to explain. I can best describe it by first explaining the basic difference between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack. An Anxiety attack has a trigger. Lost your keys, lost a dear relative, whatever it is it causes instant panic. A Panic Attack doesn’t have that trigger. You aren’t worrying about anything when it happens. There is no reason to be panicking, which is one of the things that makes it so scary.

I wake up one day breathing a little shorter, my heart beating a little faster. My hands shake and I have this indescribable feeling in my gut that something terrible is going to happen. It used to be terrifying. I was desperate to make the feeling go away. I would wrack my brain trying to figure out what caused it.

Then I realized there was no cause.

These days when I wake up with the Bad Feeling, it’s not so scary. It’s upsetting, and frustrating, but less scary. I know how it’s going to go. I know I’m going to feel bad, I know there’s nothing I can do about it, and I know how to handle it. (LINK TO BLOG ENTRY)

Of the two, I usually prefer the Obsessive Anxiety. When there’s a trigger, you can reason with your anxiety. It doesn’t always work, but there’s a purpose, something you can do to work on it. Distraction, getting out of the house, crafting, things like that are more likely to snap me out of it. Sometimes all it takes is a simple Klonopin.

Today, because of some tough family issues we are dealing with, I’m experiencing Obsessive Anxiety. It’s not terrible, just a noticeable increase in my normal anxiety levels. I can roll my eyes and joke about my obsessive googling. The biggest problem is that it’s so much easier for life to nudge me up to the breaking point.

Today, it wouldn’t be hard to make me cry. Speak sternly to me, a mean message on Twitter, losing a book I’m looking for, spilling a cup of coffee on the carpet. The ant I just had to kill on my keyboard that made this document disappear and I panicked thinking I’d lost everything I’d just written. (I didn’t cry, but I would have if it was all gone.)

Today, I’m just going to treat myself a little better, take things a little easier.

Do you find that your anxiety (or whatever else mental health issue you have) falls into 2 or more categories? Is there one you hate more or are they equally terrible?

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It’s My 2-Year Blogiversary! (sort of)

It’s my two year* blogiversary! throws confetti

*actually it’s more like my 2 year 2 month and 3 day blogiversary because I procrastinated posting this a bit. But I am posting it, that counts for something. Right? Right??? *crickets*)

Two years ago today I launched An Anxious Author and committed myself to a year of blogging. It was something I’d been wanting to do for YEARS.

Over the past two years I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I don’t blog as much as I’d like, but that is still improving.

One of my goals for this blog was to motivate myself to work on my novels and just generally WRITE MORE. Unfortunately, mental health issues have made that difficult but I’m still chugging along, chipping away bit by bit, word by word.

I am reading more. This year my GoodReads goal is 150 books. I’m probably not going to make it because I’m only at 67 books so far, but two years ago my “big” reading number was around 30, so I’m really proud. That was after years of almost reading nothing. (just to specify, I’ve never stopped “reading”. What I’m talking about here is actual books. The worse my mental health got, the more I read…fanfiction. During the Dark Years, I stopped reading novels. While I enjoy and still read fanfiction, that was a huge sign of decreasing mental health for me. So when I talk about not reading, keep in mind I was still reading single fanfiction works longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy because I am a crazy person. My mother had me tested.)

I wish I could say there have been huge life changes in the past two years (or even small ones), but things have more or less stayed the same. I try to write more, shop too much, watch endless episodes of crime shows, and fight my brain on a daily basis. I have a few new hobbies and I’m going to Canada for a week in November to see a couple skating shows.

It’s been a tough two years, to be honest. Shortly before this blog launched, I lost my cat of nearly ten years. Six months after that, the 11 month old kitten I’d adopted two and half months before died suddenly. It hit me a lot harder than I could have expected and really messed with my anxiety. I’ve had my sweet Noodle for a year and a half and I still check to see if she’s breathing when she’s sleeping too soundly.

I still want so much more from this blog. I want to begin sharing my writing. I have a novella that is 75% finished that will be posted here. I plan on sharing one of my works in progress on WattPad as I begin the first set of revisions. I want to post three times a week (haha that is so not going to happen). I’d like to gain some more followers so I feel less like I’m shouting into the void.

I’m incredibly proud for getting this far. Maybe a small step for some, but a huge step for me.

Is there something you’d like to see me write about in the next year?

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A Quick Camp Nanowrimo Progress Report

Camp Nanowrimo, April 2018

Goal: 25,000 words

Day 1: 1,694 words

Day 2: 1,810 words

Day 3: 1,001 words

Day 4: 0 words

Day 5: 0 words

Day 6:  922 words

Day 7: 1,060 words

Week 1 Total: 6,487 words

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.

temp cover to inspire me

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Am I Depressed or Just Lazy?

Lazy photo
Photo by clofresh

I spend half my life trying to decide if I’m tired depressed or just lazy. Do I just want to watch five more episodes of Criminal Minds today or is it because I really can’t drag myself off the couch? Or is it because I had a busy day yesterday? Am I just being lazy?

These are the questions that swirl around my head on any given day. Depression has so many physical symptoms, like extreme tiredness and exhaustion, that I can’t always tell what’s making me feel this way.

I spent about 3-5 years clinically depressed in my late twenties. When I finally figured out what was going on and added medication accordingly, it had been going on for so long I’d lost my “normal”. Two and a half years later, I’m still trying to find it.

I’m not cured, so the depression does crop up from time to time. It pokes it’s nasty little head up at the most unexpected times, knocking me off my feet and back into the dark pit I lived in for so long. The difference being that I can climb back out much faster now. Despite that, it’s not always easy to return to where you left off.

I want to do more. I want to write every day. I want to keep my bathroom as clean as I keep Nutmeg’s litter box. I want to update this blog twice a week and my fanfiction on Fridays and finally get Running Away edited enough for publication. I want all these things and I want them yesterday.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. That oppressive feeling sits on my chest and everything just seems so HARD. I look around and everyone else with mental health issues seems to be achieving so much more and I feel guilty, like I’m not taking advantage of the time and freedom I have to pursue what makes me happy. But it doesn’t always make me happy. And I can’t control that.

Some people find they write better when they are having a “bad brain day”, as one of my friends calls it. Maybe I would, if I could just get that laptop open and my fingers on the keys.

Of course, at least one person reading this is thinking, “hello! You’re writing right now!” and you have a point anonymous person. I am writing. Because no matter what, the words are inside me. They burst out when I least expect it. Sentences appear fully formed in my brain and I have to write them down before the brain fog makes me forget.

I want to be better. One of the cruel tricks Depression plays is convincing you that you’re just being lazy. Because when you’re slogging your way through the sludge that your brain has become you really need to be told that it’s all in your head.

I promise that I do fight it, lest you think I’m just slipping away. I’ve been working on a story bible for Running Away (future blog entry on the process when I’m finished). A little bit at a time. Just five minutes a day if it’s all I can handle. It helps me feel better and I’m starting to get excited about it.

I’m hanging on, guys. I’m slowly pulling myself up but it’s my broken brain that gets to pick the timetable. I just get to hold on and stay ready to seize the moments of motivation and joy that will ultimately come my way.

How is everyone else doing? Anyone else struggling? Mental health, writing, life in general, I’d love to hear from you whatever the subject.

Keep turtling on.

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