Some of you who follow me on social may have noticed that over the past few months, I've been having a hard time. (I mean, who hasn't been right now?) Now that I'm feeling in a little more steady, grounded place I wanted to talk about this past almost year since this started.
I wish I could say for sure what triggered this depressive spiral, maybe it was the bad flare-up of my own imposter syndrome at DragonCon in 2016, maybe it was a change in the weather, maybe it was burn out. The truth is, I don't know what exactly happened. All I know is that starting in September of 2016, I started feeling off.
Now a lot of people have off days, and that's what I assumed was happening. Oh, I'm just really busy right now, things will get back to normal soon. I kept working, pushing past all those warning bells as all of my carefully built routines started falling apart.
I started sleeping only 3 or 4 hours a night despite laying in bed for 10 hours. I started eating nothing but junk. I stopped brushing my teeth. I had to force myself to shower. Eating became either a chore I was forced to do or a binge I couldn't stop. But still, I kept trucking right along. I had dreams to reach and dreams don't work unless you do, right?
Then in November things took a sharp turn (and I don't just mean from the election). I lost my ideas.
I'm not talking about writer's block, about not wanting to write, about not finding the right words or avoiding the page because I don't wanna. I mean that the river of ideas in my head dried up. I couldn't imagine anything. Instead of my usual daydreams of epic sword fights or daring rescues, all I could imagine was a barren field. Nothing grew, nothing reached out for me to create it.
I tried to keep writing but against this field of empty, I felt hopeless. I forced myself onwards, finished manuscripts by piecing together outlines, tried to make myself feel enough to write compelling characters. I didn't stop but I did reach out for help, kept going to therapy, started taking medication.
But nothing changed and when the new year hit, usually my favorite time of the year (I fricking love goal setting y'all), I just didn't care. I didn't want to set any goals. I couldn't even think of the future, everything was a gaping black nothing consuming everything and giving nothing.
I decided maybe I just needed a little break. I gave myself a week off... still, nothing returned. I tried to read but even that was a struggle. I could enjoy the flow of the words but even with some of the most vibrant prose, I couldn't see the story. It was like someone kept trying to play an empty film reel where the daydreams should be.
I wondered if maybe my time as a creative was done, that maybe I wasn't meant for making things, that I'd been wrong my whole life about what I loved and what I wanted to do.
But I kept quiet about it. Told absolutely no one (including my therapist, yeah I know) and kept faking along like everything was fine and that I had stuff on the back burner just waiting to be published.
I was ashamed of how broken and empty I felt. I've always prided myself on being a fast writer, on producing, on making content, on never having a shortage of things to do. I felt like if I didn't have that, then what did I have? Who was I really? Would any of my friends even like me if I couldn't write ever again? Had the past 20 years just been a fluke of creativity?
I've never not been able to at least daydream, never not been able to at least turn inwards for some ridiculous story with swords and magic. But this time, those daydreams left me too. It felt like a literal part of me had just packed up its bags and left in the dead of night. I didn't know how to function, who I was or what to do. I decided I would finish my 2017 conventions and then hang up my writing hat for good.
I believed that I wasn't able to create any more, that everything I was, was a lie and that I just hadn't been able to see it. Even as I was promising to write books for people, talking about my upcoming projects, I was making plans to leave the creative world. (Here's a big caveat here, when I say leave the creative world, that's exactly what I mean. I did not/do not have any intentions of harming myself.)
I wish I could say that then there was a big light bulb moment and the light and daydreams returned with a thunderous roar that swept me away. But it hasn't. I've been able to dig through the barren earth and force out a few things, with a lot of work, a lot of effort, and mainly a streak of stubbornness a mile wide and the depth of the Mariana Trench.
But y'all: today, I had an idea.
An honest to goodness idea. I hid in the bathrooms and wept because of this one, honestly kind of shitty, little idea. It's just one and it might be terrible but it's my terrible baby and if that trickle means that the well is starting to replenish then I will welcome it with open arms.
But the truth is, I'm not back. I'm not anywhere near 100% again, I'm maybe at 15% and for right now, I'm learning to be okay with that. It's hard because I like things to move quickly, I like to always be busy and right now I'm trying to learn that slow is okay too. There's no shame in taking a day to play a video game and do nothing productive. There's no shame in taking time to stretch and walk. There's no shame in not being able to be perfect all the time. I'm not a fast learner y'all so I'm still working on it.
So all this to say, hey, sorry that I was planning on quietly dropping out of the convention, writing world that I so dearly love, sorry about lying that things were fine and that oh yeah I'm totally writing that thing we talked about (don't worry John, I am for real writing that thing we talked about).
I'm putting this all out there because the worst part of all of this was how utterly alone I felt. I felt like I couldn't tell anyone, that no one would understand but that's not true.
I'm not alone and neither are you.