Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stories (The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, The Mirror)

So, weirdly, my depression seems to have done something to my writing. Not sure, to be honest, if it's a positive thing or a negative thing. A couple weeks ago, I was talking about how depression doesn't actually give you any self-knowledge, which is a bit of an oversimplification. Whenever I slide back into the depths of Relapse Hell, something has to break before I can climb back out again. Last time, I was able to use this knowledge to haul myself back out. This time, the thing that I learned about myself is every bit as unattainable as I believed it was when I went in. I don’t know what to do with that knowledge. But it seems, I am doing something anyway.

Ordinarily, when I sit down to write, this is what happens.
Omg why is this story in my head so good? I cannot get this down.
There. I have written it and it’s awful. I wish there was somewhere like an idea repository you could dump things so someone less crap then me could do this.
It’s not fair. I don’t want to do this.
I hate this. It’s awful. Why do people tell me I’m so good?

Lately, all of that’s been happening, as normal. And then, in this very calm voice, the same calm that scares me at night and tells me that it’s never going to happen, and I should just give up, goes,

It’s not like it matters, anyway. Just do it. Just do it and suck. If nobody cares, at least nobody cares if you suck.

Which makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure that it’s a positive feeling. But it’s been a nearly a month, and I’m still writing, nearly every day. (Okay, so I haven’t quite built up to every day. But whatever. Words are getting posted, and I no longer want to die. I am taking this as a win.)

So. Words are coming out, and I don’t feel like I hate the words less. But I feel like I’m probably always going to hate the words, or at the very least, I’m always going to wish I wasn’t the one writing the thing. I think that might be a part of me. It’s a part of me that makes me long for the days when I was young and could read back what I’d written and see how young and untried I was, but also see potential. It makes me wish I’d never learned to read critically, which is almost blasphemy. It is, at least, a part of me that’s loosening the reins a little bit. It’s also why I love to write in different genres. There are certain things I can’t take seriously, and I’m learning to forgive myself that. I remember Stephen King once offered a room full of would-be writers the advice to read crap, so at least you can comfort yourself with the fact that you are at least better than that, and that was published. I feel like right now, I’m taking a bit of a different approach.

I just finished reading the latest Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean At The End of the Lane. I’m not going to review it, never fear. I do not think I could adequately or critically express how brilliant it is, other than to say, “It’s Neil Gaiman. Go read it.” But Gaiman is one of those authors who is so brilliant it doesn’t make me feel bad about whatever I’m doing. Because telling yourself you want to be that good some day is the same as little Ally writing stuff that makes the adult Ally smile, and cringe and still see the potential. It’s the equivalent to buying your first home and realizing you will never be wealthy enough to own a castle. Of course, it would be nice to have a castle, or even to have a home as big as you’d like. But it’s not going to happen. Somebody else is there, and there is no way I am that. And weirdly, I am fine with that. I hate the fact that I might never write something as popular as Stephanie Meyer has written, and that might be seen as a reflection of my skills. And I’m terrified it might even be a reflection of my skills, and it’s that terror that makes me hate everything I’ve ever written. I am aware of the problem. But then. There are writers who have somehow set the bar so high, I don’t ever want to even reach for it. And that knowledge is somehow a lot more comforting to me than, “I can do better than that.” The knowledge that it’s not just that I can’t be the best. It’s that I can decide I don’t want to be. It strikes something deep and visceral inside me. I don’t want to be the best. I just want to tell stories.

Put like that, why the hell not?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Square one, all over again

One of the awful things about recovery is that the essential goal is to get back to where you were before the depression hit, which is an idiotic goal. Because most of the time, wherever you were, is gone, and you have to sort of chase it for a while before you catch up to it, and the rest of the time, you get there, and everybody else is somewhere else.

This blog is a good example of that. I started this blog, and I honestly didn't expect it to be read. But then, quite quickly, I accidentally stumbled onto something people were reading about, and then people were reading me. And that was really exciting, and sort of weird, and I wasn't sure that I was ready for that yet, certainly I was unprepared for it. And I kept at the writing as often as I could while trying to write the other things I wanted to write, which was really difficult, and then school started up again, and that got out of hand busy and life got in the way again, and then... depression.

My depression tends to start up in waves, which crest at a certain point, and get very bad, and then dissipate, unless something happens. In this case, something did, and the storm broke directly over my head for months. But going back over my notes, things I was writing (also things I was not writing) and various conversations I was having, I had been getting steadily sicker for months. Not sure why. It`s just, as a dear friend says, "the nature of the beast." This particular episode was exacerbated by many personal issues, but it had been coming, if I had slowed down a bit, and watched the signs. I know that. I would have known it sooner, had I been paying attention.

But other people, unfortunately, don't know that. I'm starting to realize that whatever happened a few months ago has never actually happened for them. I don't mean that some people don't experience depression, that's not exactly news. I mean some of them, even though they're aware that I have depression, or even when they've seen some of the symptoms of depression in me, what happened to me is something some people in my life, even those who have known me my whole life, had no way of suspecting was even there.

I see it in the way my mother treats me differently now, how when I talk about the future, sometimes it feels like she's trying to talk me out of it, as if my future is too much for me to handle right now.

How everybody tells me not to worry so much now, but they say it differently than they used to.

How when I tell someone I had one nap today, and they say "good" they actually mean it with relief.

How my mother works into every conversation, "have you eaten today?"

How I don't know who to call when things go wrong anymore, because I don't know how to say "this sucks right now." and have it not be taken as "I am standing on the ledge, again."

I don't mean to sound poor me about this. It's the fallout for a major depressive episode. It's just the fallout has never been this bad for me, or for anyone I love. I don't know what to do to show them that I'm getting better, except apologize over and over for what I have been, and what I've made them sit through and watch. Having been the comparatively healthy person while someone else walked along that ledge, I know how much I've hurt people and let them down in the last few months. I'm not exactly pleased with myself.

But I'm still recovering, and it's an annoyingly long process, and for someone like me, born with zero patience, and a hundred and one things to do in the world, it doesn't suck for anyone more than it sucks for me. I'm frustrated, impatient, and not sure how to transition to normal feeling bad anymore.

Which is a weird thing to say, apparently. It reminds me a bit of how I felt when I was first diagnosed, except in reverse. Then, I was anxious to show that I was getting better, and it was difficult to prove to people that the person they knew was just the result of symptoms of the illness, but working through those symptoms, and the several years people had to get comfortable with that person, had been near impossible. I had made strides, but  the changes didn't really occur until college. And well. We all know how that went. Now, I'm doing the same thing again, but I'm also struggling through having to explain to people that I can be both "a happy person" as my mother has always described me, and "a person with depression." That both of those things are a part of me, have always been a part of me, and are part of what makes the depression so difficult and also sometimes easier, is not an easy thing to explain, especially in the wake of the hell my loved ones have been forced to witness, thanks to me.

But here I am, in a new city, with a whole slew of new experiences coming up (more on that later) and hoping against all hope that it will make the difference again, only to go a little better this time. I'm writing regularly, and taking it much slower, and feeling much happier about it. And maybe I'm glad to have another shot at this.

If ever, that is, I can manage to get it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More About Depression - Writing

Apparently, this is not how other people do this.

When the howling gets too much for other writers, they write things down until the howling stops.

It's funny, but I think because I never wrote when I was depressed when I was a kid, I cannot write the depression away. I was never about hiding in other worlds. What I really wanted, was to drag someone else into these worlds. I didn't mind if they were kicking and screaming, to be honest. My little brother was the first person to be dragged into the stories, and he never really seemed to mind. In fact, we still talk about them, and they are still the easiest fodder I reach for, when I don't have anything to write. But I wanted there to be other people.

I have a medical condition that means I can't tell lies. It's a combination of the anxiety and persistent negative thoughts, my being non-neurotypical, and home training. But I was able to tell stories. I was able to draw people, to explain to them who I was, without having to convince them it was real, and that's what I did. I drew people in. Sometimes, I forgot, and lost touch with the fact that the me that existed in my head, could only exist in my head. And then I was lonely all over again.

It's part of the reason I wanted to write films instead of writing. I wanted to be around people who wanted to tell stories, and I wanted to know if they were anything like me. It's something I still struggle with. I've never been the kind of person who needed constant validation from others. I know that I do things differently, so I don't often hold myself up to other people's standards.It was never that I wanted to be like other people, so much as I wanted other people to be more like me. Which, I swear, is not as conceited as it sounds. Most of the time, when it was felt I couldn't do things, the reason was always because other people didn't. To me, it seemed "other people" must be very sad.

I think that's probably why I still struggle with the idea of self-publishing. Even though it feels like something I really want to do, what with being a control freak, and all. But there's so much that I could get wrong, it's such a minefield, and most importantly, it means that I'm the only person who can help me. It's a bit scary.

I'm not doing great on the move thing. So one of the first things I've decided to do is to join a writer's group. I'm hoping it'll help with the ABSOLUTE HATRED OF EVERYTHING I WRITE, and possibly offer me the advice needed to keep going. Failing that, it will at least give me an excuse to talk shop!

If anyone else wants to give me feedback on something I'm working on

I'd love it.

Been a rough week on the recovery front. But I'll get there.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Which I Don't Know Where I Am But I Am Here

 (content warning: This post goes into some seriously heavy stuff about my recent experience with mental illness, and other not-pretty things. If you're sensitive to any of that stuff, you may want to skip this.)

Hello, Internet.

Stuff has happened.

It's been a long time, Internet, and I feel incredibly guilty about that. The truth is, I have been avoiding this blog, because for some time I have felt that it was taking away from the fiction writing I have been wanting to do. And then I was avoiding this blog because I had no time to write anything ever. And then.

And then, Internet, the bottom sort of fell out of my world. I am currently coming off a four-month depression relapse. I won't bore you with details, but it was bad. Bad enough that there was the all-concerning Plan that doctors, counselors and psychiatrists ask you if you have, during particularly long episodes. Bad enough that I had to move houses and quit my job and am now living on ODSP with no cushion and am scared out of my mind, but I HAD to go, because things were just bad, and they weren't getting any better, and I was going to the Terrible Scary Place more often then I was doing human things like eating and sleeping. Bad enough that for the first time in my life I was eating to SURVIVE, rather than because I was hungry, or because a particular thing looked tasty. I was actually eating a meal a day, purely in order to function, because I could not summon up the emotional energy required to actually ENJOY food. I was hospitalized for a six-hour long dissociative episode. My mother was on suicide watch. I refused to allow the kids to even talk to me on the phone, let alone to visit because I was afraid of the awful things I would say to them, because I could not filter anything, and everything inside me was ugly.

We don't really talk about depression like we should. We are aware, I think, that depression affects many, many people, and that it is not the same thing as sadness, and these things are important to know, but they don't convey what happens, I mean what REALLY happens. For me, depression is like I am a little kid being lost in a supermarket. Five minutes ago, my life was fine, everything was familiar and everyone I loved was right there with me. But now it's not, and they're not, and I'm not sure how to get back to that place, because I never really know what I've done to lose it in the first place. And that's a really awful and scary thing, to know that because of some chemical trick being played on me, sometimes I feel bad for no reason, and sometimes there is a reason, and I never really know which it is, and worse, neither does anyone else. And then, Oh. And then.

I think the hardest part about that kind of depression is the amount of love and support I get. Growing up, my depression and my anxiety were mine to deal with and now, they are mine and my mother's. My brothers and sisters, all of whom struggle with it in some form or another, just aren't available to care. Which may actually be a blessing, because there are times, during that period, where you actually wish you were loved less, so people would stop telling you they know you're going to get better. Because the hardest, the absolute worst thing about depression? Is not the pain you're in. It's when the pain goes away.

For the first few weeks of a depression relapse, I am always in a great deal of pain. It's all very visible, and visceral, and noticeable, I start sleeping 20 hours a day, I either refuse food, or eat whatever is available. I take the dogs on shorter walks because I don't want to be seen by anyone trying to be nice to me. And I cry. Oh my Goddess I cry all the time over everything. And then, slowly, it goes away. It's a funny thing, about depression. There's this idea that even though we know depression is an illness, not a sadness, we still imagine it as being sad. It's not like that. When I am happy, I am aware that I have been sick, I have been depressed, and I remember that that hurt, that it was scary and it was bad and I don't want to go back there. But I don't actually know how it feels. I am wrapped in cotton wool and nothing I feel is real, and I barely feel anything at all most of the time. I am not part of the world. Happiness, however, is a vibrant and alive thing. So while I am depressed, I remember every single second of what it was to be happy, everything I had and lost, and I don't know where it is, or how I lost it, and what if I never get it back? People keep reassuring me it's there, but they are the same people who reassured me that I was so happy, while I was happy, and how could I have been, when this has always been there?

I find it's a common attitude among particularly young writers to sneer at a happy ending as taking the easy way out. I always had a darkly private giggle over that. Having been undiagnosed til I was 17, I can still say with some certainty I have been dealing with some form of depression and/or anxiety from probably eleven years old. I'm always curious as to who and where these people are that their happiness had an easy answer. My own has been so hard-won, and often, much too fleeting. There is, of course, a part of me that understands that conflict makes a story, but there's still something off about the glamorizing of misery that goes on. I don't mean people shouldn't be writing sad books, or making sad movies. I mean the fetishist that says, "I like sad things because they are more real." Sad has never felt like a real thing to me. Most of the time, sad is a trick of my brain chemistry, out of proportion to who I am and how I feel, usually brought on by nothing, and offering nothing in return for what it takes. In real sadness, you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and try not to let it happen again. In depression, you pick yourself up, slowly crawl back to the world, and hope the monsters won't find you again. Another version of this is that I hate the number of people who feel that my disability have made me a stronger person, not because I don't think it has, but because I don't know why I'm supposed to be so strong when so many aren't. Is it just so that I have space inside me to be more unhappy then they do? Why would I need that, if I didn't have the thing that made me so 'strong' in the first place?

After I got out of the hospital, I stopped writing. That was a conscious decision. I had been through a rough patch, was unsure if I wanted to write anymore, at all, and that was scary to think about, because as I have previously discussed, writing has never been about what I do. It's who I am. But I gave it up. For two weeks. Then I wanted to get back to it. I missed it. I had things I wanted to do, and there are things I feel like need to be written, because they should exist, and they don't yet. I sat down to write. And promptly started screaming.

I've had panic attacks while writing before, fear of failure that creeps up without warning, makes it hard to breath, and I have to go sit in the other room AWAY from the computer for a while. This was not that. I stared at the blank doc for twenty minutes, and cried, and then I screamed. I screamed how much I hate myself, how much I hate doing this thing. How it was the only thing I ever had or ever would have. How I didn't even know who I was anymore, and how I hated that everything inside me meant so much, and so little of it was real. How I am never going to be the person I wanted to be, and nobody was even bothered by that, except me, and that meant that I am apparently the only opinion in my own life that doesn't matter. And that went on for another six weeks. Six weeks of being cut off from what mattered most to me, after nearly four months of alienating my entire family.

I don't know what to say about all that now. Things have slowed down. My world has started righting itself, but it has taken on a very different shape from what it was, and, I think, so have I. I don't know if it's a good shape or not. I mentioned above about depression never offering anything for what it takes. Last time I was in this bad a shape, I had a similar moment of suddenly knowing the truth about who I was and what that meant, and how people saw that, and how that mattered. It was not a good moment, for me, but it was an important one. I think this is another of those. I think. I don't know yet. I think the reason writing has made me angry was not, as I guessed, because it too had nothing to offer me, because that could never be true, but because I was angry about having so little to offer it. It is indeed a poor workwoman who blames her tools, isn't it? And Goddess help me, but I think maybe. Just maybe. I can do better. I don't know that, mind you.

But I'm still here. And I'm still doing this thing.