I didn’t plan to take a six-month writing hiatus. It just sort of happened. Fear and self-doubt are lethal to writing, you see, and when you add in depression, it’s a cocktail for disaster. And not just in writing.
I started having trouble in August. I spent days before my laptop paralyzed and panicked whenever I opened up my WIP. So I avoided it. I caught up on some Netflix, cruised around the internet, and slept. Anything that wasn’t writing. September carried on much the same. I had a weekend where I felt like writing, but I quickly slipped back into my habits of avoidance when I didn’t make the progress I wanted. I avoided other things I liked too, like singing in choir and reading. And I avoided people. No one really cared or noticed, or at least, that’s what I told myself.
By October, I didn’t even miss writing. I started to think maybe I should call it a quits. I mean, who am I to think I’ll ever get published? So far, writing has been nothing but a waste of time. All the things I have in the works are so far from being finished. This dream is impossible. Better to give up and face the inevitable now than waste more time. Not that time matters. I’ve wasted so much of my life, there’s not a point to salvaging what is left of it, not really.
Anyone who knows me well knows that when I stop writing, something is wrong. I wanted to think that it was a conscious choice, that I was giving up because I didn’t want to write anymore, but hadn’t quite accepted my choice or grown brave enough to tell my friends. Then I realized it wasn’t a choice about writing that I was struggle with, it was the monster in my head. Again. I wasn’t writing because I was fighting the same battle I seem to fight every fall.
I wasn’t “officially” diagnosed with depression until three years ago. I don’t tend to tell people or talk about it. I’ve never been that brave. I guess I’m afraid people will look at me differently if I do, that they will see how breakable I am underneath the tough-and-together mask I tend to wear. I mean, how can a girl who looks so together be a crumbling, suicidal bunch of nerves beneath that smile? Surprisingly easily, it turns out.
Octobers are bad for me. They have been ever since five years ago. I was living alone for the first time in my life, recovering from the flu and working a job I hated at nights, barely sleeping during the daytime. There were warning signs before that. I had had bouts of not wanting to do anything and hating everything, mostly myself, in college. I had had angry emotional outburst since high school when what I felt became too much for me to keep hidden anymore. I had tried counseling twice, and it seemed to help a little, but I never stuck with it long and tended to lie about my feelings because I didn’t want the counselors to judge me or tell me I was defective. After all, I had no reason to be unhappy. Nothing bad had ever happened to me, therefore, I was being “bad” asking for help and attention when I didn’t really need it.
Anyway, this particular October five years ago was worse than the miserable months before them. I was alone. I felt like shit. I hadn’t been able to sleep or write with any success for weeks. And, well, the thought popped into my head that it would be a good idea to take an entire bottle of Benadryl. I wouldn’t feel bad anymore then, and I’d be able to finally freaking sleep. Fortunately, I didn’t take the Benadryl. The thing that made me go to the doctor for help, oddly, was my cat. She was still a kitten, and I felt horrifically guilty at the thought of leaving her alone. Having her probably saved my life.
I finally asked for help after that. And I got help, even if though it took two more years before I actually received a diagnosis rather than being told it was “just situational.” But asking for help didn’t kill the monster.
Like clockwork, every October, the monster inside encourages me to embrace oblivion, and I have to find a way to fight. I’ve done better since that first October, finding the right counselor and taking medication to help with the worst of the symptoms and talking more openly with friends about my feelings. I honestly think all of things are why I’m still alive right now. All the same, it’s a fight, and it’s exhausting. And I’m learning, slowly, that keeping silent hurts more than it helps.
Now it’s February. The monster is back in its cage. The promise of spring has me buoyed up with dreams. And I’m writing again. More importantly, I want to write again. I want to do so many things.