Depression, Writing, and a Dearth of Happy Endings

I am a writer.

….okay. That sounds fake, but okay.

This is what’s literally going on inside my head 24/7/365.25/the finite infinity of my life.

I don’t know how to stop it. Mostly I just listen to it, because it’s probably right. Not provably right, but probably.

I am a writer.

Are you sure? Name one writing thing you’re good at. Spoiler alert: it’s none of them.

It’s really bad right now. I don’t know how to make it shut up. Like always, I thought I was doing all right, but it was just gone on a daytrip, and it came back and settled in and now it won’t shut up.

I am a writer.

Really? When’s the last time you’ve written anything? Like a month ago? Wow. Some writer. I heard Real Writers write every day, no matter what. You must not be a Real Writer if that’s the kind of habits you keep.

Seriously, this is what the inside of my head is like. And this is just about one thing! I don’t know how to make it shut up or stop. I just live with it. I go to therapy, which only sometimes helps, and I take meds, which I know keeps my head above water at least. But for the most part, this is what I deal with.

I am a writer.

Have you written anything I’ve heard of? You’re not published at all? Some writer you are. I hear most writers your age have at least a few publications under their belt. And no, that stuff you did in college doesn’t count.

What am I supposed to do about it? I don’t know. I just let it wash over me, and most days, it keeps me away from the keyboard, because it convinces me that I’m no good and that I will never be any good, so what’s the point of trying. Even writing this is just a way to let it have its way with me, because that’s how depression is. I’m just pouring out the bad thoughts for everyone to see, and that still won’t stop them, because depression is like honey badgers: it don’t give a fuck.

I am a writer.

No, you’re not. You were wrong every time you wrote a story. Everyone who’s said they like your stuff (what little of it you’ve actually put out there) was lying. You shouldn’t have bothered today, or any other day, to write something down. This isn’t your passion or your calling or anything like that: it’s an excuse to be lazy, and a demonstration of your laziness. You don’t want to work hard for anything; you never have, and writing isn’t any different.

This is what my life is. Just listening to this awful voice. It’s hard to ignore, and easy to believe, because almost everything it says sounds right to me. It’s poisoned every part of me. I don’t know what to do. Except write this. And try to believe in something better.

I don’t know if it’s working.

I am a writer.

And I am not.

Advertisements

It’s the End of the Year, and Here We Are

With Christmas out of the way, it’s a nonstop careen to January 1. I thought I’d reflect on how my year went and what’s changed and what hasn’t, and so on and so forth.

This year didn’t quite go the way I expected. I quit my temp job in March, which I still feel some pangs of regret about. I got another temp job in May that only lasted a day because my anxiety got the better of me. But even if I’d stayed on (and not gotten fired) at the first job, I probably would have been laid off (which is basically getting fired, except it isn’t your fault) in the summer due to the off season, which I found from a coworker a few months ago.

I definitely did not hit all my goals for the year. I’m not going to get into it, but I set way too many high expectations for myself. I thought I would be good and productive, but instead my mental health gave me a kick in the butt and nothing went as planned.

Part of the mental health problems, it turned out, were due to me going off a medication that it turned out I, uh, REALLY needed to be on. I had a terrible couple weeks topped off with some suicidal thoughts, and then I got back on the med and things have been okay since. My meds have been steady and unchanged for a few months now, and my therapist and I are working on everything else.

I’m learning to be okay with what I don’t get done, and to be proud of what I do accomplish. I read twenty books this year. Yay! I’ve watched 40 movies. More yay! I wrote over 90,000 words! GO ME. I am learning to put things in perspective, and to set goals that are within my actual reach, as opposed to my hypothetical reach. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there, I think. Bit by bit.

I suppose my mental health makes up a big chunk of what I did this year. I fell and got back up and tripped a few more times, but I am making progress. Just not in the ways I thought I would, and not in the areas I originally believed I would. I didn’t play a lot of video games, or watch a lot of television this year. But that doesn’t matter. I still did some things. And that’s what really matters.

I wanted to stretch this out a bit longer, but I’m not sure if I can. I have made progress, and I want to keep making progress in the new year. I want to do things, but within my scope. It sounds ridiculous and counter-intuitive to say that I want to limit myself to what I can do, but when I put so much weight on the things I get done, it’s almost a necessity.

I’m going to do things in the new year. Not more, hopefully not less, but just enough. Just a Goldilocks kind of year, if that makes sense. This year past had its ups and downs, but I think I’ve made progress, and with any luck, I’ll keep moving forward in the weeks and months to come.

Thankful.

My family, for loving and supporting me.

My friends, for being there.

My mental health team, for helping me be better.

Other things, too.  My freedom to dissent, to believe or not believe. My abilities in a variety of areas. My pets.

A lot of things to be thankful for.

So It Turns Out Getting Your Sh*t Together is Hard

It’s been a month, almost exactly, since I outlined my plan here to get my collective shit together and start acting like a productive person for once in my life. This mostly revolved around schedules and keeping to them, and… well, it’s a month later, and suffice to say it’s all kind of fallen apart. Whoops?

Part of the problem is that you can’t really schedule your life. There are always going to be things getting in the way of your schedules, and rolling with the punches is harder than it looks. You need to know about all the spontaneous things in advance, which kind of defeats the purpose of spontaneity. So I’ve had more off-schedule days than on. Part of it is things like day trips and family dinners getting in the way of things. The other part is that it turns out I’m not good at keeping to a schedule.

It’s funny. I was always so punctual in school, and I continue to be punctual and semi-organized in my adult life–just not with personal projects. I was reading up a storm the first part of September, and then, as the schedule fell apart, so did the reading. Ditto writing (well, let’s be real, that never got on track). If someone else or some other entity (like Failure) is holding me to a schedule, I will keep to it almost religiously. If I’m holding myself to it? Eh, whatever.

I wish I knew why my brain operated like this. I don’t care enough to get things done, but somehow I care enough to guilt myself about the things I don’t do. I want to have a finished short story by the end of next month, and here it is nearly October, and I don’t even have a first draft yet. I have a pile of books all due in a few weeks at the library, half of which I’ve renewed, and one of which I’ve actually renewed twice. I wanted to have the first three rows of the afghan done by the end of this week, but sewing the pieces together is such a chore that I keep putting it off. I don’t understand myself and my actions. I don’t understand how I can visit the same six sites online over and over for hours at a time, but concentrating on writing something for thirty minutes is an enormous difficulty.

These are probably things I could address with my therapist. Hmm.

The fact that I’m trying to introduce new things like exercise isn’t helping. I can barely do the three things I mainly want to get done, and now I’m putting new shit on the list? What am I, crazy? Yes, as it turns out, I am. Just not a productive kind of crazy. I want to make things happen, but I’m not sure how, and I’m really not sure how to hold myself accountable at all. I’ve started a writing accountability thread on my writing group’s forum, and it’s going fairly well so far, but that’s about it. And it doesn’t cover all the other things like exercise and knitting and reading books.

Nevertheless, I suppose it’s a credit to me that I keep trying anyway. I’m going to exercise here in a little bit, and I am hoping to sit down and binge-watch The Handmaid’s Tale while I sew afghan pieces together. Never mind writing and reading. Where do all the hours in the day go? I got up at 4am (AGAIN) this morning; why haven’t I accomplished more?

I think part of my problem is that I feel like I have to do All the Things every day forever. I can’t be okay with just doing Some of the Things. They ALL must be done, no matter what. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for the spontaneity of life, for example, or for bad things happening, like my cat dying. I need to focus on what I am capable of doing, day by day, and work things out from there.

Now I just need to convince my overachiever brain of all that. Definitely a task for my therapist, then.

I’ll be working on it, and I guess I’ll keep you all updated. For now, what do you do to balance what you need to do with what you want to do? How do you get things done instead of just sitting around online in all your free time? Let me know.

An untitled post about losing a pet.

We had to euthanize my cat, Lily, yesterday. It was the right thing to do. We’d found out a couple months back that she had cancer, and unfortunately we couldn’t afford surgery to remove the tumor. So the tumor grew, and Lily shrank, until her belly was gone and you could feel her vertebrae when you pet her. She walked unsteadily, climbed carefully, and lost a lot of the fire she’d had when she was healthy. No more picking fights with the other cats, just… sleeping and cuddling.

This might have all been okay, if not for the fact that she was only seven years old.

We have two senior cats: Norman is 15 or 16, and Smokey (who due to her anxiety lives in my room with me) is about 14. It’s funny, because I would have been almost okay with this happening to either of them. It would have been understandable if one of the older cats had gotten sick and enfeebled. But no. It was the middle-aged cat, and it was just so goddamn unfair.

We knew pretty much from the diagnosis that euthanasia was going to be the end for Lily. As she got sicker, the death date drew ever closer. Last week we were saying it would probably be this week. And even just a couple days ago, we were saying it would be this week. And then yesterday it was sort of decided: it was going to be yesterday. And I was… okay with it, almost. I tend to be unfeeling and strange when it comes to death. The last two pets we had to say goodbye to were elderly and sick, and I didn’t cry when they went to the vet for the last time.

But Lily was different. We got her as a kitten on May 19th, 2010, I think? I would have to check my journals for the exact date, but that seems right. I was still in university, having just finished my first year away. The daughter of one of Mom’s coworkers had a cat who had just had kittens, and we had put one of our much older cats to sleep several months before. Mom wanted another cat, because we only had two at the time. So the daughter brought the kittens to the office after work one day (I worked in the same office, scanning papers), and we picked out Lily.

She was sweet and playful. She hit it off with Norman right away, but unfortunately did not get along with Smokey, who wanted to be left alone when Lily wanted to play. But she was a nice cat. She grew into a large, beautiful kitty. She didn’t really like being picked up or handled very much, and hardly ever purred for us humans, but she did sometimes purr for me. Her fur was soft as anything, and on her belly was a gorgeous patch of fluffy orange fur.

She was a good cat, for all that she was something of a bully (she was much larger than Smokey, and when we took in a litter of feral kittens, she turned up bigger than them as well). I loved her. I thought she was sweet, when she wanted to be, and isn’t that always the way with cats?

So finding out she had cancer was a blow. And realizing, yesterday, that I would never see her again, never coax her into purring, never give her the chin scritches she loved so well… hurt. I cried a lot. Sending her with my dad to the vet hurt, and I went from having an okay day to being miserable because I had lost a friend.

I’m doing better today. I’m probably going to talk about this in therapy next week. I have to remember not to let this ruin my week. But it hurts. It hurts in an awful way, and I just wish I knew what to do with all this pain.

I know we did the right thing, but it still hurts, and it’s still unfair and awful.

I’ll get through it. Maybe in a few years, after our seniors have passed on, we’ll get another cat (we have five–Norman and Smokey, and three of the kittens we rescued). But for now, it hurts, and I just wish I knew what to do.

Lily
2010-2017
May you rest in peace

What’s Coming, What’s Going, and What I’m Doing About It

(By the way, let me know if these overlong post titles are getting a little too twee for you.)

Since my last post:

I have been doing fairly well overall with the schedule. It’s helped me get a lot of things done–I’ve finished a few books, and written at least 750 words every day (even if it’s more journal style writing than fiction writing). I’ve made progress on the afghan for my brother and SIL. Everything has been going well, and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I can’t say that I’ve managed to totally get my crap together, but I’m making a decent stab at it.

What’s Coming:

Remember that lonesome review of the Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour” that I posted back in January December?  Well, it’s hopefully very soon going to have some company. I haven’t yet written anything on further episodes, mostly because I need to rewatch them. But I am hoping to get that out of the way by the end of the weekend, and then I’ll settle down to review everything and carry on with what is probably my signature project at the moment. With Steven Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who coming to an end in December, I might as well get this overview of his time on the show completed, right? It’s just a matter of sticking to it. My schedule may need an edit to fit episode watching time in there.

I am also, bit by bit, getting ready to write more seriously. I do still have fanfic on the table, because I am not cruel enough to leave people hanging, but! I have been doing some research and reading on writing short stories, a format I have struggled mightily with in the past. I am hoping to have a short story of some kind or another completed by the end of October, whereupon… something. Will happen.

But for the time being, I am trying to set up a professional profile online. To that end: a Twitter! It’s set up under my real name (which is also on the About page of this blog if anyone’s ever cared to look there), and will hopefully be a landing spot for… things. I don’t know yet. Probably a lot of self-promotion is in my future.

Anyway.

What’s Going:

Well, depression, hopefully. I am doing much, much better in the mental health arena this week. I am hoping things will continue to improve, though my quality of sleep lately has kind of fallen. Luckily I’ve got an appointment with my meds manager in about a week and a half, so hopefully we’ll be able to sort something out.

Nothing much else other than that, though.

What I’m Doing About It:

I’m making schedules. I spend about every day ranting in 750 Words about what I’m going to do. I need to start putting my money where my mouth is and commit to getting things done other than reading and knitting and basically journaling. I am hoping to have a decent output of words in September. I will try to keep you all abreast of what’s happening in that arena, if nothing else.

I’m going to sit down and watch Series 5 of Doctor Who this weekend. I’m going to take notes and write reviews and get things ready for a flurry of posting in September.

I’m going to, in short, get my shit together. Won’t you join me on this magical journey?

One of These Days I’ll Learn Consistency: A Depression Story

So. I’m still alive.

The only surprise here is how bad I am at keeping up with this thing. When I started the new blog, I had all kinds of lofty ideas about keeping up with it. I’d do my Doctor Who reviews. I’d talk about movies. I do all KINDS of things. But here we are, nearly halfway through the year, and I can about count the number of entries I’ve made this year on two hands. At least that’s how it feels.

There aren’t any really acceptable excuses. Especially since I’ve been out of work for three months. And I can’t make time to write a blog post every week? Really? It makes me feel kind of pathetic, but I’m trying to work on not beating myself up about things anymore. Specifically, about not doing All the Things. It’s okay to not do everything you set out to do.

And yet I continue to hold myself to impossible, lofty standards. I wish I knew where to stop.

I feel like I should just give up. No more blog, no more nothing. Just sit around like a lump, because you’re not good for anything else.

Which is a lie depression tells me. I have to remind myself of that. It’s hard, though.

I have all the time in the world, but I don’t use it wisely. I just sit around refreshing the internet so I can consume more content, instead of making something for a change. This is something I say to myself a lot, but don’t do anything about. I could make things, but I choose to just consume them. But at the same time, I’m not acknowledging that making stuff can be hard sometimes, and that it’s okay to take things in. That’s what books and movies are all about, and I can’t imagine my life without those.

I just wish I could make more than I take in. I wish I could post here more often without feeling like an awkward cad. But it’s all a matter of consistency, which is something I’ve proven to be very, very bad at.

Oh well.

Forget it, Jake. It’s the internet.

General Life Update No. 2

Hello. Been a while, hasn’t it? I assure you that I haven’t evaporated, but my life has been in a slight upheaval the last couple of weeks, hence the not-posting.

I quit my job last week, for one. It was changing to something I wasn’t comfortable with (something more high-stress and thus probably panic-attack-inducing), so. Yeah. Hopefully the temp agency will find me another placement soon.

I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been doing a lot of stuff, because my life has (once again) been taken over by a new video game. This time it’s the latest in the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons series, Trio of Towns. I’ve already made it to year 2 in-game and I’m having a lot of fun. There are goals to meet and so on so it’s keeping me entertained. I think I’m probably playing it a little too much, but oh well. At least I’m having fun.

I haven’t been doing a lot of things, to be honest. I almost don’t want to do a mid-month report on my goals because I feel like I’ve done next to none of them. At first it was because I didn’t have time due to my job and its weird hours, and now it’s just because I’m lazy.

…I’m probably being too hard on myself.

Things: I have seen one and a half movies this month. Half because I got too disgusted with the new Beauty and the Beast to sit through it to the end. You might want to expect a rant on that subject in the near future. If I can convince myself that being angry for the hour or so needed to bang it out is worth the stress.

Nevertheless, I am still here. I will be posting again soon. I hope.

Bullet Journal Beginnings

This past weekend I bought, as I am wont to do, a notebook. The notebook turned out to be unlined, dashing my hopes of making it a gaming diary. And then I had a thought, and that thought was, “Why don’t I try my hand at a bullet journal?”

This is not the place to come if you want an explanation of what a bullet journal is, and how to make one. For that I recommend bulletjournal.com and maybe also this Buzzfeed article, and Boho Berry’s Bullet Journal 101 series. I think I’ve got a handle on what it is and what I can do with it, but only just. It’s basically a journal-slash-planner thing. You create yearly, monthly, and even weekly overviews, which you use fill in with tasks and events and appointments. Then you keep a daily log, which you use bullets of different styles to fill in so you know what you’re looking at with a glance. The daily log can be a to-do list, but it’s also where you can record notes and thoughts and quotes and basically anything you can think of. I’ve fiddled with the format for a few days and I’m really enjoying it.

What I’m really drawn to is the customizability of the bullet journal. It doesn’t have to be a straight planner/journal. You can use it to track all kinds of things. In my soon to be personal bujo (the popular abbreviation for it), I’m planning pages to track my daily habits, my spending, and even a little self-esteem log suggested by my therapist. I’m excited to get started on my bullet journal journey, even if I don’t half know what I’m doing.

I will own I’m also attracted to the pretty touches people add to their journals, which you can see if you take a traipse through the #bulletjournal tag on Instagram. I like the colored pens and markers, and the washi tape and fancy lettering. (I’ve even started doing some handwriting drills to make my lettering neater.) I’m not a very artistic person, but I’ve been told I have a decent design sense, so that’s something, isn’t it? At least I think it is. I’m willing to try anything out, and if I make a mistake, oh well. It happens.

All that said, what I’m really hoping to get out of the bullet journal system is consistency. I used to write journal entries every day. I did it for about seven years straight, almost never missing, and then my depression got the better of me and I stopped. I’ve tried to get back into it, but never been able to. The bullet journal seems to me a way to journal without worrying too much about time commitments; it only takes about ten minutes to fill out bullets of what I did today, and what I plan to do tomorrow, plus any notes along the way. More than anything, I hope my bullet journal journey gets me back in the habit of recording my days, so I don’t lose the memories of the fun stuff that happened.

Do you journal at all? Have you tried bullet journaling, or wanted to? Let me know in the comments below.

(Note: I start my proper bullet journal this coming Monday; I’ll be sure to share pictures after I’ve made it through my first week!)