Depressive Episodes Won’t Daunt Me

Depressive Episodes Won’t Daunt Me

Looking upon 2013 so far makes me realize what an amazing year it has been. And this is in spite of the moments I’d cry by myself, wishing I were dead, or laying in bed for hours believing I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I loved without screwing it up. I know it’s insane to say 2013 is great when I spend a good deal of my time depressed, irritable, sometimes hopeless, sometimes sad. How is it possible for me to be able to look back upon all of this and go, “Well, this year has, in fact, been pretty incredible.”

I’ll tell you why: not only have I changed my thinking, about the way I view my depression, but I’m learning to let the good things outweigh the bad.

For some reason most of us want the bad to outweigh the good. We look at one tragedy caused by one or two people and are sickened by the human race. But we don’t look at the countless scores of people reaching out and helping in the midst of tragedy. This is the kind of thinking I’m changing. Tragedies are tragedies and are heartrending and make me wonder how another human being could do that to someone (because, by my nature, I love people), but then there are so many people doing so many good things each and every day.

In any case, why am I no longer letting my depression rule me? Is it because I am no longer depressed? Not necessarily. I still have problems with irritability, but I’m giving myself reasons to wake up so I don’t find myself trapped in bed until 12: mainly this blog, thinking of strong content to pound out, and advancing my writing career. These are phenomenal reasons for me to wake up earlier than I usually do. I’ve been waking up at 9 when I normally wake up at 12. And that’s good, because before I let depression drown me, 8 or 9 o’clock was my wake-up time. I couldn’t physically sleep in any later until depression struck.

So what are some of the good things that have happened to me this year that are keeping me from drowning?

This is Wind, my favorite role in the recital I participated in. It will also be my author photo.
This is Wind, my favorite role in the recital I participated in. It will also be my author photo.

I was chosen to dance in Columbia County’s ‘Roar of Love.’ I was stunned. I hadn’t been there in almost two months due to psychiatric visits and my health, and here I was being asked to perform three roles, two of which were en pointe, one of which is for girls above my level. Not only was I overjoyed, but it was a compliment to my skills to put me in three roles when I wasn’t present for a good bit of the first part of the ballet school year. I mean, I came back after all the hospitalizations and hadn’t lost anything, not my strength or technique, and I was so worried about those two things.

But dancing in a recital was  a dream come true, especially because there is no true adult ballet program in my area and so I have to dance with kids–but I love the girls I dance with and wouldn’t leave them for any adult ballet program. Even though I was still trapped in the web of depression, going to ballet helped immensely with my mood, and I always left chipper and with a renewed sense of self-esteem. And even though I woke up the next day, and the day after that, and so on and so forth, wondering how ballet could help my dark mood, it always did.

What else is great about 2013?

Shush!

Well, that is a secret. But I can tell you I’m proud of myself for getting back into writing, being able to blog as much as I am, getting back into my literary magazine; I freaking registered for fall classes, I’m going to pick up more hours at work, and I’m going to do a ballet summer intensive among other *hush*surpsingthings*hush*. Now if my depression starts flaring doing all these things, I’ll slow down. I mean, frankly, I’m writing all of this in the heat of excitement. Even depressed people experience situational joy from time to time. But I’m going to keep up the positive thinking even when I feel like crap. As I’ve said before, I can’t change the way I feel, but I can change the way I think.

I can’t wait to tell you all what this surprise is though!

Working Hard With Difficult Illnesses

Working Hard With Difficult Illnesses

Now that I’m back in the writing world, I’m really realizing just how exhausting it is. Before fibro claimed me, doing Twitter and blogging weren’t a big deal. In fact, social media was a respite from working on my novel and school work and all that. Now I’m a spoonie and anything I do takes a spoon from me (read about spoon theory here). I’m certainly not as bad as some people with fibromyalgia. Some people with fibro are exhausted just getting dressed in the morning. I’m not that bad, but I do require a nap after writing a chapter or doing a synopsis or editing a query letter or doing something that requires intense concentration. I never needed naps before. I could plow on through and keep doing things. Being depressed doesn’t help either. But guess what? I’m doing it! I’m working hard and getting done what I want to get done. And I’m satisfied with that.

This guy sits behind me as I’m working. He threatens to tear my head off if I don’t, so he’s a good enough incentive to plow through. He at least allows me five minute naps. Isn’t this Jabberwocky generous?

Unfortunately, both my bipolar depression and fibromyalgia are very unpredictable. Sometimes I really am just too depressed to be able to sit up in bed and concentrate on trying to write even half a chapter. Sometimes I just need to nap longer than usual to calm down and shake some of the sleepiness from me. With my fibromyalgia, it’s been doing pretty well. It generally starts to level out late winter/early spring. Then the fall comes and the flares become daily, and so I’m pretty much in crippling pain a lot in the fall. But when a flare hits, I can’t do anything until the ibuprofen kicks in, and I take 6 of them, and you can’t even take more than 6 in a 24 hour period. Even then the ibuprofen only take the edge off. They don’t kill the flare.

In any case, I remember when I got home from my second hospitalization in December how I wasn’t doing anything at all–only ballet. I stopped painting, doing photography, and writing. It’s not that I didn’t have it in me, it’s that I didn’t think I could have it in me. I had no incentive to do any of it because I did not feel they would yield me immediate rewards. But ballet did. Even an hour of ballet could lift my mood for at least half the day. So when I woke up in the morning, I pretty much stayed in bed all day and napped a lot. I’d mess around on my Surface or read or play on my 3DS, but as far as productivity, you can forget it. I was only productive with ballet, preparing for my recital, and waiting for the day I could perform on stage.

The recital ended though. I sobbed for the next three nights because it was over, I felt empty again, and I was seriously conflicted about whether or not to end my life (bipolar depression can be a very dark place). I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t think I wanted to live, but I had done so much research and suicide is not as easy as the media paints it. I had to get it together. I kept thinking about the girls at my dance studio who look up to me.  I kept thinking about the one girl who looks up to me the most, who had to endure several suicides in her life. Could I really do that to them? To my parents? To my fiancé?

No.

I had to pull myself together, which is when I decided to get back to my novel. I was hesitant, but I began reading through it and suddenly realizing I could. Sure, I got tired, more tired than usual, but I did it. Then I started doing more. I got back to The Corner Club Press. With Mariah’s help, I got issue 9 out. Then I made a new website for myself. I planned a new novel. I started blogging once every day, and now twice every day. I do Twitter for 20 minutes (my therapist came up with this number so I wouldn’t stress myself out with this, frankly, annoying website) a day. I’m trying to write a chapter a day in this new novel. I’m going to get back to painting shortly. I’m still doing ballet. And this is such a massive improvement from where I even was last month!

It’s not that I couldn’t do any of it. Depression just tells you that you can’t, and you have to get to a point where you separate yourself from your depression. As I’ve said, I have to take naps. I can’t keep pushing myself like I could before. But that’s okay. My therapist and I are doing goals for me, and I am exceeding them.

It’s hard work, but it’s worthwhile work. I’ve just got to keep pushing myself to do this so I don’t let depression control me with such negative thoughts as, “You’re useless, a waste of space. Why are you even trying? It’s not going to get you anywhere. You’re not remarkable, your existence is insignificant. Not even your friends care enough to find out what is going on with you. They’re doing remarkable things without you, and you’re stuck in a rut. Let me soothe you to sleep, a deep, long, long sleep.”

It’s the little victories that keep me going in spite of it all.

smiley2
I’m dead serious about the little victories.
What Being in Psychiatric Wards Has Taught Me About People

What Being in Psychiatric Wards Has Taught Me About People

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I was hospitalized twice within the span of a month. The first time was due to suicidal ideation, self-harm, and misdiagnosed major depressive disorder. The second time was due to being in a manic episode with undiagnosed rapid cycling Type I.

I was terrified the first time I was hospitalized. I was literally thrown in the thick of things, and because I hadn’t been grouped yet, I was stuck with the acute group for half a day, people who are not self-aware enough to know when they are hallucinating or people who simply cannot care for themselves because their illnesses affect them that much. Or people who simply cannot participate in group therapies at the moment because they haven’t been stabilized on meds enough to care.

I never thought of psych wards as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. No, psych wards nowadays are more like Ned Vizzini’s “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” I was still terrified of the type of people I’d meet though. I got there on my first day, was exposed to people having active auditory and visual hallucinations and thought, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m just depressed, but I’m not gone. My brain is all here. I’m self-aware enough to know I’m in trouble, so just give me a pill and put me out.’ These hallucinating people had no idea they were hallucinating. People with my condition can get so manic or depressed they hallucinate, but most are often aware they are hallucinating and try to take active measures to suppress the hallucinations.

In any case, I was eventually put with the Intermediate Group, basically functioning people with mood disorders. I always assumed people who ended up in psych wards had been exposed to some severe trauma in their lives (rape, abuse, ect…), but learned that mental illness does not discriminate. At the end of the day, the reason for your mood disorder being triggered doesn’t matter because now you are left having to deal with a possible life-long illness that can be traumatizing in itself. Suicidal feelings are traumatic. Self-harm is traumatic. Depression is traumatic. Pain is traumatic, physical and mental. Fibromyalgia and lack of sleep triggered my bipolar.

It was through the intermediate group though that I learned more about those in the acute ward. Those people in the acute ward weren’t crazy or insane or gone. They just needed help. They were just in a rough patch. Their lives are just as valuable as anyone else’s–they just need more help, a more restrictive environment to keep them safe. You can talk to these people and they will respond. No one with a mood disorder, regardless of the severity is crazy or insane or psycho or lost or unable to be helped.

I met all types of people, through all walks of life. I met someone who was on probation for burglary, and I didn’t judge him for that because he had a good heart. He learned from what he did, paid the price, and was now struggling to get his life back together. But even he found purpose to live. I also met another who was so desperate to die his arm was covered in a cast because he sliced it open so much. But he was thankful to be alive, and I was thankful he was as well because it showed that no matter who you are, your life is worth living and you just have to find a reason–and that reason can sometimes be hidden.

In my second hospitalization, I met more people. I met a bipolar alcoholic, who, despite her rage tendencies, loved her son so dearly that she wanted help. She was also a very sweet person, and I loved speaking with her. I also met a young man who had violent tendencies, but he was a good kid who just needs to learn how to manage anger when someone provokes him. There was also a survivor with serious brain trauma who sometimes mistook me for his mom, but I’d listen to him anyway because that’s all he ever wanted was just for someone to listen to him.

So what is my point by writing this post? As writers, we create characters who are oftentimes different from us, sometime with values and morals that conflict with our own. If we truly want to create stunning characters, we need to get out there and meet all different types of people and get to know them, with no judgment. We’re often so stuck with one type of people, “our clique” I suppose, that we forget others exist out there. It happens in college, happens in the workplace, as we want to feel a sense of belonging by being in a group. But we can belong everywhere if we give every human being a chance. I know before I never would have associated myself with a person with violent tendencies because I harshly judged those people as cruel human beings who had serious problems. Now I’ve learned there is no point in judging others because we do not know their stories. Oh certainly I still judge, but it is those who have caused irreparable harm to others, not those who find themselves in a bad place with a blatant mistrust and/or dislike for people for whatever reason.

So get out there and meet people you normally wouldn’t associate with. You’d be surprise as a writer what this can do for your character development. It helps you create antagonists you can be sensitive toward, antagonists you as the author aren’t judging but are leaving that judgment up to your protagonist. Knowing different types of people helps you create more complex plots as well, with decisions that are not so black and white.

The Decision to Self-Publish

The Decision to Self-Publish

So this past year (well, really, two years) has been too hectic for me with a myriad of health issues I can’t even list for you on two hands. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia almost a year ago and bipolar disorder seven months ago, and both are two of the most unpredictable illnesses I’ve ever been struck with. I’m not treating my fibromyalgia because my parents and I suspected the Lyrica I was put on contributed to increased symptoms in my bipolar, and I’m still struggling to find meds to stabilize my mood since I’m rapid cycling Type I!

What do my health issues have to do with anything? Well, they’re the reasons I’ve mulled over the idea of self-publishing for a few months. I took a book production class last spring that made me realize just how hectic deadlines are, how everything needs to be edited and done on this set date or else everything is thrown off. With the unpredictability of my health, I don’t want to have to commit to something and then find I’m unable to do it. All my old commitments (my freelance tutoring and editing, even simple dates out with friends) had to constantly be obliterated because I was either in too much pain or too tired to do anything. Sometimes my medications even throw my concentration off, and my creativity thus becomes dulled. I’ll become less detail-oriented, so this can throw off what I’m able to do.

With self-publishing, I’ll be able to set my own deadlines, and even if I can’t meet those deadlines, the only inconvenience that will occur is that I will have to come up with a new deadline date.

Another reason I’ll be doing it is because, obviously, I’m going to have a career along with my writing one. Plus, ballet has been amazing therapy for my fibromyalgia, and I’d like to keep doing that. Before I was hospitalized the first time for bipolar, I was going to school full-time, working part time, and doing ballet. I couldn’t squeeze in writing at all because I’d be so exhausted, so fatigued, from doing even just three classes with no work or no ballet. Sometimes I just couldn’t sleep well. Sometimes I’d be depressed. Sometimes I’d be in a flare. Sometimes I’d wake up so fatigued I could barely stand at work. Thus, having a career and wanting to keep up with the physical therapy of ballet, I may not be able to write or even edit every day. At least with self-publishing there is no pressure to do this.

Last reason I’m going toward self-publishing is I will admit I am a control freak. I have not been happy with traditional publishing lately. I have friends going toward this route because they are tired of being told that their stories are great but agents or editors aren’t looking for those stories right now. These friends know their stories have promise but when they’re told their stories aren’t in the ‘in’ it boils down to marketing, what publishers think will sale, not what publishers think readers will delight in. Bottom line: It’s money. Obviously.

Government involvement is the reason I’m backing out of teaching and going into freelance tutoring/editing and/or tutoring with something like Sylvan or a university or whatever. It’s the same with my choice to self-publish. I’m not writing to appease publishers or agents. I’m writing for those who are going to read it. I don’t want some agent or publisher determining the worth of my book based on numbers. I want readers determining the worth of my book based on the story told within the pages. And even if I am traditionally published, my book has about as much of a chance selling well as if I were to self-publish it simply because I am not a known name. The only difference is I will make more money selling per book than I will with traditional publishing. I won’t have an advance, but there is no promise the advance will even be worth it in the first place.

Self-publishing will no doubt be more work, but as an unknown name, I likely wouldn’t have received marketing help traditionally published in the first place. At least with this route, I have control. I can pay an editor and will not have to worry about negotiations on changes the editor wants, as the money comes out of my pocket. I can design the book, I can design the cover, I can make the swag, and I can dictate when all of this gets done. I also have a feeling I will feel far more pride going in this direction knowing the majority of the work came from me. And if it all fails, it will all come down on me, but I won’t have to worry about being dropped from a contract. I can just write another book and keep trying. Heck, I hear independent publishers are pretty great too. They’re always a possibility if I find, before publishing, that marketing is too enormous of a boulder for me to carry.

Ultimately, my biggest reason for wanting to self-publish is that I want readers to be in control. I want readers to be the ones to tell me how to improve, where I went wrong, what they liked, what they disliked. They are the ones who buy books. They are the ones books are intended for. They are the reason many writers write.