Category Archives: Mental Health
Last Friday the doctors freed my wrist from its prison. It’s only been a few days but I can already feel the difference in my psyche. I’ll be wearing it to bed for another two months, which is a cakewalk at this point.
I’ve already seen an increase in productivity–though it may be imagined because I’m happier–but it’s going to take me a while to get back into my routine. I never managed to finish my edits of Moonshadow’s Guardian, which is my first priority this month after paid work.
It’s going to take me a while to get back into my routine. My wrist is in a particularly fragile state after a month of disuse, and I’m still battling the depression that came with the splint. Unfortunately this means I won’t be returning to my full posting schedule right away. Instead I’m going to commit to one weekly post on Wednesdays updating everyone on my recovery and my editing progress.
This week, however, I have a couple exciting things in store for you. Tomorrow Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA will be joining us for a lovely interview and on Friday I’ll be participating in the SheWulf Whirlwind tour by Novel Publicity. I hope you’ll enjoy these posts while waiting for me to hit my stride again.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s still reading. I know it’s hard to bear with a blogger who only posts occasionally; they fall to the back of your mind and sometimes end up completely forgotten. The sporadic appearance of posts is difficult to track. I understand, and it means a lot to me that many of you have chosen to stay loyal readers while I go through this. Dealing with tendonitis has been a long and difficult journey for me and everyone’s thoughtful comments have made it easier. To me, there’s nothing more amazing than knowing that all of you–most of whom I’ve never met in person or talked with on the phone–actually care enough to read what I have to say.
Thank you for all your support.
For the last five years, I’ve struggled with wrist pain. Multiple trips to doctors years apart yielded no results–they just told me to put some ice on it and take Ibuprofen, even when I told them I’d already tried that. The response was something along the lines of “well, go home and try it some more”.
Well, after years of jumping through hoops, I joined up with a health clinic–on a quest to get the free dental service for youth offered there–and lo and behold, the doctor there realized I have a serious problem and sent me to a hand clinic. The hand specialist decided I have tendonitis instead of carpal tunnel (what a relief *rolls eyes*) and sentenced me to wearing a splint on my left wrist for a month.
Now, I’ve dealt with pain in my wrist for years. I’ve had several one or two month periods where I didn’t do anything more than homework and blogging–and occasionally not even blogging–to soothe my wrist. Although the pain has grown more consistent over the years, I’ve kept the worst of it away through ice, stretches and occasionally painkillers. I’ve managed to slow down, if not reverse, the progress of the tendonitis. It took four and a half years to go from occasional searing pain to daily pain.
Although it is helping with the pain, wearing the splint in some ways is worse. I am left handed and being unable to write with pen has completely undermined my brainstorming, plotting and scheduling. I created my daily to-do lists on paper. I created my worlds on paper. I planned my novels, short stories and even blog posts on paper. Having to do without is crippling. Since putting the brace on, I’ve felt depressed and uninspired. I’ve stopped carrying a notebook for the time being because I can’t use it.
While I’m glad they’re taking my problem seriously now, I’m angry because they chose the worst possible time to put my wrist in a splint. I’ve spent this whole summer trying to create a writing income–with minor success–and edit Moonshadow’s Guardian. The week before the splint my computer caught a virus, paralyzing my work for two days. Right when I got back into the groove, they put the splint on me. Now I’m barely more than halfway through Moonshadow’s Guardian with only a week left before school. My non-fiction has slowed to a trickle, and I haven’t been sending out queries. Why? Because without paper to brainstorm on, the ideas have slowed almost to a stop. On top of that, everything takes longer and I’m both depressed about it and worried about time constraints.
What I have managed to do is continue editing Moonshadow’s Guardian. I edited eight or nine chapters last week. I already know exactly where this edit is going, so I can still forge ahead–although I now spend longer getting into the writing zone. I can type with both hands still, but my left is slower and I can’t do it for too long without causing pain(I probably shouldn’t be typing with my left at all, but you try typing with one hand–it’s impossible unless that hand’s tied behind your back). The worst part about all this? I know if I was up to speed I could finish my editing before school starts next week. In my current condition, I probably won’t finish until the end of September.
Dealing with tendonitis is a long, difficult journey. It’s easy to get depressed, and frankly I can’t give you advice to stay out of depression. But I can give you advice to get through it: focus on the idea that one day you won’t be in pain anymore and you’ll be able to use your hand, scale back on your writing and get lost in other people’s books. It’ll give you something productive to do with all that time you spent reading and maybe even take you to another planet.
Next Friday I’ll be finding out whether or not I can take the thing off, so stay posted.
Not long after my dad died, my grandmother gave me a book called ‘Soul Catcher’. A ‘Soul Catcher’ is like a dream catcher, but for the soul. It’s a journal full of inspiring pictures and prompts designed to help you find yourself and escape depression.
While I never really used the ‘Soul Catcher’ for its original purpose, I can’t forget that book. What I can’t forget about the book is the story of the woman who wrote it. She talks about how she reached her professional goals and wrote prolifically for the public on a number of subjects, but that her own writing, her journalling, grew more tortured even as she gained more success.
She reached the darkest part of her depression one day when she uprooted herself, moved to a small apartment in a new country, and went on a journey–through journals and crude art therapy–to find herself.
As a pre-teen suffering from severe depression, I latched on to that story. I still struggle with depression every day, and during my struggles, I often think of the ‘Soul Catcher’ and the story it contains.
Ever since I read that book, I’ve also prayed that I’d never need to isolate myself in a foreign country to figure out what my path in life is supposed to be. I often ask myself “how do I stop myself from getting that deep into my depression?”
Over the years I’ve come up with a number of ways to help alleviate the depression I suffer from. Some of them are fairly common methods, others are more unique to me. Today I’d like to share some with you, in the hopes that it will help you in your own dark times.
1. Don’t forget to write for yourself. We’ve all written things for other people. Whether they be home made greeting cards for our friends, love notes for our dates, reports for our bosses, or stories written as gifts for the people we love, they’re there. And while this is writing, and does count towards the goal of writing every day, it’s not writing for yourself.
As I’ve started to earn money as a writer and to work for the Penumbra blog, I’ve learned a lesson about this. We must not forget the projects we love. Writing ten blog posts for some company trying to market themselves might pay the bills, but it won’t soothe your soul. Don’t completely abandon your life-long novel project for paid work. Visit it every day, even if all you do is write a sentence.
This includes journalling too. It’s okay to journal every day. It’s also okay to journal sporadically. Whatever your preference, don’t forget about it. Your journal is your best friend when you’re suffering from depression, because no matter what you say, it won’t judge you.
2. Remember to go outside. As writers, our passion–and for some lucky folks, their job–involves a lot of sitting alone with a notebook or a computer. You might be an introvert, but isolating yourself from the outside world usually doesn’t make you happier. Note that I’m not saying that you need to talk to people.
What I’m saying is go outside. Go for a walk. Find a nice tree in a park to sit underneath and listen to the birds. You’ll soak up some vitamin D, which I’m told makes us happier, and you’ll get some exercise, which I’m also told makes us happier. The sounds of the birds always help cheer me up, and the change of scenery might just inspire you too.
3. Make time for the things you love. I talk a lot about how to make time for your writing, but I’m sure writing isn’t the only thing you love. We can’t just spend all our time working and writing. For one thing, we need time to read. And we all have other hobbies. I like to dance, and even if it’s only once a month or even every two months, I make sure I get to go out dancing. Some of us play video games. Some writers like to knit or sew. Others like to cook. Still others like to garden.
Make sure that you have time for these things you love. Depriving yourself of the things you love is the quickest path to depression. So don’t start. Tonight, take time to do one thing you love–I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.
4. Don’t over commit. There are only 24 hours in a day. We all get THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. We all work at different paces, so we can get different amounts of stuff done in that twenty-four hours, but there’s only so much even the fastest of us can do. I’m really bad for this, especially with writing projects. I go, hey, I have a really high WPM, I can write a novel in three days, I can write this article and this one and three blog posts for next week and start my next edit of my novel all in one day.
Then I discover I can’t, and I get mopey because I didn’t do everything I wanted to do on a specific day. This is what we call setting ourselves up for failure. I do this all the time, and I know it’s one of my main sources of depression, but I’m always working on it and trying to really assess what I can accomplish in a day. Don’t set yourself up for failure: figure out what you can realistically accomplish in a day without burning yourself out, and limit yourself to that amount of work.
5. Reward yourself for small accomplishments. One of the main reasons why I think most people get depressed is because they don’t realize how major what they’ve accomplished is. Even small accomplishments deserve recognition. Some days accomplishments mean more than others.
So, if you’re struggling to write a single word and you get a whole page down, reward yourself. They tell me the sugary treats lead to more guilt later, so reward yourself with a cool drink and some relaxation time. If you managed to diffuse a tense situation, give yourself a pat on the back. If all you did today was get to work on time, work until the set time, and leave when you were supposed to, that’s still something worth rewarding yourself.
You should always reward your small accomplishments and remember to be proud of them, too, not just the big things like getting your masters degree, but the small things like each individual essay you wrote to get that masters. Remembering these things when your depressed can help remind you that you are an awesome person, full of talent and with many gifts to give to the world.
Most importantly, remember that these tips aren’t just for when you’re feeling down. If you take the time to treat yourself nicely and to enjoy the things you love even when your life is great and you’re happy, it will be easier to remember these things when you’re depressed–and it might even stop you from getting depressed in the first place.
How do you take care of your mental health?