This week’s Flashback Friday: A New Year!
Flashbacks are typically about looking back, but why do we bother if not to find our way forward? I’m a firm believer that the decisions and events of our past form and shape who we are, which in turn influences our decisions rolling forward.
And while I found my first year as a published author to be a whirlwind of amazing chaos, not everything was perfect. Not every day was 110%.
My broken wrist, the flood, new jobs, and moving were excuses more than reasons not to write as much as I needed to. I took a step back this week–my vacation week–to think about why I didn’t accomplish as much this year as I know I’m capable of doing. Yes, life threw me a dozen curve balls but why was that a road block? I was a teacher for Cthulhu’s sake–I’m used to crisis.
January through June was amazing. I had discipline. I had time. I wrote and succeeded. Even with a broken wrist. Then my husband changed jobs, the condo/move, etc.
July–that was when everything went to shit and stayed there like an uninvited visitor taking up residence in my skull. I know that job changes and moves are high stress events, but it was how I handled these was the problem.
I let anxiety get the better of me.
I don’t talk about depression and anxiety too much on here–but maybe I should. A fire would erupt and rather than put it out as I usually do, I’d panic. The fire would multiply, and I’d spend four hours doing what should have taken me one. By the time all the fires were smoldering cinders, I was too exhausted to do more than write a sad 300 words. My husband would get home, and I’d cling to my time with him like the distraction it was.
This is why my productivity had gone from 3K words a day to 300.
It’s easy to say “snap out of it” or “sit down and work, forget about it!” but mental illness isn’t something one walks away from. It stays with you–is a part of you. And it isn’t something that makes a lot of sense either.
But looking forward at 2016, I know that I need to find ways to better manage my time and my mental illness. Finding ways to calm a panic before it becomes an attack–using coping mechanisms–should be part of my writing discipline.
I’m not making excuses for the days I didn’t write or didn’t write much, but I’m also not lying to myself about the real reasons why.
Most writers I know struggle with mental illness. Jennifer Brozek, whose main character in her Melissa Allen series suffers from bipolar disorder, talked about the desire of every mentally ill person to function in a recent interview with her publisher, Permuted Press.
As a high functioning autistic adult, I am very aware of how people in media are portrayed. Either the mental illness is a superhero power (Alphas, Perception) or it makes a person a psychopathic criminal…With Melissa, I wanted to show a protagonist who had mental illness but it was neither a “power” nor something that made her unable to cope with the world. She is medicated and it works. This is the goal of every person suffering from mental illness on meds.
She’s right. Finding the line between functioning and chaos is difficult on the best of days, and I need to find a way on the worst.
Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is well-known for suffering from depression and anxiety. She writes about both in blog and her books. When I first read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I laughed until I almost peed. Someone else out there understood what it’s like to grow up weird and mentally ill! But reading Furiously Happy this past November was eye-opening. Rather than focusing on the laughs, Jenny wrote a book on “how-to-thrive-in-spite-of-your-brain-being-a-real-bastard.”
So that’s my goal for 2016:
Survive and thrive when my brain is being a real bastard.
It’s a new year and a new set of challenges, but I’ve got a large group of friends and writers to support me. I’m not here to make a resolution as those usually don’t last–I’m here to make a promise to myself.
A promise to fight for better mental health.
It’ll be bumpy and some days, I’ll want to put my foot through a wall rather than write. But I remember the first half of 2015…before things went to shit. I was productive. I was capable. I’m going to fight like hell to get that back. I want to be furiously happy with an entire year’s worth of decisions, but more importantly, with myself.
Happy New Year to us all. May we all keep our promises to be furiously happy.
Click here to read other Flashback Friday posts including those by bestselling authors Jean Walker, G.G. Silverman, G. S. Jennsen, and Django Wexler.