(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.
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.
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.