My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

And Two Steps Back—What It Is: It's (Personal Update)

A picture from after my Tuesday
morning run. (Three miles.)
Instead of my regular Tuesday report (on Thursday), I have some discomfiting confessions to make, but I promised I would be transparent about all this writing stuff, so that people could see how it is done—that it's messy and non-linear and a whole lot of fucking work. So it's time to suck it up and show you where lately I've been slapping things together with three paper clips, a rubber band, spit, and some bailing wire…embarrassing or not.  

Last week was a massive mental health setback. It's been three steps forward and two steps back these last few months. A couple of weeks ago, I was sure I was ready to start writing again in earnest. But right around the same time, I started to deal with some brain weasels. My recovery has involved everything from worrying about my weight loss to fretting about medical bills to feeling like I frittered away those exciting moments of new relationship energy with Rhapsody by having one crisis after another instead of just enjoying each other. Normally, I could whack-a-mole these kinds of thoughts and take them as the transitory worries of a human with too vivid of an imagination, but with everything going on lately both globally and personally, I didn't have the resources to fight back, and the thoughts gained traction. The "Worry Bully" was able to kick my ass. 

Once it started, it got bad pretty quickly. I have a pretty good toolbox for dealing with anxiety from half a dozen years of therapy…but I only know how to use it when I'm awake. I self regulate, do self-care, employ some CBT therapies, I journal with pen and paper until my hand cramps, and then use positive self-talk when I'm able to really hear myself. But sometimes I wake up, and my anxiety is already at a five or a six (out of ten) and I'm panicking. The higher you go, the exponentially harder it is to calm down. You can get down from a three in five minutes, but getting down from a five or a six…I was needing an hour or more to get back to sleep and that could happen two or three times a night. I tried melatonin. I tried Unisom. And I even tried some stuff that is, strictly speaking, legal in my state but not technically in my country. Losing sleep contributed to less ability to deal with the slings and arrows of what had been some pretty dang outrageous fortune lately.

More anxiety. Less sleep. Less ability to deal. More anxiety. Less sleep. Less ability to deal. You see where this is going.

Two weeks ago I felt good. Well, I felt better. I felt ready to put down the journaling and get back into blogging. I felt primed. My ambition started writing checks. Then the anxiety weasels started their Riverdance on the inside of my head. 

Tonight Chris's mental health will be playing
the part of "The Floor."

Those checks were NOT covered by my ability to produce.

I know a million kind and wonderful people are telling me to take as long as I need to recover. Heck people are blowing up my inbox with just FLOODS of support and love every time I express concern that I'm a crowdfunded content creator who's not creating much right now. But honestly, I think I'm entering a new phase OF that recovery. 

I need to write. And I need to put down my journal and create again. Not despite my recovery, but to foster it. Writing IS recovery. 

That said, I'm not sure I am going to be able to just power back into the blog the way it used to be. At least not for a while. I think there's going to be a few more personal updates like this one for a while. I'm asking for lots of questions for the mailbox because those posts tend to be a little easier for me. I have a series of posts I'm planning for NOT Writing About Writing about long distance running and how it has helped me recover. And I know I wanted to be writing those crunchy writing articles at a clip before I made an appeals post for new patrons, but I need to replenish the income I'm losing from all the people who aren't quite so cool about me doing such little writing these last four months. So it's probably going to be just a little by the seat of my pants for a while.

We'll still get back to the old Writing About Writing. I'm just going to make it totally fucking weird for a while.

This week has been better. I got past what I was dealing with. I got some good nights of sleep. My anxiety settled back down. I even felt some honest-to-goodness inspiration after watching a Joy Oladokun concert last night. I know better than to say I'm better because this process has been NOTHING but three steps forward and two steps back, but the good days are starting to outnumber the bad ones, and it's time to start striking while the clichés are hot.


  1. Seems to me that personal updates ARE blogging, no? Am I missing something? Isn't any kind of writing -- writing? You're doing it, man. Your very self-ass-kicking about not doing what you think you need to be doing **IS** doing what you need to be doing.

  2. Not sure who might read this, but finding motivation is.. hard. And I feel that a lot of online "tips" just boil down to "if you procrastinate, just start" "if you feel down, look on the bright side" and "if you cough a lot and have fever, just don't do that".
    So I have my own mental list of things that have motivated me and cycle through that when I feel demotivated. It's not "this one thing" because I have adhd, and "that one thing" stops motivating me pretty fast.
    So to anyone who feels it might help, here's part of the list to get a general idea.
    - If I clean now, I'll allow myself to get icecream after.
    - If I work out now, I'll watch that episode that comes out tomorrow on netflix.
    Any guilty pleasure might work, though I would strongly disadvise (is that a word?) addicting substances.

    The power of peer pressure
    - I'll invite my friends no matter the mess and may clean up a little.
    - I'll invite people to do a little writing excercise with me and have thee after.

    - Do I feel like exploring any of the ideas I've been having and putting off?
    - Do I feel like a lazy day with hot chocolate and a book?
    - Do I feel like catching up with a friend?
    We all live a limited amount of time, taking regular breaks leads to more productivity than continuous pushing yourself. Don't take my word for it, but science said so.

    - which task has the highest priority rn?
    - is there anything in my near area that is distracting me? Why? Sometimes just acknowledgement might help you get back on the right track.

    The most unconventional in the list, but I found that some of my highest achieving moments were when I had no outlook in life. So to somewhat replicate that I imagine being in prison. My room just being 4 walls, the chores just being orders from a higher up, the thoughts that gnaw at me being the other inmates I feel little in common with and the tv not getting me anywhere outside those walls. What would I long for in those circumstances?

    So anyway, big (tho silent) fan! Take care

    1. I forgot self punishment (not the kinky side, or maybe also that?)
      - if I don't finish this project, I'll keep myself awake all night long.
      - if I don't reach my work out goal, I'll have plain oatmeal for breakfast instead of sandwiches.
      And the golden rule to respect the promises to yourself.
      If you say dishes and tv after that, don't try to sneak in vacuuming the place.

  3. As for advice to 'take as long as you need', it appears that you either have ignored it or are already past that need. You are already writing. And, arguably, you are writing about writing. Not, perhaps, in the style or with the type of content you might have been doing before or even want to do in the future. But writing about writing, nonetheless. So the list of things you need to worry about is now officially one item shorter.

    Recovery from trauma isn't linear? Damn straight. What's distinctive about your experiencing that fact is that it's yours, of course. And you are writing about that, too.

    Please keep up with the journaling, with whatever content and frequency you deem appropriate. That freedom is rather in the nature of this kind of funding and it looks like your funders know it and are fine with it.

    So, here's an item to consider adding to your now-shorter list: don't apologize for the disruptions, the content, or any of that. You won't be fine 'eventually'. You already are, in the ways that matter. And some of us are even impressed.

  4. This is a hard one that I had to go through myself. The big C word has affected my life too many times over with my friends, my family, my own child and finally myself. When I was dealing with my son, one of the counselors made the point of this: Its never exactly the same after you find out, after the treatment and after the loss. Realizing that you lost something, someone, or even yourself is hard to acknowledge. As Dave mentioned trauma changes you, you are never going to be the person before the big C. However, you learn, grow and find out that you are grieving the loss of who you used to be. I have had years to deal with my son's, it still upsets and gives me the old "what if" bug, however now, I know how to deal with it and self-care about it.

    (Sorry I ramble and I have mental health issues that make my words strangely out of order.)

    Don't pressure yourself, it isn't worth what it does to your mind or body. The muse shall return. Mine went away for over a year, I didn't fret because it has happened before because real life says you have to do this, NOW! The mind needs time to be able to do the things it did before and also it needs a break too. The fact you are even on here and giving us all of this is writing in itself. Writing as emotional stress relief is something I have been doing for years, I don't worry about what it is I write, just that its on a page and out of me. Then I read it a week later to see what might be useful in what I might be writing.

    Take a breath, you're alive, you're muse will find its way back to you. Give yourself a break, you have gone through hell and still are. You will get through this.

  5. You just wrote something. Give yourself credit for that. It may not have been what you thought you would write, but you wrote. That's a step forward. Writing is like anything else. You need to do something hundreds, thousands of times before you get the kernel of what you're looking for, need, want, will do. The struggle is common for all of us no matter what we do. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability and the way it informs your writing because it allows you to touch, move and inspire us. This is the secret they don't tell you. Keep up the good work, and keep up the "bad" work until you feel like it's what you want it to be.