Let’s Talk About Depression!!!

I have depression. I used to refer to it as seasonal depression, because it lasted from October to March[ish], but over the past couple years it’s sort of becoming “all the fucking time depression.” I have high points and low points regardless of the season (okay, in winter I have low points and even lower points).

I’m writing this because I just got past a low point. I went five days without showering. I felt nauseous for two weeks. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to leave bed. What little energy I had went into feeding my pets and going to work. Eventually, I sat down at my dining room table and couldn’t move. I just didn’t have the energy. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to pet my dogs, I didn’t want to talk to my husband, I didn’t want to fucking be alive. After a while, I broke down sobbing and curled up on the floor. I cried for a while. My husband lay down on the floor with me, bless his heart. Then my cat came over and sniffed my face, very thoroughly, as if my tears were some fascinating substance… and then she ran away as fast as she could, like she’d finally determined they were poison. And I started laughing. And I started feeling a little better.

And today I took a shower! And I feel sort of excited about an idea I have for something. And I give a shit about the tiny plants I have growing in seed trays on my porch again. Hooray, heading back up to the land of the people who aren’t zombies.

This happens to me often. Varying lengths of time, varying levels of seriousness.

I have never actively considered suicide. Not really. Depression, for me, is apathy. It is deep, unyielding lack of interest in life. When I am depressed, I want to lie on the floor and stare at the wall or ceiling until existence just stops happening. I don’t want to die, I don’t want to kill myself, I just don’t want to deal with life. Existing is hard. 90% of existence is bullshit. When I am depressed, every action I take, every word I speak, only comes about by scraping my fingers through the muck and mud in the bottom of the well inside me, cobbling together some slimey, filthy shreds of energy to keep me staggering through everyday existence. I am constantly digging, trying to find something to keep me going, but for every one speck of energy I find, the world demands three more. You got out of bed? Great. Now you have to get dressed. You have to fix your hair. You have to pack a lunch, even though you don’t want to eat. You made it out the door? Remember there’s a detour, you have to go a less familiar way to work. There’s construction. There’s traffic. It’s raining. So on, so on, so on. Little things that are minor inconveniences on a “normal” day to a non-depressed person have me dragging and drained by 8am.

This piece from Hyperbole and a Half describes my relationship with depression pretty well. Especially this:

hyperbole and a half

I’m one of those “high functioning” mentally ill people. Anxiety and depression make me absolutely miserable and emotionally unstable, but I can go to work and carry out all the functions expected of me at my job. Usually. Maybe I’m a little quieter than usual. Maybe I make more jokes about the eventual heat death of the universe, or the fact that in the grand scheme of things, this job is absolutely pointless and contributes nothing to the world. But I can function. When I tell people I have anxiety and depression, they say, “Really?! I never would have guessed.”

Why? Because I’m at work? I’m wearing clothes? I’m not sobbing uncontrollably?

Trust me, I am a fucking mess. Human interaction is a nightmare. Eating is a Herculean feat. Don’t even talk to me about showering. Count yourself lucky that I put on deodorant. I smell like four-day-old sweat tinged with freesia.

Being a writer is hard. Being a depressed writer is just awful. How do you find the energy to write when you don’t have the energy to eat?

Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you just can’t. If it takes everything in you just to get out of bed, it’s okay that you don’t write that day.

I am a strong advocate for mental health awareness and self-care. For me, self-care means being gentle with myself. Some days I shower and get dressed and eat salad, other days I eat an entire bag of M&Ms and lay around in the same pajamas I’ve been wearing for two weeks. Usually I just sort of… float, for a couple days or weeks. I exist. I stagger through this existence, gasping and panting, tripping and falling, but I keep existing. Usually I reach a breaking point where I break down crying. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Crying. Twenty minutes of gross sobbing flips a switch in my brain and reminds me what a “feeling” is, and my brain goes “Oh! There are other ones, too. Check it out.”

There is no tried and true magical cure or methodology for getting past depression. It is a huge ugly dark thing with its fingers tangled in your hair, scrawny legs wrapped around your waist, whispering lies in your ear, and it won’t. fucking. let. go. I don’t want to spew hackneyed word-vomit about things getting better. Things are mostly okay. The world is not rainbows and unicorns. The world is a dumpster fire, but there are good things. Find a good thing. Cling to it. Maybe it’s a flower. A cat. A good deed. An internet video. A kind word. Look for other good things. Cling to them. Good things are flotation devices in the sinking abyss of gross blah that we live in. If you string together a few good things, maybe you can stay above the abyss. If you string together enough good things, maybe you can make it to the shore of the sinking-abyss-lake and drag yourself out onto solid ground. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to seek it out. Try not to wait until it’s unbearable. Know that there are people who understand. You aren’t alone.

I am open about my anxiety and depression because so few people are, but so many people experience it. I hate the feelings of isolation that surround so many mental health topics. If you’re depressed, please know that I understand. I don’t expect anything of you except that you remain alive. We can join hands and watch paint dry together. Lie down in the yard and watch grass grow because we can’t muster the energy or enthusiasm to make it any farther. And remember that the people who “don’t seem like it” are just as likely to be unhappy as the people who obviously are unhappy. Neither is more or less deserving of care.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (it’s free): 1-800-273-8255
and their website

I love and appreciate everyone who reads my posts and if you ever need to talk, Twitter is the best method to reach me. Direct link to my profile here – DM or @ me so I’ll get a notification on my phone. I am by absolutely no means a trained professional, but I can listen/read and sympathize. Sometimes all it takes is talking/writing your feelings out to someone, and you feel better. I am willing to be that someone.

This post got way more serious than I expected it to. Have a funny comic to lighten the mood.

sad owlturd

Source

Writing #OwnVoices – You Are Enough

I’m asexual. I wrote about this just a couple months ago when I realized it for the first time in my 10+ years of adulthood. Since then, I have joined the #ownvoices movement by starting to write a novel with an asexual gay man as a main character.

Let me tell you: It is hard. It is really, really difficult for me, despite being asexual myself. The temptation to put these guys into a regular old sexual relationship is strong. It’d be a lot easier to write. Despite not being sexually motivated or driven myself, writing sex is natural because it is everywhere, and I know it is expected, and a lot of readers live for the sex scenes.

Writing anything is hard. Writing gay men as a straight[ish] female[ish…person] is hard. Writing romance with a character who is not driven by sexual desire is a hard. Put all this together and add a heaping dose of crippling self-doubt on top, and it’s a miracle I’ve put a single word on the page.

“Self doubt?” you say. “Why are you drowning in self doubt? This should be easy. You’re asexual. You’re writing an asexual character. That’s like being a writer and writing about a writer. Right?”

Except I only realized I’m asexual like two months ago, and only decided to apply/embrace the label several weeks later. All in all, I’ve considered myself a part of the asexual community for like, maybe 5 weeks now. So who the fuck am I to write an asexual character? I have no idea what I’m talking about. Right? What if I accidentally write bad rep? Even though I am ace, and I have been ace forever, I could easily write something that offends someone else. I could write it wrong. The internet is a terrifying place. There are a lot of outspoken, aggressive people on every side of every issue (especially on Twitter, where I spend most of my time). What if I write this asexual character based on my own personal feelings and experiences, and someone comes along and says “He’s not asexual.”

But he’s based on me! And I am! Does that mean I’m not?!

What if I write this #ownvoices book and someone comes along and shits on me for it because I’m not repping enough? I’m not outspoken enough? I’m not… I don’t know what, but what if I’m doing it wrong?

TAKING RISKS IS TERRIFYING.

Somebody save me.

Do you see my issue?

And then, while I was musing over this hang-up I’m struggling with, here came Ana Mardoll with a miraculously well-time tweet thread:

If you could just pardon me for a moment, I’ll be in the corner, sobbing.

misha crying

Okay. Better now.

So this is what it boils down to, kids: You are enough, and the world needs your voice. No one is more enough-y than you. No one can write a marginalized character better than a marginalized person, and no one can tell you that your feelings and experiences disqualify you for the group you feel you belong to. There has been a lot of hate flying around lately–transphobia and biphobia, erasure of all sorts. There is no better time than now for writing #ownvoices, and there is no better person than you.

So I’m going to go on writing my asexual gay man, and if he wants to have sex, he will. And if he doesn’t, he won’t. He’ll find his boyfriend attractive, he will be infatuated and in love and make flirty comments and sexual jokes, and if anyone reads about him someday and says that his relationship is unrealistic, I’ll give them a great big middle finger, because I am an asexual person, and I have sex, get crushes, flirt, and make a hell of a lot of sexual jokes. Those things do not disqualify me from the a-spec. I am asexual enough to write an asexual character, even if I just realized it a few weeks ago. It’s my identity and no one will take it away from me.

(If you want snippets and lines from Alex and his asexual D/s adventures, you can follow me on Twitter. I post quite frequently.)

GRL 2017

Well I registered for GRL 2017 (aka GayRomLit / Gay Romance Literature Retreat) last weekend. I’ll be attending as a general attendee, not as an author, being as I have nothing published [YET. #GOALS]. I will be attending alone, because I have no friends in real life.

*wait a beat… let them question how sad my life really is… okay go*

Just kidding, I have friends. They just aren’t in this genre and/or are not comfortable with the financial aspects of a shindig like this.

I am not really sure what happens at a GayRomLit retreat. I am not sure what happens at any sort of “retreat.” I don’t like going into situations where I don’t know exactly what’s going to be happening. Spontaneity is not my thing. As you may know, I have anxiety, so doing something like this alone is ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY TERRIFYING. But at the same time, really exciting, and I feel pretty confident I can handle myself with minimal breakdowns and/or panic attacks. It is very likely, however, that I will say something stupid to someone and dwell on it for the next 15 years.

thats-how-i-roll

Can you ever eventually get over anxiety? Like, could I someday actually not have anxiety? Because if that’s possible, I may be taking steps in that direction. Signing up for GRL alone is immersion therapy. Maybe this time next year I won’t be such a mess.

I do want to tell you a funny story on that note. Sometimes I have “anxiety dreams” when something big is going to happen in my life, and I dream that everything goes horribly wrong. I had them before my wedding, I had them about my new house, I’ve had them about new jobs. So one night last week, I had a dream that I flew to Denver for GRL early–like, now. I had no money for food, I forgot to rent a car, I didn’t tell my friend who I’ll be staying with that I was arriving, and as it would turn out, Denver had relocated to Hokkaido, Japan, and I had to wade through chest-deep snow to get from the plane to the terminal, and no one spoke English.

So… clearly I’m nervous about this.

The outpouring of support as soon as I posted in the GRL2017 attendees’ FB group was amazing and did wonders to assuage my nerves. I’m looking forward to it, beneath all the nervousness. Hopefully by the time October rolls around, I’ll have something(s) published. I have one short story/novella in the works, another on deck, and a third drifting in the ether with just a single scene clear in my mind. Plus I have my urban fantasy novel from NaNoWriMo awaiting revision. Surely something there will be publishable! Right? RIGHT? Ugh.

Let’s Talk About Anxiety!

These days, it seems like everyone I talk to has anxiety.

I don’t know if that’s because some of the stigma of admitting your feelings is dissolving, or if modern society is creating more anxious messes, or if I just associate with a particularly anxious bunch of worrywarts.

Regardless of the reasoning, it is what it is.

I’m feeling particularly anxious for a number of reasons right now. First, politics. Let’s not talk about that. Second, it has been nearly 8 weeks since I sent my manuscript to Dreamspinner Press. Their estimated turnaround is 8 weeks. I’ve started checking my email multiple times a day. I’m freaking out.

So I thought this week I would share a bit about my anxiety.

I made it all the way through high school, college, and grad school without realizing I had anxiety (and depression). I didn’t realize it was a real thing, and that I probably had it, and I should probably go to a doctor about it, until I was in my mid-twenties. I had a panic attack my freshman year of college but didn’t know what it was. A friend of mine who was big into frat house parties invited me to a college-sanctioned “paint party”. I was excited/nervous to go. I had not been to any parties yet. This was actually organized by the college so I figured it would be okay, not like the drunken orgyfests at frat houses every weekend.

So I went with my friend to this paint party. We walked into a building I was not familiar with. It was crowded. People lined the halls–halls which had been covered in black paper, the better to show the neon paints under blacklights. As soon as we walked in, some guys threw paint on us–okay fine, paint party, that’s the idea, calm down, calm down.

My friend headed straight for the dance floor. The room was dark except for a strobe light. She spotted someone she knew.

Someone handed her a beer.

She disappeared into the crowd.

Instant.

Panic.

I turned around to leave. I fought the incoming tide of people. A guy reeking of beer put his arm up on the wall beside me and started talking to me. “Leaving already?!” He spilled his beer on me.

I ran back to my dorm, got in the shower, and broke down crying uncontrollably.

When I told my best friend about this, hoping for comfort or understanding, she just said, “Why would you cry about that?”

 

I wish I had known in high school that I had anxiety, or even in college. I thought it was just me. I thought I just “didn’t like” doing things other people liked doing due to some kind of flaw in my personality. I wasted most of my opportunities in college because of anxiety.

If I had realized when I was 14 that I had a legitimate medical condition that was causing me to not want to engage with my classmates, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. Instead, I dealt with self-deprecating thoughts until I was 22 or 23.

Why can’t you just do the things other people do? Why aren’t you like them?

Sure that club looks interesting, but you shouldn’t join. No one would like you.

You can’t start playing sports in high school. Everyone will be better than you. You missed your chance.

It is incredibly difficult to battle yourself. When you sit there thinking it’s “you” that’s the issue, it feels hopeless.

But here’s what I’ve discovered in the past few years:

When you realize it’s anxiety–it’s not you! It’s a thing, it’s a monster, it’s a dark shape in your mind that looms over your brain and pisses all over your life–you suddenly have a nemesis outside of yourself (figuratively speaking). When you can put a label on it other than “me,” when you can say “It’s anxiety” instead of “It’s just who I am,” you suddenly feel free.

I am not afraid of new situations. Anxiety makes me feel afraid.

I am not inferior. Anxiety convinces me I’m not good enough.

Anxiety is a sneaky little worm in your brain, but as soon as you realize it’s there, you can start to pull it out, expose it to the sun. And you know what happens to worms that spend too much time in the sun.

earthworm