Instead of doing a post with writing tips, I felt instead that I wanted to post about something a bit more personal. So, in this article you won’t be finding specific writing advice, per se, but more general life advice that is (sort of) writing related. Here we go.
*Disclaimer* this article discusses mental illness.
As some of you may recall, about a year ago my husband and I packed up our things, sold our house and moved across the country for a fresh start. We wanted to get away from the madhouse of the city life and experience something slower, more freeing. Was this the easiest decision we ever made? No. Was it the best decision for us? Definitely.
But here’s the truth of it, though that decision may sound romantic, spontaneous, adventurous, it was really damn hard. And still is. We spent the first six months busting our asses; my husband trying to build a business from scratch and me still working remote for my company back in Illinois. I knew that building my husband’s business would be hard, I knew it would be stressful, what I didn’t expect was my continued relationship with my company back home would also be hard and stressful.
Everyday I slipped further and further into an anxiety driven depression.
I was stuck at home, all day, by myself. Now, my introverted self thought that this would be great! I get to work in my pajamas and snuggle with my cat all day, easy-peasy. Unfortunately, my company was thinking that I was at home, undisturbed, so I should be able to handle three times the work load than I’m used to right?
I realized in the first few months that I was working MORE hours than I was when I was going to the office every day. I would sit down at my computer at 9am and wouldn’t stop until 7 or 8pm. I felt like I had no backup, no teammates, no one. I was completely alone and drowning.
All the while, I was trying to squeeze in writing and blogging and bookstagramming. This is what I wanted to do, these were the projects I wanted to work on, but I had less and less time to do so. This lead to feelings of despair, then jealousy in regards to my husband because he was spending all day everyday completely focused on what he wanted to do. That was our deal though, I told him I would continue working for my old company while he built the business. That was the deal. That was the deal. That was the deal. Hold on. Hold out. Keep going. It will be over soon. Don’t stop. A few more months. A few more weeks. It will be fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.
But I wasn’t.
Slowly a cloud of melancholy settled over me, and don’t get me wrong, I was grateful. I was grateful for the opportunity to continue to work for my company remotely. I was grateful that my husband’s business was steadily picking up momentum, I was grateful that we had a steady income, I was grateful, but I was also depressed.
My writing started to suffer. My creativity dwindled till the well was completely empty. The things I loved no longer drew me in the way they used to. My characters no longer called to me. The books on my shelf no longer seemed appealing. Bookstagram lost its luster. I started to shut down.
I was a lifeless person going through the motions of my everyday until suddenly a burst of irrational anger or overwhelming despair would send me spiraling out of control until I was a hapless pile of tears and anguish. After my panic attack would subside, I would brush myself off and go about my day all over again until my focus started to wane and sleepless nights started to crush me.
Keep going. Keep moving. This is fine. You’re being ridiculous. Why do I feel this way? You should be more grateful. You are blessed. You are lucky. Stop acting like a baby. Why are you just sitting here? Get up. Get up. Get up. Get up!
My internal dialogue was condescending, unforgiving, and at times frantic. My productivity came to almost a screeching halt. My body started to rebel, I felt ill and fatigued almost all the time. And now after a month and a half of being free of my soul draining job, I understand that mental illness is not just something you can slough off. I wanted to blame my job. I hated it so much and it was a contributing factor that intensified my anxiety, but it was not the root cause.
In my experience, human beings need three things; they need to feel nurtured, they need real human contact, and they need to feel as though they are contributing to society in a positive way. In this digitally connected world, is it so strange that people are feeling less and less connection? Is it so strange that people are becoming more and more depressed with each passing day? I don’t think so.
Here are my final parting words, if, like me, you are feeling a cloud settling over you, do yourself a favor and nip it in the bud. Don’t allow it to go on and on and on until you can no longer pull yourself out. Do the opposite of what your depression is telling you to do and reach out to those who truly love you and will offer you nonjudgmental, nurturing support. Then go do something for someone else. Something completely selfless. Then do it again. And again. And again. You’ll find your mood will lift. Making real connections with others and contributing to other’s happiness is the path to your own happiness.
Then make a plan.
My husband and I made a plan when I confronted him all of those months ago telling him that I was drowning in unhappiness. That plan is finally coming into fruition as his business thrives and I’m free of the chains of my old insurance job. This took time, and planning. It took consistency. No dream ever came easy. Break it down into manageable steps and keep moving forward, but above all, ask for help if you need help. Do not try and carry the burden of mental illness on your shoulders. Do not rely on your own strength of will because that mantra is a lie. Even in your darkest moments, know that you are loved, and don’t for a second believe the lie that you are worthless. You are worthy. You are needed. You are loved.