Welcome to the blog! Officially! Another statement made celebratory by the inclusion of exclamation points! Hype!
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve already had two posts here, so the blog already launched, right? Well, tough. I may not do things correctly, but I do get things done eventual—wait. That’s terrible. Let me start over.
Welcome to the new blog. I figured I’d kick off 2016 in the same positive vein that I ended 2015 with, but that requires stepping back. I mentioned in a previous post that I’d tell you what happened to my previous blog (Xero Should Be Writing), and I’d like to do that today. See, it ties directly into something I went through recently, and that I’m sure a lot of you out there are struggling with. Moreover, I want to tell you how I got through, and hopefully reach at least one of you out there who might read this. This is me offering a hand. Why? Simple:
The end of 2015 I fell apart completely due to mental illness, and I nearly destroyed everything in my life.
I promise you, this is a positive post. It’s a happy read. Trust me. I lived it. Read on.
What precisely happened? I’ll spare you the absolute to-the-minute play by play, but this does require some background. Let me set the stage for you. Our move back to Texas in July, though greatly anticipated, was . . . a disaster. There’s really no other way to describe it. The scenario as it played out was a complete clusterfuck souffle of broken expectations, disappointment, and all of it drowned in a sauce distilled from regret, financial worries, and a lack of anything positive in the immediate future. Season to taste, and by taste I of course mean pure farm-fresh ass.
My book sales were non-existent. Our new apartment was riddled with more problems than we’d ever had in the previous three years spent in a house that dated back to the 70’s. The two conventions I had gone to in 2015 had done absolutely nothing for boosting the stories I had churned out. Commissions tanked. Even the simple joy of biking for us was denied due to the heat and danger of Houston roads. We finally managed to get a car, but even that came with another slew of issues that neatly stacked themselves onto the already teetering Jenga Pile of Problems ™.
Now, any one of those issues alone is surmountable. Hell, even a combination of those issues is something that can be dealt with from a place of calm, rational thought in a healthy mind. As some of you—and certainly my friends and family—are aware, my mind’s many things. Healthy isn’t one of them. I suffer from depression and social anxiety. As I’ve stated before, neither of those are reasonable, let alone rational.
So, try to imagine what depression can do to any one of those problems individually, and as a whole. They’re magnified, stretched out, mutated, blended, and suddenly life as I know it had transmogrified into some creature that would make even Dr. Moreau say “Oh dear. That’s gone a bit too far, hasn’t it?”
There’s other things that had piled up from 2014 that I had not dealt with mentally as well. It all came to a head in September. I broke. I had a complete meltdown that lasted a week. I couldn’t go outside, or eat, or properly function. Grocery stores terrified me. The idea of being stuck like this was a recursive loop that only fed the monster. So, instead of healing, I broke again. And again. And yet again. I spent the majority of September through October either numb, screaming, or sobbing.
This is when the self-destruction started. I pulled down my blog. I deleted my Facebook fan page. I tore down my books from Lulu and Smashwords and Amazon. Only choice words from my wife prevented me from deleting my online art portfolio, personal Facebook page, and Twitter. I went radio silent in the social sphere for days at a time. I cut ties with some people. Others just left of their own accord. I was cutting away every single things that my addled mind was telling me was a source of hurt, but it only made things worse. I tried to put these feelings into context with an art entry to a contest, and then the fact that I didn’t even place was just more fuel on the depressive episode fire. I floundered at a writing job I had picked up, and then at a design job I was set to start working on for a friend. Both instances led to further breaking down of the morale.
I couldn’t cope with the simplest things. Just trying to play a game with my wife was enough to send me into a spiral of tears and screaming. I couldn’t be happy, I couldn’t maker her happy, and I couldn’t seem to do a thing to solve the situation. I couldn’t even do the one thing I loved: write stories to entertain. A couple of gigs at a voice-over studio during this time was followed by months of not being called in. Addled mind’s conclusion? “You suck at voice-over, and now you have nothing. No art, no writing, no music, no voice-over. You are a worthless shell and deserve to die. No wonder so many people won’t talk to you anymore.”
I believed my brain. Given how things were, I wanted to die. Of course, the brain was being a lying prick. That’s what depression is.
“Where’s the positive?” you may ask. “You promised us happy!” It’s coming. Honest.
To say that I was at my lowest was an understatement. I was so undone by this illness and circumstance that my own wife said to me “I just want my husband back.” Oof. Right to the core, and she was right to say so. For, whatever hell I was going through, she was being taken along for the ride and forced to watch the man she loved unravel. I had lost me. She nearly did in the permanent sense of the word.
We caught one lucky break, and it changed everything. It turned out that a prescription medication I had tried in the past, but had to stop due to its expense, had just gone the way of open season off-brand. To put that into perspective, that medication that had cost us over a hundred dollars a month to fill was now available to me for around ten bucks. Hell yes we jumped on that. I was willing to try anything just to get back even a tiny slice of sanity. This was in November.
It worked. I was, well not “me” again, but better. I was able to live without having to spend every hour fighting. It gave me breathing room and a place to build from.
So I went Minecraft on my waking days, and tried to build something better. The books went back up, this new blog was created, and I was at last in a mental place where I could be excited about what was coming rather than dreading the incorrect assumption that my future contained nothing but more slings and arrows, to quote The Bard.
I started posting daily affirmation tweets. You may have seen them. Sure, they’re a bit cheesy at times, but they’re from the heart. THIS is how we’re starting the day, and the day can’t do shit about it. You’re a badass. You’re a rockstar. Don’t forget that. Well, truth be told, they’re more for me than they are for you. Anyone who gets a grin from them is a happy bonus effect for me. I’m motivating myself, and hoping you’ll come along for the kickass way to start the day.
Simply put: I’m in a place where I’ve more control over my mental state, and so I’m choosing to embrace at least one positive idea each morning that I get up to work. Like the medication, it’s done wonders
But here’s the thing, before you go assuming that this is just a subversive advertisement for psychological pharmaceuticals and their uses: The price change was the lucky break, but more importantly was my willingness to get help. Any help. I made the decision to look up and take the offered hand rather than accept things as they were. That, and that alone, IS EVERYTHING. It’s the small, flickering, and immeasurably valuable idea that you have another day in you, and that that day is worth trying for.
Maybe you’re where I was. Right now. Maybe you’re heading that way. Maybe you already did, and survived it. Whatever the status you’re currently rocking, this is for you. This is the hand that’s offered to you, my fellow geeks and freaks and nerds and undecided out there, who are fighting the worst battles ever against yourselves. Your brain is lying to you. I’m here to drop some truth to shore up your defenses.
You are worthwhile. You are loved. You are valuable. But, most importantly, I need you to believe in the idea that you have “one more day” in you. Every single day, you will have “one more day” in you. Or an hour. Or a minute. Whatever it takes to get you through. From that tiny piece of hopeful reality, you CAN build something better. You CAN get help, and know that it’s not because you are weak, or broken, or built wrong.
It can be medication, exercise, friends, a counseling line—free or at cost, there are more ways out there for you to get a hand up than your mind will allow you to see. See it. Know it. Accept it. ONE MORE DAY. Be willing to accept that help, and build slowly up from that. You are a rockstar, a badass. You’ve survived this long, and though you have suffered you are still here. That’s not weakness. That’s the stuff that fucking SUPERHEROES are made of. If you’re reading this, right now, you are a survivor of a mental war of attrition. You’re a veteran of the depression trenches. You are owed the highest of fives.
And I’m giving it. Here. Now. Tomorrow. The day after. ONE MORE DAY, always. Every morning you are here is another high-five from me to you.
If you can just envision that idea, and focus on it, then there’s nothing your brain can do or say to unmake you. This is you taking some measure of control back. You’re at the helm now, and perhaps you can finally see that there’s more to be had, if only tomorrow. That’s your one more day. That’s the beginning. That is everything. Three little words; a mantra that becomes a triumphant choir backing your impending victory fanfare.
But, as they say, “That’s all up to you.”
Because, while I can’t tell you what will help you the most in your personal struggle, I’m living proof that the struggle isn’t eternal. It can be fought through, and it can be remedied, even in part. That’s worth pushing through again, isn’t it? Trust me: it really, truthfully is worth it. YOU are worth it. What works for me may not work for you, beyond that slim hope you have to seize in both hands.
But just because we may not be wearing the same shoes doesn’t mean we’re not walking this path together.
You’re not alone on this journey. I’m damn honored to have you as company. I’ll see you tomorrow, rockstar.