Thursday, 31 January 2019

My Battle With Depression, And How That's Now Affecting My Writing.

I have always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I could pick up a pencil it's been my dream to create stories and characters that help people escape to another world, for a little while. And, I guess, writing was my escape, too. For years now it's helped me deal with my depression, given me something to focus on, and for years now I've managed to deal with the dark days better because of that focus. 

But recently, those dark days have become a lot harder to deal with, and I'm finding it a lot harder to get through them. Most days I feel like I'm just going through the motions; like I'm on auto-pilot. It's difficult to explain, but it's like everything has this black shadow hanging over it, nothing I do seems to have any point anymore, and I'm not ashamed to admit that, at times, I'm struggling.

Family problems. The sudden, unexpected loss of my beautiful dog. My publisher dropping me. Brexit. The menopause. Over the past few months, all of those things have had an impact on my life, and everything feels a little different now. Darker. I've become more withdrawn. I've lost my confidence as far as my writing is concerned, I've lost focus, and that's what scares me. I used to be excited about writing, regularly publishing 3 to 4 books a year, I never went more than a couple of months without a new release on the way. Now I can't seem to focus on a single story. Over the past few months I've had countless ideas, and started writing countless books, only to push them all aside after a few chapters because I just can't seem to concentrate. The focus I used to have just isn't there, and I hate that, it terrifies me, that I've lost that focus; that will to write, because I want to be back out there, I do. But I feel like something's pulling me back, telling me that, maybe, it's time to forget that impossible dream, I'm just not good enough. I don't know. I guess this post could be my way of getting everything I'm feeling off my chest, because it isn't just depression I'm dealing with, it's also crippling loneliness. 

We're encouraged to talk about depression, not to keep it bottled up, but as someone who has no close friends, no one I can really turn to, bottling things up is what I do. And as far as family is concerned, I can't talk to them. They've cut all ties with me due to disagreements over Brexit, (yes, seriously), but even when they were speaking to me they would never acknowledge something like depression, even when I tried to bring it up. Tried to explain how I was feeling. It was always swept under the carpet, and I was told to "pull myself together". So that's what I did, because I had no other choice. I've always been a very lonely person, maybe that's why I was drawn to writing. It's a lonely job, at times. It certainly is for me. Like I said before, I don't have any close friends, I certainly don't have a best friend. But I wish I did. That one person you can turn to when you just to need to chat; to take your mind off everything else, and when I see people talk about their friends, see people on TV or on social media talk about how much their friends mean to them, how they couldn't be without them, that makes me so sad. It makes me realise what I've missed out on, but I've always found it hard to make friends because of my lack of confidence. My anxiety. My constant feeling of never being good enough... is this post now sounding a bit like my own personal pity party? Because I really don't want it to come across like that. I don't. I just find it so difficult to open up, to admit that I'm not happy. Not coping; that I really need a friend, I've gotten so used to pretending that everything's fine. I'm OK. When a lot of the time I'm not. But I will be. I've got myself through these spells of depression before, and I'll do it again, it just might take some time, that's all. And I know that talking could help. Being part of a writers' group, or having fellow authors to chat to could maybe give me the kind of encouragement and support that, sometimes, we authors need, but I don't have that, either, and this really is starting to sound like a pity party now. Nothing has stopped me from joining author groups or chatting to fellow authors. Nothing except my own anxiety. And that's something I'm just going to have to keep working on. Because there's also a part of me that's shied away from opening up about my depression because I somehow felt that, as an author, it would make people think differently about me; deter them from reading my books, I let that stigma instilled in me by others take over, again, when I shouldn't allow that to happen. I shouldn't, but I've been guilty of that. Even now, as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if publishing it is a good idea, but in a small way writing this post has been therapeutic. Cathartic. It may have come across as a little self-indulgent to some... or is that just my insecurities showing themselves again? I don't know. Things really have been a little strange, and the isolation I've felt these past few months has been like a kick in the gut at times, but it's up to me to change that. And I will, in time. But for now, I'm going to try and concentrate on writing that new book, and finding that focus again. 

Depression affects everyone differently. And the kind of loneliness I've been feeling lately isn't something I'd wish on anyone, and writing this post - this has just been my way of trying to deal with it. Finally. It's that first step, the first one I've ever really taken in a bid to try and accept that it's a part of me, but I don't need to be alone. Nobody should be alone, I just need to reach out more, and maybe one day I'll feel confident enough to do that. I hope so, anyway.

To all those out there - and that includes other authors who've been brave enough to speak out about their own battles with depression - I applaud you. I admire you. I'm learning to speak out, too. Learning not be ashamed of these feelings. No one should be ashamed of feeling like this, because there's nothing to be ashamed of, I wholeheartedly advocate this need to speak out about mental health issues, even if it's still something I find difficult to do myself. If you have someone to talk to, talk to them, please, don't be like me, don't isolate yourself. Reach out. Let others help. Because sometimes the smallest things can be the biggest support.

Michelle x