All right, so I’m going to stick with blogging just once a week. Twice a week is arguably a bit much considering that sometimes when I get home from work, I want to do mindless activities–namely, watching television. I might work a five hour shift that day, but sometimes I’ll start early to either work on client programs, train clients, or even shadow a class for a fitness instructor who may want me to sub for them in the future. Since Thursdays are my off days, I’ll blog on this day.
Since I write for teens, I thought it totally relevant to talk about one of my favorite television shows, Degrassi, a Canadian drama for teens (though not overdramatic like soap operas).
I began watching this show when it was Degrassi: The Next Generation. I watched it through middle school, high school, and a little bit through college before taking a long break from it, mostly because I began to float away from cable television and watch more television online. I only recently picked it back up because I saw that Next Class was on Netflix, and I was curious to see how this little gem had progressed.
I was not disappointed. I caught up on all four seasons and can’t wait for season five.
First, let me start off by talking about what’s so amazing about this series. If you saw 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, you’re likely aware of the controversy surrounding it. I enjoyed this miniseries and didn’t think it glorified suicide at all (I think I’ll write a separate post on this), but I do have to admit that it was an intense drama that seemed like it was trying to capture more of an adult audience.
Degrassi is entirely for teens with issues that are relevant for its time. There is no dramatizing issues for entertainment value. There is simply an exploration of issues to help teens understand themselves and feel less alone.
For example, Ellie Nash, one of the characters in this series, introduced the issue of self-injury, a coping mechanism she sought to use based on her tumultuous home life. While self-injury most certainly wasn’t and isn’t a new thing, addressing it as a problem was relevant during my time, as Next Generation is my generation’s Degrassi while Next Class is today’s teens’ Degrassi.
I can remember being a fourteen-year-old going through issues of her own and watching that scene and how sick I felt. Now as an adult (fully 27, far removed from being a teen) I don’t look at that same scene with as much horror because of my more objective perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. Self-injury is no minor matter, but it’s not this big, scary thing that it used to be now that we better understand its use as a coping mechanism. And Next Class masterfully handles this new perspective on self-injury when Zoe Rivas begins harming herself by digging her nails into her skin (Ellie cut).
Grace Cardinal discovers these moon-shaped marks on Zoe’s thigh and doesn’t immediately freak out and run to the counselor–as is what happened with Ellie when Paige found her. She addresses the problem right then and there since self-injury is not the hidden issue it used to be when I was a teen. There was no shame surrounding it, and as a result, we did not see any further incidences of self-harm among Zoe. Now this didn’t happen with Ellie, but there was more embarrassment surrounding her discovery than there was for Zoe.
Next Class addresses a lot of relevant topics. From the Syrian refugee crisis to dealing with post-abortion guilt (or lack thereof) to racism and micro-agressions, to the concept of stereotype threat, and how it’s not cool to be racist or homophobic anymore, it’s a show I can’t recommend enough for teens and parents of teens and writers of teen fiction.
I also love that the actors and actresses are fairly close in age to the characters they portray and not wildly a decade older than their fourteen-year-old character. Perhaps Canadian television is just different form American television in this aspect.
The beauty of Degrassi lies in its timelessness. There was totally a reunion episode in Next Class that brought back some of the character’s of my generation’s Degrassi. It was a joy to see some of these characters and how they progressed–and an even greater joy to reflect on these characters as as an adult.
I certainly watch Degrassi with a different set of lenses, ones that are more objective and filled with the knowledge that these characters’ struggles can be overcome. I find myself rooting for them and also wanting to tell them that their struggles are not endless. I especially related strongly to Maya Matlin, whose depression, suicidal ideation, and ultimately suicide attempt made me cheer for her the most.
As a teen, I would have agreed with her that the depression is unending. Even in my early twenties I would have greed with her! As an older adult with more perspective, I rejoice in her recovery with the knowledge that depression isn’t this horrible monster but another illness that needs treatment like any other one.
I could talk about this show forever, but I think as a writer, it keeps me on top of issues that are important for teens. Young adult fiction itself is a great vehicle for this, but I also have to remind myself that it’s largely written by adults. Degrassi, on the other hand, is most likely influenced by its young actors and actresses; thus, there is no purely adult perspective dominating the direction of this show.
Overall, this show, I think, is a staple in the canon of relevant teen shows. I honestly don’t think teens have enough quality options like that that don’t portray them as attitude-filled party animals.
I used to get into arguments a lot on my Facebook page that ranged from a myriad of topics, until I finally got rid of these people. The first person I got rid of was one who believed victims of sexual assault should take some responsibility for what happened to them. He said they (primarily women) should take particular care in how they dress, act, where they go, how they interact with men, and so on and so forth. This kind of thinking is damaging because it says men are uncontrollable monsters. This kind of thinking is also damaging because it suggests women shouldn’t have interactions with men period–and that is how I took it. If I even say hello to a guy and decide to interact with him and I am wearing a cute outfit and he decides to take me out and decides to assault me after the date, I suppose I was asking for it because I dared give someone a chance at being a possible partner in my life. (I am engaged, by the way.)
It isn’t just the court systems that victim blame. It can be people you love and trust who will blame you, even though they will admit that your assailant was wrong for what they did. However, they still blame you because they think you were leading your assailant on in some way, while trying to reconcile within themselves why it happened and also, funny enough, wanting you to not act that way anymore so that doesn’t happen again. They consider it a lesson learned, when it isn’t a lesson that never should have been learned from the start, no matter what you were doing. I don’t care if you were sending nude pictures to your assailant. Once your assailant lays their hands on you and you say no and they won’t stop, you are the victim, no matter what you did before.
Your assailant is often a person you trust, someone you think you feel safe around, someone who is your friend or someone who you are flirting with or someone who may even be your significant other. Heck, your assailant could be someone cheating on their partner, even though you are in no way encouraging the infidelity but are trying to discourage it in your own way; however, you are too afraid to be direct because of the assailant’s history. Someone may be telling you not to tell because of that history of this person while warning you to keep away from your assailant–who won’t stay away, even if you say no. And even if you never say no, silence does not mean ‘yes.’ You may be too scared to say ‘no.’
Victim blaming is arguably just as damaging as the assault itself. While you can tell yourself it wasn’t your fault, those who blame you will shoot darts at everything you did that led up to the assault so that way you are constantly thinking about what exactly happened during the assault and what you could have done. You can have flashbacks, panic attacks, crying spells, and even have suicidal thoughts and plans. If there was already insurmountable stress in your life, like a mental illness episode you’re going through, things are going to be quadrupled in how worse everything is for you. The assault is going to make you more depressed, anxious, and suicidal. The victim blaming is going to intensify your illness to the point where you’re screaming and crying and telling others you want to kill yourself–and they don’t seem to want to take it seriously because they don’t understand. Some will try to protect you, but you know those people can’t always be around to keep you safe from yourself. Sometimes you’re stuck in silence. Oftentimes you have to pretend nothing happened. Others will tell you they hate victim mentalities, but that is another way to blame the victim because there is no set time period in which you should be over what happened to you. The important thing is that you try to let yourself heal from the incident. Yet, if you’re dealing with a mental illness, that’s hard. Really hard. Your mental illness is already deluding you from the beginning, and some people develop mental illnesses after the incident.
Others tell you that you should have fought and should have been angry, but people react to assaults in so many different ways, especially if it’s a person they forgive time and time again and still continue to like. These are the kinds of assaults that don’t hit you until even after a day or two when it happened. Then you realize what happened, it hits you all at once, and you are so overwhelmed that you start having flashbacks as to what occurred. Bits and pieces of your memory are missing. Only the worst things are ingrained in your memory. You’re pretty sure a few other things happened while you were trying to avoid the person trying to force themselves on you, but you can’t remember those things.
Also, sexual assault doesn’t have to be rape or leave marks. Sexual assault is simply someone forcing themselves upon you without your consent, thinking that you wanted it and in fact enjoyed it. Sometimes these victims pretend they don’t care–but they’re still scared. Other times they’ll fight. Yet, each victim will react differently depending on the circumstances and history of the assailant they’re dealing with. Regardless of whether it was rape or there was no violence, assault is assault and is still damaging. Your body was being invaded. You were being manipulated the entire time that led up to the assault. And you were scared.
There are so many stories about victim blaming that have been written already, but I thought I would finally contribute to the discussion since my blog is one that I have made a point to touch upon topics such as this.
Yesterday I had my first, true panic attack since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and it was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. I’ve had symptoms of an ensuing panic attack, but outside forces were able to stop them. For example, when I was working an event called Christmas in the South, I was in the throes of my first depressive episode. Panic attacks occur out of the blue from what I’ve researched, but I also think there are a multitude of factors for those already suffering with a mental illness that make them suddenly occur.
When I was working this event, my depression was already pretty bad. Schoolwork was pilling up–especially from my French class–and I was no longer able to cope with anything. I was excited about working Christmas in the South, but the unfamiliar atmosphere was already inducing panicky feelings within me. When someone showed me a picture of the line outside, this is when my stomach started to hurt, and I knew I was going to eventually have a panic attack. However, my boss called me to work another booth, which wasn’t as busy, a co-worker gave me half of a Xanax (which was not prescribed to me at the time), and all of those factors were able to put a stop to the attack.
A few weeks ago while I was working the mall I began to feel that same panic for absolutely no reason. Work was going fine. I had 2 appts., which is the goal in a 4-hour shift. Yet, I started to feel panicky, and I think I would have absolutely freaked out had my co-worker not finally showed up and I was able to bolt and shop at Teavana to buy a beautiful mug this tea-snob desperately wanted. The general atmosphere of Teavana, the samples I tasted, helped alleviate the panic. When I went back downstairs, I put myself right back to work, and it really helped that I was working with one of my favorite co-workers–we can be outright chatty with one another. This general conversation got rid of any bad feelings I had.
But yesterday was abysmal. I thought it was going to be a good day. I woke up tired but was actually looking forward to the drive to Aiken because my boss needed a ride with me, and I adore her greatly. We arrived, had some breakfast, set up, and began to work. The atmosphere was nice and relaxing. Adjacent to us was a woman putting on a mini cooking show that I enjoyed watching. I was also making appts. and had more than my boss. Of course, our other co-worker hadn’t showed up, so we were beginning to worry about her. However, this is when things start to become a little foggy for me. I don’t remember where I went, but when I came back to the booth, my co-worker showed up. There were more people, I was having to work harder, and I eventually had these panicky feelings overcome me–a sense of terror is the best way to describe it. I kept telling my co-worker I felt panicky and I had no idea why, and she tried to calm me down. I couldn’t. So I kept working, got 7 appts., and my co-worker had to leave because the heat was making her feel sick and dizzy. We were inside, but there wasn’t any air conditioning–just fans, none of which were aimed at our booth.
However, the heat wasn’t bothering me. I had drank plenty of water, so I wasn’t thirsty, but the panicky feeling kept rising. My co-worker started to note that I was getting really pale: she wasn’t. My boss then came back from a smoke break and told me to take a break, so I did. I walked outside and sat in my car, blasting the air conditioning. The panic was rising, worsening, and I felt this sudden dizziness overcome me. I did not feel nauseous, but there was a slight pain in my stomach. My chest hurt. My heart was beating really fast. I felt terror, I felt like I was going to faint, maybe even die or something like that. It was this impending sense of doom. I figured if I got up and walked around I’d feel better, but I didn’t. I went back inside and sat down but was unable to work, unable to function.
I still complained about my panicky feelings, my dizziness, asked where my boss was, and my co-worker told me she was feeling sick from the heat. Yet, neither of them were reacting the way I was. I was shaking, head in my hands, slightly rocking back and forth, and this urge to break down crying was rising in me. My co-worker kept commenting that I should probably go home because I didn’t look good, but I told her I needed the hours. She then suggested I probably not go to work the next day either, but I told her I needed the hours. Yet, nothing was getting better, it was becoming harder to breathe, and I was about to go to the bathroom and completely break down, when my boss came back and told me I needed to go home, that I looked absolutely terrible, and that she would give me the rest of my hours for my shift. She said I did a good job, because by then I had eight appts., and she would earn one more for me.
I rushed out of there, got in my car, blasted the AC, and broke down sobbing with bouts of intense breathing difficulties. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to calm down by myself, so I called my dad crying, gasping for air, and explained what was going on. I was probably on the phone for 10-15 minutes with my dad trying to calm me. Eventually he did, and so I was finally able to make the 45 minute drive back home. Yet, the aftermath of the panic attack lingered within me for a few hours after that, even though I had taken another Klonopin. I went to my fiance’s house, laid down in bed, and I seriously felt like I needed to be in a strait jacket, to have that tightness around me, to calm down. Eventually my fiance gave that to me (not the strait jacket), and I felt much better.
Needless to say, I did take off work for today, which absolutely sucks, but my mental health is far more important. I am also absolutely now terrified of having another panic attack. While this coming week isn’t schoolwork heavy, I am going to have to work a major event (just 5 hours) that has the possibility of triggering another one, unless I can get a more powerful anti-anxiety med from my pdoc that will prevent one.
This terrible experience has led me to the conclusion–yet again–that no matter how much I can get done, no matter how accomplished I feel from it, I am still vulnerable to attacks like this. It is one of those just-because-you-can-doesn’t-mean-you-should moments.
I really hate my limitations. My dad and I talked about them, and unfortunately, being a writer absolutely has to be my last priority. School and work come first. Ballet is also a priority because it is a temporary stress and depression reliever, but writing, book promotion, those things have to come last, which means I may not be able to do those things as often as I want to or feel like I need to–especially book promotion, which I used to love but now absolutely hate because of this panic attack. I only hate it because I myself can no longer be the sole person in charge of promoting my book. I need help, which is why I’m seeking out a publicist. This isn’t uncommon for even NYT Bestselling authors to do, but I can’t manage it anymore. For now I cannot cope with anything. And my dad pretty much told me I need to set aside one day per week where I do absolutely nothing physically or mentally taxing, even if this means sleeping in for half the day (which I did today).
I still am going to keep up with a few promotional things (like Tumblr, my website (which needs updating like once a month), this blog, and Twitter, as well as using The Fussy Librarian and sending out a monthly newsletter), but from last month’s sales (I felt last month was the hardest I’d ever promoted my book) and this month’s sales, all of that work I’ve been doing to promote my novel has not been paying off what-so-ever. I have a burgeoning following on Tumblr, I have posts that constantly go viral, and they receive thousands of notes. I have been using more graphics to help promote When Stars Die, but perhaps moving those graphics to Instagram will yield better results. I know I could do more, like continuously seek out interviews, look for a myriad of opportunities to help promote my book, but those are things I CANNOT handle, which is why I need a publicist to help me. AEC e-mails us weekly with publicity opportunities, but I absolutely cannot handle those things. I will be doing one assignment they gave us this past week, but it’s because this assignment can actually be a part of my don’t-do-anything day.
I know I have a VERY worthy book. The cover is eye catching. In the past, when I was shelling out ARCs of my book, PLENTY of people requested a copy because of the current synopsis alone–and the cover probably helped. And I have a 4.31 rating on Goodreads from 80 reviews. However, I am no longer shelling out ARCs because that is unmanageable. I have not been doing podcasts recently, and I have yet to really use the webcam I bought to do a Youtube video.
Even so, I am happy to report I have three more chapters left of When Stars Die’s sequel to finish. I have its glossary done (though not in alphabetical order), and then it’ll be sent off for copy edits. I will do NOTHING writing-related for a week, then start revisions on my YA contemporary, The Glorious In-Between, a standalone novel that will be sent off to another publisher who specializes in the book I wrote.
If any of you know any publicity firms that work with YA novels, I would love for you to recommend me a few.
I might be blogging every day. Since this blog is about mental illness and the GSM community, I figure all of my posts will fit with mental illness.
I don’t have the heart to work on content edits for The Stars Are Infinite. I don’t know why. The only reason I was able to even finish TSAI during a depressive episode last year is because geography was the most boring class I’ve ever taken, and I would have rather been doing anything else than stewing in my depressive thoughts. But TSAI just doesn’t resonate with what I’m feeling right now. Yes it’s a dark book. Yes one of the characters does struggle with an undiagnosed mental illness. However, that character is not my POV character. My POV character doesn’t struggle with mental illness. She fights against dark thoughts. She’s a fighter in general with a strong sense of justice. I can’t relate to that right now.
I can’t feel bad about not doing content edits. After all, Libba Bray often misses deadlines because of her depression, yet she still has her literary agent and still gets published. She struggles with writing because of her depression. She can’t seem to get things right because of her depression. I just hope that those who have read When Stars Die know these things about me. I hope they’ll forgive me for the publication of the sequel having to be delayed. I feel like the best thing for me to do is to start revisions on The Glorious In-Between, as a lot of the content in the book resonates with me. I feel like I’ll be able to do well with the revisions due to my current feelings.
Even so, it sucks that I feel like I have this inability to work on TSAI. I wanted the book to come out at the end of this year, but I have no clue how possible that is. I can’t say it’s impossible to work on TSAI; it’s just hard. Maybe I can try tomorrow. Maybe all I need is encouragement from someone, from somewhere. Maybe all I need is someone to tell me that I can do it. I have all the edits I need to make before me, all the comments to guide me in making this book better. I just have to do them. That’s all.
It’s so, so, so difficult though, when all I want to do is stay in the comfort of my bed and do things that require nothing from my mind.
Robin Williams’ death allowed me to write the ending to The Glorious In-Between. I desperately needed those feelings in order to understand how my character is supposed to feel at the end–as it pertains to who she is, of course. Even though I’ve struggled with depression on and off for two years, it’s not always easy to grab on to those feelings during stable moments.
Writing in this blog is comforting for me. I have people on Tumblr encouraging me to get well. I’m still writing posts that will help them. I’m still writing promotional posts on Tumblr every so often. I’m building my Twitter platform by finding the right people. I’m still trying to build my e-mail list. Those things don’t take as much energy as writing does, even though for many authors it does.
I want to work on The Glorious In-Between. My depressive feelings are right for it. I hope Mariah Wilson reads this so that way I know what I should do. I don’t know what the right thing to do is as far as my writing concerns. TSAI is supposed to be my priority. I know this. I’m on page 167 out of 365, and all of that occurred within 3.5 days. Perhaps I should get back to it, but the last five chapters really took brain power to edit. I have a feeling content edits are going to get more difficult.
Is there anyone who can guide me in the right direction?
She’s onstage, dancing with the corp de ballet in Waltz of the Snowflakes, a beautiful scene in The Nutcracker. She stands out so much. She should blend with the rest of the body, as dancers in a group are supposed to do. Yet, for everyone else, they cannot see otherwise. She is a snowflake, like any other. Unlike snowflakes, she is not unique. Only to me she is. For me, I can see her because I can see her in myself.
I don’t know her name. I have a booklet with the names of all the performers. She could be Sarah Vines, Maria Walkden, Beverly Walker, or even Eliza McKinney.
I’ll give her my name then: Amber.
Amber dances beautifully on stage. Her movements are fluid and in time with the rest of the dancers. When I look at her face, though, I see the same face I look at every morning in the mirror: face pale with mental mistreatment, eyes filled with scraps and pieces of herself she once loved but cannot salvage, and lips that smile but die away like ash in the wind.
She’s too much like me, and I can’t bear to look at her anymore.
I know how she feels, and I’m tired of feeling that way myself. I can dance, certainly not as well as her, but I dance nonetheless. I dance because I love it. It’s a momentary escape from what I feel, this inexplicable, nonsensical thing that starts in the core of my mind and radiates outward, until I withdraw from even myself.
I’m tired of people asking me what’s wrong. I’m tired of people asking me if I’m mad at them due to my apathetic sadness, which makes no sense. I’m so goddamned tired of it all. I feel like I’m too young to be feeling this way, but this disease, this damn mental cancer I wish would sometimes kill me, doesn’t discriminate against even toddlers.
I want to withdraw in my dancing, where nothing is wrong, where no one thinks there is anything wrong with me, where I don’t even have to fake how I’m feeling. For that moment, I feel nothing but fleeting joy.
Don’t ask me how I’m feeling. Don’t assume it has anything to do with you.
Just leave me alone. Please. I’d feel much better if you didn’t talk to me at all about my feelings; I don’t want to talk about them.
I always walk through the woods when it’s light outside. Yet, the more I walk through the woods, the darker the sky becomes. It’s not like it’s storming or anything. The light becomes less scarce, the forest thicker. The branches above become so interwoven that I can’t even see the stars. Only moonlight is able to trickle through the narrow spaces in the branches, but I can’t see anymore. My eyes try to adjust. They won’t. All I can do is feel my way around until I stumble on to the forest floor.
I cannot get back up.
Instead I drag my body through the forest, waiting for daylight to break through. I should sleep; however, insomnia won’t let me. No matter how exhausted I am, I attempt to swim along the floor, its current of forest decay making my progress difficult.
Morning is too far away. I can’t squeeze through the trees, so I have to stop and lay there, counting down the agonizing seconds, minutes, and hours until morning comes. It feels forever. It will come, though. I know it will come.
For the moment that doesn’t seem to matter. What currently matters is that I’m stuck in a dark forest with no light, and I could die from a number of things trapped within the darkness.
People fear the darkness because they don’t know what’s in it. That’s why we’re urged to stay inside when night comes. Maybe that’s why we sleep at night. We’d rather face the darkness of our eyelids than the darkness surrounding us.
I’ve slipped into another episode, almost around the same time I slipped into another depressive episode last year. For once I thought I was going to be able to celebrate being depression-free for a year, which would have occurred in December, but I guess that was hoping for too much.
I said I wasn’t naive enough to know I was never going to slip into another episode again, but I was hoping I would at least have a few years reprieve from it, maybe having to adjust my medication for my anxiety or some hypomanic episode I might fall into.
The depression gets ridiculously exhausting. It always comes at the most inconvenient moments. The quarter just started for me, and oh joyous me, I’m taking two classes that are reading heavy–and I know I will not be able to read everything feeling the way I do. When I read the syllabi, I was already laden with anxiety, which I struggled with a week before seeing my therapist again, which was last week, I think. So before seeing her, I doubled up on my Klonopin. Now I have content edits to deal with, edits I vowed just this Monday to get done within a week. I won’t be able to do that.
Despite the irritability and anxiety, I had the drive to do so, that fresh drive, the buzzing excitement that the sequel was worth working on because of last month’s sales–and possibly this month’s–that I EARNED through hard promotional work that is fun for me, a genuine break from writing itself.
I lost that drive yesterday. Just like that. I was climbing to what I thought would be the pinnacle of awesomeness in my writing career. I had just finished a book my friend/content editor loved, one I WAS excited about getting back to when content edits for When Stars Die‘s sequel were finished. I got my royalty check yesterday, but I was apathetic about that. Unfortunately, at that pinnacle was a Shadowman whose unnerving powers were to make me depressed.
It’s not burnout. I know the feeling of that. I experienced this when I was working as much as possible, taking philosophy and communication classes, trying to cram in writing, and doing dance three times a week–10.5 hours of it. I wasn’t unhappy, though. Just exhausted. I felt accomplished at the same time. But my goodness was I tired. Definitely not unhappy or depressed though.
I scaled back on the writing, which got rid of the burnout. Not to mention I was incredibly excited about my ankle surgery and the two necessary weeks I’d have off from work. And those two weeks were incredible. No work. No ballet. Just lots and lots of writing and working on my school courses. And the amazing progress my ankle was making, so amazing that my progress brought me near to tears. I could finally balance again and do adagio with no issues. I could do calf raises without the pain of a piece of bone stabbing me. Those things were and are a HUGE deal to me.
The point is that I’m trying to say while burnout makes me exhausted, I know what to do to get rid of it before it becomes a hindrance.
I thought maybe The Red Dot Special was doing it to me, the build-up-depression thing, but I usually have its opening act before she comes along–not while she’s already here, performing so loudly that I feel like my uterus is going to split in half. My anxiety was off the charts. My irritability and moodiness were giving me unkind thoughts and frustrations at the littlest of things. I had three weeks off from school. I was incredibly happy to be able to write so much. I was also very, very happy at all the work hours I was getting and the money I was making. I was happy I got the book with my asexual MC done before school started. I was excited about starting ballet, even though I knew that meant less writing and the possibility that I’d have to scale back on my work hours. I wasn’t too excited about school, because I’ve never really liked literature courses to begin with. But it’s a necessary evil.
I WAS excited.
Now I’m not.
During depression, the things you once loved, were once excited about, are things you can’t bring yourself to love or be excited about anymore. However, I know dance will help me, even if temporarily. It always does.
Robin Williams’ death left me emotionally numb on the day I heard about it–until I realized that other people felt the EXACT SAME THING that I did. Libba Bray in a post she wrote in March expressed the exact same fears that I did: if these greats couldn’t make it, will I get to a point where I won’t be able to tolerate these feelings anymore that I go out the same way? So the next day after Williams’ death, I had gone on to accept it because of other people’s stories. My feelings weren’t special snowflakes. I wasn’t the only one who cried because I understood depression and suicidal feelings. So even before Williams’ death I knew something was wrong. I was just hoping it would go away when The Red Dot Special’s show ended, and I could leave at least knowing I wasn’t pregnant–which, as an asexual, I don’t have to worry about too much to begin with.
The feelings wouldn’t go away. They only intensified.
I thought it was just anxiety alone, so I kept taking my two Klonopin, sometimes forgetting to take one. I drank coffee, only to discover my anxiety was heightened when it drained from my system. I had one glass of vodka mixed with Sprite, which definitely calmed me. I only put in enough to make the Sprite taste like grape soda so that I couldn’t even taste the alcohol, so it’s not like I was drinking it to get buzzed or drunk. Just enough to enjoy the taste and chill.
Then I realized what was going on, what was happening. All the signs and symptoms were there. They were just slowly building up, like they always do. First it’s the irritability and anxiety, which persist and get worse. Then it’s craving nothing but sweets to a ridiculous degree that I’d buy sweets every chance I could. Then I began to feel very reckless: having the urge to get drunk, to smoke, to just do something absolutely insane THAT IS NOT ME. Then my sleep began to change to the point where I was able to fall asleep, but I kept waking up, then falling asleep, waking up, then falling asleep. This made me think I was getting hypomanic, because I wasn’t taking the same dosage of Seroquel I was on to get me out of that episode I had a few months ago. Yet, it didn’t feel like that, because I started to feel fatigued, wanting to take naps more often without being pissed that I needed one, as naps usually interrupt my productivity.
So all of this built and built and built, until on Monday, I went to bed emotionally exhausted, needing to snuggle my Hello Kitty, which I only do when I’m depressed. Then Tuesday I woke up starting to feel it. I content edited five chapters, blogged, but after that…nothing. Then Wednesday I contented edited five more chapters…then nothing. I began to lose my appetite. I lost my craving for sweets. Then Thursday it all came full force, a violent whirlpool I couldn’t pull away from. I didn’t want to eat, still don’t want to eat. I didn’t want to do anything and still don’t want to do anything.
Today I just want to lie in bed and cry a little bit. In fact, I cried a little bit while writing this.
Now I know I need to see a new therapist, but I can’t bring myself to seek out a new one. I desperately miss my old one, but she moved. She is irreplaceable.
Depression comes on slowly then all at once. It’s walking through that bright, sunny forest, only for the sky to get progressively dim. You have that brief, beautiful sunset. Then darkness, about eight hours of it, I think. Those eight hours feel forever.
I know all I need to do is make a call to my pdoc and request an uppage on my Lamictal…or something. I plan to call next week. Yet I know these next few days–or even weeks until the new dosage kicks in–are going to be absolutely agonizing.
I’m glad I don’t have to tell my parents when I’m depressed. They just know the signs until Dad eventually comes in and talks to me and I can open up with no problem. Even so, it’s awkward to go up to your parents or even people who understand and say you’re depressed. It’s a thing you can’t see. It’s so easy for me to call into work and say I have the flu or something. It’s even harder to call into work and say I just can’t do it because I’m depressed. It’s especially more difficult because you know the flu or the cold or whatever will go away.
You don’t know when depression is going to go away, if you’re going to feel a little bit better the next day to, you know, LIVE.
I can’t do it today. I can’t live right now. I will go to work though. I know it will help me. It helped me Thursday night. I love working with people who bare their hearts to me, because I’m not afraid to bare my heart back. But it is going to be so difficult to get dressed and to even eat before I go.
I want to stay in bed all day.
I can’t even think of doing content edits, which haven’t been too bad at all. The thought is too exhausting.
I know ballet will help, but it’s the getting-to-ballet thing that is going to be difficult.
Doing my assignments for this week won’t be difficult, but it’s the getting-to-the-assignments part that is going to take every ounce of strength I have to complete them.
My heart kind of hurts. Breathing kind of hurts, too.
My head hurts.
My muscles will probably hurt, too–like fibro flares and stuff.
I don’t want to talk to people, except to those who have been through what I’m going through right now.
I’ll probably have road rage.
I’ll probably feel very snappish on the inside to customers who do even remotely annoying things, like making comments that Southern Siding is just going to keep calling and calling and calling, which is undeniably true.
I’m not excited about anything.
At least I don’t feel suicidal.
Living is going to be stressful for now.
It gets better…but then it doesn’t.
I don’t even want to read for pleasure.
Maybe I’ll play Diablo III with the fiance after work. Maybe. Or go to bed. Whichever sounds more appealing.
I was really worried that I was getting depressed again, because I started exhibiting some symptoms that started the week before last. At the same time, depression didn’t make sense because I wasn’t feeling the usual symptoms: hopelessness, apathy, loss of appetite, lack of desire to get out of bed, and suicidal ideation (which is an unfortunate symptom for me when I am depressed). I was/am just intensely irritable, snappish, have irrational reactions to thinks I shouldn’t get frustrated about, foul mouthed, and just overall feel guilty and depressed over my reactions–but it’s not depression.
I began exhibiting these intense reactions when I realized I wasn’t getting full commission at my job. I went out into the living room, screaming my head off and cursing, thinking someone had screwed me over. My much-loved boss brought me down from this and made me feel so much better when we figured out what it was: a hole in the week. I also had a panic attack trying to figure out Excel, crying like someone had died, and I knew the reaction was super irrational, but I couldn’t control it. I feel so ashamed, too, for my explosive reaction on Facebook over this frustration with Excel. My dad had to bring me down, and he even admitted there was something wrong with my reactions. I just didn’t know what was wrong. I thought maybe it was because the Klonopin hadn’t kicked in yet, but the moodiness kept continuing. It wouldn’t go away. I was still snappish, still irritable, but I was doing my best to keep it under control. But increasingly I wanted to stay away from people.
For example, at work lately, whenever somebody made a smart remark about the car, I started cursing them beneath my breath. That isn’t who I am. The good thing, though, is that I never lashed out. I was also extremely, extremely ticked off that someone at work had lost my paperwork, which meant I lost appointments that could have been potential commissions. I couldn’t let this go, even at work. And when I saw the numbers from Monday, I wanted to cry Tuesday because I left with zero, even though I was really putting myself out there to get something.
Then I began Access, and I stopped at number four. I wanted to ram my head through my computer and scream. I just eventually broke down crying because I couldn’t figure out number 4. Then I just had to talk myself down from the freak out, as I knew my dad would help me, no matter what. So I just stopped the Access and got back to my novel, which has been soothing for me as of late. I just keep thinking about that one publisher that follows me on Tumblr, and the fact they love my posts so much they constantly re-blog my stuff. And I know my book would be a good fit for them, so I keep that in mind whenever I go into this book.
At my Wednesday meeting, I was acting out, not in the sense that I was being disruptive, but that I was talking about all the things that were currently making me angry. I talked about how leaving with 0 appointments made me so angry that I wanted to do this and this and this. I also talked about how mad I was that, in my words, “some idiot took my appointments and left them in an office that clearly does not deal with appointments. What moron would take my appointments out of the mail box and think to not stick them on my boss’s desk? I had appointments that were supposed to go out on Tuesday, and all because of that idiot, they’ll have to be re-scheduled, and clients rarely re-schedule. And my boss was searching all day for my appointments. Freaking idiot.” I just kept going on and on about this person. As I’m writing this that anger is flushing through me again. My co-workers knew there was something up, so I had to explain to them what was going on, then had to talk myself down from it.
This was something I did on the fifth day of my stay at Summit Ridge, when I had no idea why my mood suddenly changed. I was so excited to go home, then I stopped caring about going home because I was turning into this burgeoning ball of rage. When my parents and fiance visited, all I could talk about was why I hated that place. Then on the last day, I was absolutely irritated, loudly voicing why I hated Summit Ridge to everyone in my group–when the counselor wasn’t in there. My Summit Ridge buddies knew there was something up, and they had figured I’d been misdiagnosed, but I didn’t understand at the time. I just thought depression was creeping in, but it was actually hypomania.
So Wednesday I saw my pdoc this week, told her I thought I was going into a depressive episode, then gave her the list of symptoms. She actually told me it was hypomania, which stunned me–and made a lot more sense and a little relieved, because depression is awful, and I’d rather be hypomanic because it’s much easier to treat. But Lamictal is a really good medication to stabilize you. Not to mention my Klonopin should have been tempering the anxiety and all of that that accompanies the nasty side of hypomania. She thinks it’s likely the fact that I started with 100 mg of Seroquel and brought it down to 25 mg. It could be that. Seroquel is an antipsychotic, after all, used to treat mania. But I also think something triggered it. I just can’t pinpoint what.
But I’ve e-mailed my therapist to see about setting up an appointment with her, if she gets back to me, so I can figure out what to do to not trigger an episode. Even with medications, manic episodes can still trigger. For now, these are the steps I’m taking to keep my hypomania from taking control of me:
Whenever I feel like I’m about to panic because I can’t do something, I step away from that thing and have an internal dialogue with myself. Even though Dad had helped me figure out number four yesterday, I still felt that intense reaction wanting to come. So I left and asked Dad for help. Then Dad would periodically check on me, which kept me calm throughout the assignment. Well, calm for the most part, even though I still felt that ball of anxiety knitting a lovely scarf for me.
People, people, people. They can aggravate me for no reason at all. I called my fiance yesterday to give him a status report on my ankle (which I’ll talk about in a later post, depending on the results of the MRI), and I started getting very irritated with talking to him because I felt like he just wanted to go on and on and on. I stopped the conversation right there and told him I needed to go inside and practice some things before the start of dance class, before my tone escalated to convey my irritability. When I stepped into that studio, it’s like I wasn’t even hypomanic anymore. When I’m at a ballet studio, all I can think about is ballet in that moment, and nothing else matters. It calms people with bipolar disorder down, gets rid of that energy building up inside of us, whether it’s anxious/irritable energy, or hyped-up energy that makes you think you’ve drank a bunch of Red Bulls (which I’ve never had, as I’m not fond of energy drinks). So when I came home, the irritability was pretty much gone. However, an issue with any kind of mania is that you don’t want to go to sleep. It’s not always an inability to sleep, but a lack of desire to sleep, and I didn’t want to sleep. I just kept wanting to do things that weren’t exactly productive. Even so, I knew that if I didn’t, I could have launched myself into a full-blow manic episode. It happened one day when I was released from Summit Ridge with my misdiagnosis. I was hypomanic for about the first week, I think, and then I never went to bed one night and launched myself into a full-blown manic episode. The energy was so insane that I walked out into the freezing cold, without only a jacket, a light shirt, a skirt, and a pair of stockings along with running shoes, and ran around the entire block. The energy still wasn’t gone.
Self-talk. As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve been having internal dialogues with myself, trying to be cognizant that my behavior, my reactions, are a result of hypomania. Once you know this, you can start taking care of the problem. It’s difficult, but it’s like ballet. Once you know what you’re doing wrong in class, even if it’s difficult to fix, you’re still on the right path. So being aware that I’m hypomanic means I can be more cognizant of what sets me off so I can talk myself down from it.
Let me preface this by saying this is not a departure from my blog. Oh, certainly not. I am still trying to figure out how to build a following without busting my butt off by commenting on a million other blogs, friending those blogs, with the hopes that they follow me back, even though I understand they have no obligation to do so. I shouldn’t have to do that to build a following, because many successful blogs don’t have to. Having a lot of followers means nothing if I’m not having any interaction. But that is neither here nor there.
I call myself The Dancing Writer for a reason, and I think it’s time to talk about ballet, which I don’t do often enough to keep up with the title of The Dancing Writer. I’ve complained about it a little on Facebook and Twitter, if any of you have seen, which, I’ll take the blame for, was very unprofessional of me, but in the heat of the moment, you tend to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and lashing out is one of my faults. I rarely get angry, but when I do, I go from 0-180, which usually ends up in crying that lasts for a few hours. I do get upset, but that upset rarely leads to anger. In this case, I was immediately angry and was considering switching schools the moment I found my name.
To remain as sensitive as possible about the topic, I am not going to bash my previous school. It was a very good school. It was very fun. The teachers were great. I made some good friends there, and I have many positive memories. Being able to participate in The Roar of Love (2013) was one such fond memory I had. However, it is a recreational school, one that places priorities on company members over non-company members, which I don’t think is fair, as not every dancer there can afford the time nor money to be a company member, but it’s probably how the school earns its money to stay afloat–through sponsors and what not. And that school deserves to stay open because it has won many awards for a reason. But it might have been the wrong school for me all along, and I didn’t realize that until this year. I was blind because I started out with private lessons there with a wonderful woman named Rebecca, who made me want to start taking classes there. She was the only reason I did. She’s gone now, but I persisted in spite of her absence, because I was already used to the atmosphere and greatly adored the girls.
I never considered myself a role model to them. I didn’t sign up to be a role model. I signed up to dance. I think once I established myself as equals to them, and took them on as friends, that role model idea went out the window. And I wanted to be equal to them. I didn’t want any special treatment for being the only adult consistently taking classes and being serious about the art form. I also didn’t want the pressure of being a role model put on me. Sure, I could dish out advice to them with situations I’ve been in when I was their age, but really being able to talk to these girls and getting to know them made me realize that it’s possible to be 23 and still be able to relate to girls who are in their late or early teens. I had one who was pretty much a younger sister to me, because she did look up to me and sought me out for advice. However, she left for pretty much the same reason I did, which I will mention soon, and I miss her terribly. Otherwise, the other girls were my friends. Plain and simple. I interacted with them the way I interacted with my friends my age (albeit, I toned down the jokes and language), but I still acted plain silly with them, just as I would with friends of my age–even ones much older than I.
Even so, this year’s casting made me realize I wasn’t going to get any better, not just in casting, but in terms of skill. I have improved as a dancer, but I attribute that largely to the performance experience I had in Roar because it better taught me how to memorize longer combinations without stopping in the middle of one to remember what the next move was. However, without that performance experience, I don’t think I would have gained that betterment in my dance skills. The roles weren’t complicated, but they developed the memorization part of my brain, which I didn’t have when starting the school. They also developed that part of my brain where I didn’t need to think about what move came next. The moves were already in my muscles, so there was no need to think about them. I just did them.
Now it’s time to get down to the part that broke my heart. Last year I did not expect to be cast into Roar at all because of my status as an adult, and I was okay with that. I had no reason to expect it, so I had no expectations. However, when I received casting and decided to peruse it out of curiosity to see who received what role, I was surprised to find my name on there four times in three different roles: Flower Fairy, Spring Maiden, and Wind–2 casts. Because of last year’s casting in Roar, I felt this year I had every right to expect I was going to be in Roar–otherwise, it would have been plain cruel to not cast me. I was really banking on getting more challenging roles this year that would better me as a dancer. I could come away and say, ‘Yep! I did that role. I was able to do it, and now I’m confident I can improve as a dancer.’ That didn’t happen at all. I put so much hope and heart into casting and was on pins and needles, as was every girl at the school, about the casting. Ballet is as much of a passion as writing is, even though I have no plans to go pro.
When the cast list appeared in my Gmail, my heart jumped in my chest. However, when I perused the list for my name, I saw it only once. In cast two, as Spring Maiden, which I did last year. At the time the role was slightly challenging because it was probably a 4-5 minute piece and I hadn’t fully memorized it until the last two rehearsals, but I expected something more and didn’t get it.
At first I was angry, because I realized less-experienced girls, both on and off pointe, were getting the roles people at my level usually receive–so I wasn’t the only one upset about casting. All the girls at my level had been shortchanged (except for one), for one reason or another. But I won’t go into detail about that. All I can say is that the school probably depends a lot on sponsorships, and in order to keep those sponsors happy, they have to ensure that their children are happy at the school, lest they lose their sponsors, which are often the ones most active in the school. Casting is a HUGE deal at that school, as these girls are in 4 performances a year, and if they’re losing dancers because of casting, they could lose sponsors as well. So it’s no surprise; however, it’s very upsetting for someone such as me, who devoted two years to the school, was always able to afford tuition, who mostly attended dance classes regularly, and was very serious while in class. I especially worked hard this year, not only for myself, but to ensure I would receive a good role in Roar that would make me into a much better dancer, as I believe the girls are as good as they are because of the performances.
Some tried to persuade me not to quit, as there was always next year, but, not only did I know I was never going to get anything better, I also knew I didn’t want to stick around for another year to wind up in disappointment–again. I take ballet seriously, and I want to have fun with it, so I knew the passion for that school died when the casting came out.
I am not perfect, I still slightly struggle, but I have taken the highest level there, and I was surprised with my ability to keep up. I think I should have been struggling, but I didn’t. Even boys they pulled from an art school because they are in desperate need of boys, who had been with the school for not even two years and had never taken ballet prior to this school, were keeping up with the highest-level class. Granted, their technique isn’t strong, but they were able to keep up with the exercises. So I knew the challenge did not lie in the classes themselves, but in the performances.
So after realizing this, I had broken down in tears and could not be consoled for a few hours. I knew I was never going to get anything challenging beyond Spring Maiden, so to speak, because as the girls that move up in level and more join the company, I knew I was going to be slipped into whatever was left. Being in Roar is a privilege, and not a right, and I was made an exception when I was cast for Roar, but, even now that I have cooled off, I don’t think I should have been expected to be grateful to be cast at all, not when the prior year was better, especially considering I didn’t dance that much in the fall because of depression and hospitalizations. This year, I did dance more, so I was flummoxed. Even worse, I was not given a role en pointe, which would have deprived me of pointe work for three months. That is not a good thing for someone as serious as me who wants to improve.
As bittersweet as it is, I am moving on to another school, one that is a professional and not a performance-based one. At this school, if any of the girls are chosen to participate in The Nutcracker, rehearsal time is outside of class, and so does not eat up class time. Also, they only use certain girls–or boys–when they can’t fill all slots in their professional performance of The Nutcracker, so I won’t have to have any expectations. They also do demonstrations at the end of the year, but this is more for the parents. I don’t think I’d be allowed to be in one, but I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it anyway because I am the one who will be paying the school, so I know I am getting a good dance education and don’t need to prove it to anyone like the kids will have to for their parents. The point is that I can still participate in these demo rehearsals that are actual exercises done in class–not variations of ballet performances. This isn’t to say anything bad about my old school. This is just the reality. My old school may have never been a right fit for me from the beginning, but just because it isn’t a right fit for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be a right fit for someone else. In fact, many adults who really want to do ballet often retreat to the new school I’m going to so they can learn ballet in a more serious environment without being an exception to anything. My old school has an adult class, but it is purely recreational, purely for fun.
I am both nervous and excited. I am nervous because they have a set repertoire of exercises they do every day, so I’ll have some catching up to do. And I am excited because I know this school will help me bring out my full potential as a dancer. I probably should have gone there to begin with. After all, I did an intensive there. Even so, another reason I didn’t go to the school was because during that intensive, fibromyalgia really affected by legs horribly, and I attributed it to the intensity of the work, which is not found at my old school. However, I have learned that it is my ballet tights that aggravate my fibromyalgia, so I simply need to roll them up to my knees, and I am usually okay. I will also let the teacher know about my chronic pain condition. It has not really affected by ballet as of late, but I will be attending, twice a week, classes that are 2 1/2 hours long, so I do expect my fibro to pop up a little bit more. (Of course, my former rhume told me that without ballet, my fibro would be much worse, so you have to outweigh the benefits with the consequences. My fibro is really mild compared to a lot of cases, but I am also very limber.)
In case all of you haven’t heard the news, YA author, Ned Vizzini, died a few days ago. He committed suicide, but I won’t go into the details because you can simply click the link over his name.
His most notable book is It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which was made into a feature-length film, and a novel that I hold very close to my heart. I do consider Ned Vizzini somewhat of a celebrity, if authors are even allowed to be called such. But a celebrity’s death has never affected me so deeply as his. I was sad when beloved children’s book author Diana Wynne Jones died, because I loved her books, but she was also in the prime of her life, and was able to spend a good bit of her life living her dream as an author of beloved children’s books. She lived what was hopefully a fulfilling life, leaving this incredible magic behind that I hope people of all ages will enjoy.
I saw a Tweet that said ‘So sad about Ned Vizzini. His family is in my prayers.’ My heart immediately jumped to my throat because I knew exactly what happened, because it always seems to happen to artists who suffer with mental illness. Always. I frantically typed his name into Google, and there it was, my fear confirmed: Ned Vizzini died at the age of 32. I immediately burst into tears, the kind of tears where it’s hard to breathe, and I have never, ever experienced such grief from a celebrity’s death before. Ever. I only briefly talked to Ned Vizzini on Twitter before, and a Tweeter and I even made a little hastag for him called Fanzini (which, by the way, is totally spelled wrong). He was even on board with it, as you can see in the picture below.
It wasn’t this brief chat on Twitter that did me in. Not at all.
Before I was hospitalized at Summit Ridge for self-harm and suicidal ideation, I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story in order to have a better grasp of what it was like to be a young, depressed person being admitted into a mental hospital for the first time. I was terrified, as well as severely depressed, and I finished the entire book while waiting for the ambulance that would take me to Summit Ridge, which is a few hours from where I live. There were no beds available in my area.
The story comforted me in ways that no one who has ever been hospitalized with mental illness can ever understand. The fact that it was semi-autobiographical, 85% of the book being based off Ned’s experiences, made it all the more precious to me. It was especially the last paragraph in the book that was so uplifting for me (it’s long, just warning):
“Run. Eat. Drink. Eat more. Don’t throw up. Instead, take a piss. Then take a crap. Wipe your butt. Make a phone call. Open a door. Ride your bike. Ride in a car. Ride in a subway. Talk. Talk to people. Read. Read maps. Make maps. Make art. Talk about your art. Sell your art. Take a test. Get into a school. Celebrate. Have a party. Write a thank-you note to someone. Hug your mom. Kiss your dad. Kiss your little sister. Make out with Noelle. Make out with her more. Touch her. Hold her hand. Take her out somewhere. Meet her friends. Run down a street with her. Take her on a picnic. Eat with her. See a movie with her. See a movie with Aaron. Heck, see a movie with Nia, once you’re cool with her. Get cool with more people. Drink coffee in little coffee-drinking places. Tell people your story. Volunteer. Go back to Six North. Walk in as a volunteer and say hi to everyone who waited on you as a patient. Help people. Help people like Bobby. Get people books and music that they want when they’re in there. Help people like Muqtada. Show them how to draw. Draw more. Try drawing a landscape. Try drawing a person. Try drawing a naked person. Try drawing Noelle naked. Travel. Fly. Swim. Meet. Love. Dance. Win. Smile. Laugh. Hold. Walk. Skip. Okay, it’s gay, whatever, skip. Ski. Sled. Play basketball. Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run home. Run home and enjoy. Enjoy. Take these verbs and enjoy them. They’re yours, Craig. You deserve them because you chose them. You could have left them all behind but you chose to stay here. So now live for real, Craig. Live. Live. Live. Live.”
This last paragraph was a piece of hope for me. Not only had Craig been able to accept his situation and move on from it, but it was also directly from Ned himself–Ned, who suffered from chronic depression; Ned, who wrote that book and others to inspire young people struggling with these things; Ned, who was a mental illness advocate; Ned, who was older than me and survived and seemed to be doing well and seemed like he would always do well and fight through the depressive moments and live and live and live to give hope to people like me. I even once told him on Twitter that his story helped me when I was being admitted into a mental hospital, and he told me that he was glad it did.
It would have been different if Ned had died in a car accident. I would have thought it tragic, I might have even cried a little bit, but, no, he took his own life, after all that hope and light and love he gave through his books alone. Suicide, to me, is the most tragic thing in the world, more tragic than war or famine or any other terrible non-suicide-related thing. Suicide is standing at the edge of the universe and realizing that the universe isn’t going to keep expanding for you anymore the way that it should. Suicide is saying that there is nothing left, that there is no more hope, no more light, no more love. Suicide is also saying that none of that matters. Some individuals may feel suicidal after a break-up, a divorce, or some other earth-shattering thing. But for people like me, suicide is a diagnosis, a reality we struggle with in conjunction with our mental illnesses. Suicide, AKA suicidal ideation, is a symptom of a mental illness. In my case, It’s Bipolar Type I.
I couldn’t believe how hard I was crying. I cried over my grandpa’s death, but not as hard as Ned’s. I cried over my former boss’s death, but not as hard as Ned’s. I cried over my dog’s death, but not as hard as Ned’s. And I knew why I was crying, too: because I know what it feels like to be at the edge of the universe where you can see no more stars.
I’m sensitive to suicide. I cry whenever I hear that someone ended his/her own life. I cry when I hear songs implying suicide. I cried when I wrote a scene in All Shattered Ones about my main character committing suicide (it’s not a spoiler).
Ultimately, I cried for a somewhat selfish reason. This is something I have never, ever admitted to anyone, not even my therapist, but I’m finally coming out with it because I want you all to understand what was behind those tears I was crying when I found out about Ned’s death. Bipolar disorder is forever. It’s not going away. It claims lives every year, in higher numbers than many other mental illnesses because of the devastating highs and lows. I was on Remeron first, and it gave me back who I was. But then it made me severely manic, hospitalizing me again. Then I was put on Trileptal, which did nothing for my depression, but did put a stop to the mania. It took almost half a year before I got put on Abilify, and then I thought the darkness had finally ended, that it was gone for good, so long as I kept taking this little miracle pill. But then it stopped. For good. Upping the dose did nothing, and I was back in that darkness again, suicidal ideation once again taking residence in my mind. Not every person with a mental illness struggles with suicidal feelings. For many, the thought never crosses their minds. But for others like me, who see mental illness as an intolerable thing to live with, it does…and it did every day.
Then I was put on Lamictal. It didn’t work right away. I believe it took about two months for it to finally start working, and now I am back to being stable–but now I can no longer believe that that stability will remain. Oh, certainly I hope it’ll just take a rise in dosage to help, but what’s going to happen to me in those in-between moments, those moments when I am temporarily depressed, when I am seeing the endless chasm of no return, when I see that there is no way to go up?
This is the thing I most fear more than anything else: I fear that ultimately my life will end by my own hand. Do I want it to? No. But sometimes I feel like it’s not a choice. And I have never told anyone this.
It sounds illogical, irrational, maybe even a little silly. After all, how can someone such as me who seems to have it all, who has endured depression before, who has a tight, loving support system, fall prey to such a terrible thing? That’s what everyone thinks…until it’s them. That’s what I thought about Ned Vizzini, that’s what people think about so many artists who took their own lives. One of my favorite singers, Emilie Autumn, attempted to take her own life. Thank goodness she failed. But I’m also afraid that one day she’ll try again…and succeed. I haven’t attempted yet, but I’m scared that one day I will–and one day, that attempt may succeed.
So, ultimately, that’s where the tears stemmed from. If Ned Vizzini, someone who lived his life to help others, to inspire others to fight their own battles, ends his own life, who’s to say that I won’t one day? Of course I don’t know what the future holds, but for someone like me, I HAVE to take it one day at a time. I can no longer look at the future anymore and see a world full of promise and hope that I’m going to be at this stage of life doing this thing and loving this thing and being this thing. I can’t do that, because I have to accept that bipolar disorder limits things. People with chronic mental illnesses have low stress thresholds. Even with proper medication, we can still fall prey to depression if even a little bit of stress is applied. I have to be on anti-anxiety meds for crying out loud, even though I am stable depression-wise. Otherwise, I tend to get panicky when I have a full day.
And there is nothing I can do about that. So I sometimes irrationally await the day when my dosage of Lamictal stops helping me. And then I wonder ‘what is going to happen to me then? How am I going to feel? Just how severe will it be? Will I be tired of the constant tug-of-war battle and just think it’s better to quit on this life?’ My therapist tells me I’m so brave and strong, but Ned Vizzini seemed like he was, too.
Depression sucks, and this is the only way I can start this post. In fact, bipolar disorder sucks because, I don’t know, I’ve learned that bipolar depression and depression are different, in that in bipolar depression, irritability and rage seem to be more common–and believe me, I have plenty of irritability to go around. I hate the irritability because it makes it so difficult to connect with people, and I tend to get snappish. Sometimes I just want to break down crying when I’m around my fiance because he is being so attentive and loving, and I just can’t reciprocate because I am literally paralyzed by my depression and irritability. I desperately want to talk to him and cry in front of him, but I feel so paralyzed.
In any case, Shannon Thompson wrote about one of her lows as an author, and I thought I would do the same, even though my lows have to do with depression.
During the launch week, I didn’t feel the sting of depression at all because I was on Cloud 9 with all the exposure my book was receiving. I knew it was being bought, and even if my Amazon ranking sucks right now, I’m confident the e-book will do well–or I should be confident–because I plan to do different giveaways for the book blitzes–like Amazon gift cards instead of e-ARCs. I feel like that by the time the e-book releases, an e-ARC might discourage people from buying the e-book due to the fact that they just might wait around until the giveaway is over with.
In spite of When Stars Die being published, I have fallen from the high I had last week. The launch week was wonderful and beautiful and gave me the confidence I needed as a writer, but now that I’m done with that, I am filled again with crippling self-doubt: What if my book doesn’t sell as well as I want it to? What if my royalty check blows, pointing to the fact that my book isn’t selling well? What if, even when the e-book comes out, all the people who can’t wait to read it never buy it because of monetary reasons or they have other books they want to read first? In fact, in spite of being on YA Interrobang, Veronica Roth’s book obviously stole the show from all the other authors’ books who were being released that day, like Mary Gray’s The Dollhouse Asylum. Even though my book is in a store, is anyone buying it? I know one person bought it, and that put me on a super huge high during launch week.
When Monday came, I could barely get out of bed, so I stayed home, stayed in bed practically all day, slept, and missed class because I just couldn’t do it. Even now I can barely do it, but I have to so I don’t get dropped from my classes with a fail. I even so desperately wanted to cut myself–mostly my thighs and wrists–but I didn’t do it, ONLY BECAUSE MY LEOTARD AND TIGHTS WOULD NEVER COVER THEM UP. If it weren’t for ballet, I may have fallen prey to the blade.
It wasn’t the self-doubt of my book that brought upon this intense depression. It was just falling from the high I had during that week, the awesomeness ebbing away, and me just feeling the depression once more. It’s discouraging because my Lamictal is currently at 150 mg, and I don’t notice an improvement at all. Not one single improvement–not even a tiny bit. While I’m on Klonopin and it gives me patience, I feel like I need to up my dose now, because the previous week, it made my head clear and didn’t allow the depression to incapacitate me. And this terrifies me because what if I have to have electroshock therapy, like Esther in The Bell Jar? I know that’s a totally irrational thought considering there are plenty of meds for bipolar individuals out there, but Abilify worked for a time, then crapped out. Upping the dose of Abilify did not improve my mood, so Abilify stopped working period.
There are a few lucky individuals out there whose meds work for a long time and seem to work for the rest of their lives. My grandmother is on Lamictal, and while she is not blood-related, she seems to be holding strong with it.
Why can’t I be one of those lucky individuals?
Everything has been so hard because of this stupid depression. While this semester is easier than the semester I had in the fall, it’s still so difficult to get out of bed and get things going. I still have this strong feeling that I’ll end up in a psyche ward again. I don’t know why. Sometimes I have this sense of impending doom that I’m going to do something awful to myself, even though I have yet to do so.
As soon as I get up and start my day, all I can think about is going right back to bed and napping until dinnertime–the Klonipin at least lets me nap comfortably. And even with ballet, my thoughts constantly switch between going and not going. I know going ups my mood, but it’s the going that is so difficult because all I do is want to sleep, sleep, sleep, so I don’t have to feel the depression raging in my brain.
It really sucks, because even though I have a book blitz going on this week, nothing can get me out of this. I have even been writing on The Stars Are Infinite, and I like the direction it’s going, but it’s not doing a thing for me.
Like Shannon, I am trying so hard to up my mood, to be put back on the high I was on during launch week, but I can’t do it. I simply can’t do it. It’s this stupid flaw in my chemistry that makes it all so difficult. It’s this stupid flaw in my chemistry that brings upon the self-doubt, because I’m certain if I wasn’t depressed, I would be totally blowing up my social media right now, being chatty with everyone, being personable, being proud of my freaking book.But, no, that doesn’t want to happen and isn’t going to happen, probably not until the e-book’s launch, or until my freaking meds start working.
So I want to leave you all with a picture quote from When Heaven Was Blue (it says His Vanity in the corner, but that is no longer the current title of the book), a contemporary fantasy I hope to get back to work on in December (involving mental illness, of course), because this is exactly how I feel right now.
But in spite of feeling this way, I don’t want to discourage anyone else. All I can do is keep writing and keep publishing, and for now, that is what keeps me tethered to this world, even when everything else is so impossible to connect to. I want to be honest with all my Stars. I don’t want you thinking that now that I have a book published, I’m living cozy in my house, sipping moscato, while pounding out another brilliant book and not lacking in confidence what-so-ever.
Tomorrow I am going to blog about what an anonymous user on Tumblr told me about my publication path.