Thursday, March 24, 2016

Running, Running, Running

I’m a runner. Not in the physical sense (I’d be the first to die in The Hunger Games for sure), but in the emotional sense. When things get tough, when I get frustrated, I bail. I actually only just realized this about myself yesterday while I was journaling.

An extreme example of this, and a story that only a few people know, is that last March I left Austin. I’ve always had the itch to do something impulsive, like get in my car and drive far away. Honestly I don't even remember what prompted it. I woke up one morning and thought, "Today's the day." I did a quick Google search for “small, unique beach towns” and the first result was Bandon, Oregon. That was my destination. Only, because I’m me and the least impulsive person in the world, I made a checklist of things I had to do before I left. Wash clothes, get an oil change (I was going to be driving thousands of miles, after all), get dog food (the dog was coming with me), etc. By 10AM I had decided I was leaving, at around 4PM I think I actually left.

I knew nothing about Bandon except that it had a few dog friendly hotels close to the beach. I was excited to go somewhere that nobody knew me. Nobody knew what a fraud of a writer, or a person, I was. Nobody would ask me questions like, “How’s the depression?” or “How’s that book coming along?” No, in Bandon, Oregon, nobody asks you a damn thing. I never made it to Oregon. I never even made it out of Texas. I drove maybe four hours then turned around and drove back home. I even bailed on bailing. See? A runner.

I say all this to say I’ve been running from this book since I started it nearly two years ago. I’m exhausted. I’m tired of running but I don’t know how to do anything else. Because once I finish this book I’ll be out of excuses, I’ll have nothing to hide behind. I'll have no other choice but to put it out there, and that, to me, is more terrifying than drowning. It’s like I’m giving the world my heart and hoping the world will give it back to me unscathed. I know that won’t happen, so I hold on to it dearly with all my life and dare someone to take it from me.

The thing is… I want to share this book with people, I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t. I want people to love my characters the same way I do. I want their story to impact the lives of others as it has mine. But that means not running away from it, and that’s something I don’t know how to do.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Gave Up This Year

I don’t remember the exact date, but it was an early August morning. The day was shaping up to be hot again, which isn’t unusual for August, but frustrating for me nonetheless. I’d been working tirelessly on This Book and no matter what I did or how hard I worked it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It wasn’t the same on paper as it was in my head. I’d been working so hard that my shoulders were riddled with knots from sitting at the laptop so much, I couldn’t lift my right arm above my head. I remember pushing myself away from my desk, closing my laptop, and saying out loud, “I’m done.” I remember taking a muscle relaxer and going to back to bed, and while physically I may have left the bed at some point that day, mentally I didn’t. Mentally I’m still buried deep under the covers suffocating myself with self-doubt and fear and too many other emotions to possibly resurface.

That was five months ago, and I don’t remember a whole lot since that day.

When I say I gave up, I don’t mean just on writing. That was the initial catalyst, yes, but I gave up on everything. I let myself mentally check out. I canceled so many plans with friends that eventually they gave up on me (I assume). I told myself it was easier that way. I stopped going on most social media websites because I couldn’t take being happy and supportive for people while also being so jealous it physically hurt. The only reason I left the house, usually, was to walk the dog. I shudder to think what would happen if I didn’t have him.  

I go on a writing retreat with a group of lovely, amazing women twice a year. Last January Kayla brought mason jars and we filled them with encouraging notes for each other with the goal to be to continue to fill them and open them on New Year’s Eve. I put all of two notes in mine. But the notes I got from others were still there, unopened, so I opened the jar this afternoon. I smiled at each one, feeling a bit better about things and about myself. There’s one note in the very bottom of the jar that I fish out. 

It simply reads, “Your work is awesome, never give up.”

I have no idea who wrote this particular note or why they chose to write that specifically. For all I know they wrote the same thing for everyone as kind of a “have a great summer!” that you write in school yearbooks at the end of the year when you don’t know what else to write. In the end it doesn’t really matter, because it was what I needed today. It’s what I’ve needed for months but didn’t know it.

I have no idea what 2016 will hold, but I’m somewhat awake again, which is enough for now.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I Wish I had Cancer

*Disclaimer: I do not wish cancer or any other sort of medical condition on anyone. I know first hand what cancer is capable of, and it's horrendous. In the case of this blog post, cancer is being used metaphorically. You can interchange it with heart disease, diabetes, or any other sort of disease/condition and the end point is still the same.

It's an awful thing to say, isn't it? To wish you had cancer? This awful monster of a disease that sucks the life right out of you. Yet I find myself thinking it nearly every single day. Cancer is something people can related to. It's widely talked about and researched and studied and (sometimes) cured. It's tangible.

Cancer doesn't frustrate people. When you say you're tired or sick or not feeling well or just not in a good frame of mind, people understand and are sympathetic. With depression, most people assume you're simply sad. "Come on, you're fine." "Are you really that tired? You slept like 14 hours." "You don't look depressed to me." "Seriously what's wrong with you? You used to love [insert hobby here]."  No I'm not fine. Yes I really am that tired. What, exactly, do people with depression look like? I'm also fully aware I used to enjoy things that I can't seem to enjoy now. That's the thing: I KNOW. Just because my brain may not be sending out enough dopamine doesn't mean it's not working. That doesn't mean that I still can't think for myself. And that definitely doesn't mean that your words aren't hurtful.

You say the word "depression" and people cringe. I've seen it happen too many times. They may not mean to or do it intentionally, but they do. They look at you differently, they judge you. As if you're carrying around dozens of razor blades and at any moment will use all of them simultaneously to cut various parts of your body off. There are people out there who understand, but they are few and far between. Though few they may be, I am immensely thankful for them. However, I realized this week that my greatest fear with depression is that the few people who are understanding and supportive will grow frustrated with me. That I'm not getting better "fast enough" or that I won't get better at all. Depression isn't really curable. It can be tamed, it can be molded into something different, it can be learned from, but it is always still there. Lurking just around the corner, waiting to come out and snatch you, kicking and screaming into the night. Or maybe you don't kick and scream. Maybe you welcome it as an old friend.

I remember years ago before I got married, I worked for a small mom and pop business. They didn't provide medical insurance for their employees but made arrangements for an insurance company to get in contact with those of us who needed insurance. They called me one day (while I was at work) to ask me various medical questions and to list my medications. When I listed Celexa (which I was on at the time), the lady on the other end paused. I heard her clicking her pen rapidly then tapping it loudly on her desk.
"And what is this medication for?" She knew very well what it was for judging by her response.
"Depression." I said strongly. I didn't know enough to know that I should, apparently, be embarrassed.
"And this has been diagnosed?"
At this point I grew frustrated with the conversation. "Obviously it's been diagnosed or I wouldn't have the medication."
Her long nails click against the keys of her keyboard. "And have you been cured?"
At this point in our very awkward conversation I laughed out loud. This small five letter sentence has haunted me ever since. As if taking this one tiny pill every day will cure me of the overwhelming desire to sink into a dark hole, never to reemerge. I know some people call them "happy pills," but to me that's insulting. They do not make me happy. They keep me from going insane. Nobody talks about that, though. At the end of the phone call I was told that because of my medical condition I would be charged an extra $40 a month for my already crazy expensive insurance which covered very little. I was making just above minimum wage at this point (I may have been making actual minimum wage, I don't remember), so it was frustrating to know that nearly five hours of my already tiny paycheck was going to this insurance company just because they didn't want to take the time to understand and get to know me and my illness. The whole situation bothered me so much that I eventually stopped taking the medication (cold turkey) and didn't have the courage to go back to the doctor for depression issues until seven years later.

My goal in life isn't to be cured of all depression. I know that isn't going to happen. My goal is, however, to get to a place in my life where I'm happy enough with who I am and the way my brain works so I can learn from my experiences and move on. To let myself heal and grow and become the person that I was supposed to be my entire life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Puppy Bowl Surprise

We're not huge football fans in this house, so Superbowl Sunday is pretty much just a normal day around here. We'll usually load up on carb and cheese-heavy snacks and watch the game, but only because it's 'the thing to do,' not because we enjoy it (we do enjoy the cheese, though).

That being said, we are big fans of the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. I've watched it every year, and I even remember writing an article about it for my college paper the first year it came on. I was editor of the entertainment section at the time and all the other editors made fun of me. I promised them they would, in fact, be entertained. As we prepared for Puppy Bowl XI I suited Freddy up in his referee uniform I bought him last year (that barely fits him this year) and snapped a couple of pictures before yanking it off his chunky sausage body.

I uploaded the picture to his Instagram, tagged Animal Planet, then promptly turned my attention back to the puppies on TV as he snoozed at my feet. Just before the kitty halftime show I look up to see him on TV!!

It was only for a few seconds, and we had to rewind it to get a picture (thank goodness for modern conveniences!). He got over 100 new Instagram followers! I told him at this rate I think he'll get an agent before I do!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Can't You Just Be Happy?

I feel like I'm an open book as far as my depression and anxiety go, but after thinking about it lately I've realized I'm quite the opposite. If someone asks me how I'm doing or has questions about depression I'm always happy to answer them as openly and honestly as I can. That being said, people don't ask. People don't do it out of meanness, they simply don't want to know. They're scared to. How can someone be so down all the time? How hard is it to just be happy?

The answer to that question is that it is, indeed, very hard. Trust me, it's a question I ask myself every single day, and the only thing it accomplishes is making me feel even worse. So, to those who haven't experienced depression and want to know what it's really like, what your loved ones are actually going through, please continue reading.

On a good day you live your life in a fog. Everything seems hazy and blurry and fuzzy. You can touch things, but you don't feel them. You see things, but you don't take them in. Not really. You find yourself walking around in a this numb state, and honestly sometimes it is kind of nice. It's nice not to have to feel the emotions you're having (or should be having). Except that four out of five days you spend staring at the computer screen or out the window waiting for something, anything, to change. Nothing does. Every once in a while the fog will lift and you'll feel like yourself again. Somehow it's both exhilarating and horrifying at the same time. You can see life as it should be, how others see it. But it's difficult to live that way because it's a feeling you don't feel too often, and you spend every waking moment wondering when the fog will return again. It's a feeling you can't even let yourself enjoy for fear of it being snatched away.

On an okay day it's cloudy. Always cloudy. You're so lost in your own emotions (or lack thereof) that you can barely do anything else. Everything is difficult. Getting out of bed is hard. Walking the dog is hard. Checking the mail is hard. Having to pretend to everyone that you're actually really okay is the hardest of them all. Sometimes, for a brief moment, the clouds will part and you can see the sun, but only from a distance. You're never close enough to feel its warmth on your face or to chase the rainbow you can almost see far in the distance. The clouds quickly come back together and you'll swear you imagined it entirely.

On a bad day, it storms. Always. Relentless, torrential rain that doesn't let up, no matter what you do. You may spend a while trying to calm the storm or stop it completely, but eventually you stop trying. It's too exhausting. It's easier to sit and let the downpour engulf you completely. It's easier to let it take over you and become you than it is to waste the energy trying to deal with it. You become wet with rain to your very core and just when you think you can't bear it any longer, you somehow find the strength to go about your daily life as if everything is totally and completely fine. You push the horrid thoughts to the back of your mind  attempt to move on. You pretend, you fake it. But no matter how much you pretend,  that doesn't mean it stopped raining. It never stops raining.

I urge you to be there for each other. Be accepting of your loved ones, because their hardships are your hardships, their pain is your pain. Even if they don't or can't voice their feelings, you can still support them. You can still let them know that they are actually loved and cared for and appreciated. Because, those of us who live in the misty fog tend to forget that.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dumbledore's Army of Austin, TX

I've been looking for a Harry Potter group since I came to Austin seven years ago. There used to be one, but they quit meeting ages ago and have since fallen apart as far as I can tell. I kept waiting and waiting for one to pop up, but none ever did. I assumed there simply wasn't enough Harry Potter fans in the Austin area. Man was I wrong.

This past Saturday was the Geeks Who Drink #GeekyCauldron quiz, a Harry Potter themed quiz. Our team was quickly formed and we competed in the quiz, placing 7th out of 99 (yes 99!!) teams. It was crazy intense and probably the most fun I've had in a long time. It was fantastic to be around people who take Harry Potter as seriously as I do (srsbsns).

Long story short there were easily 300 people at the event, so the thought I had about there not being a big enough Harry Potter community in the Austin area was blown out of the water. Instead of waiting for someone to form a group, I've formed my own.

I created Dumbledore's Army of Austin, TX (or DAA) and somehow already have 15 members! Yes some are my friends obviously, but some are people I don't even know, which is very exciting to me. Hopefully I'll make NEW friends! So if you live in the Austin area and like Harry Potter, feel free to join. (It's a Facebook group so you will have to have a Facebook account.) I will probably organize a meetup of some sort some (maybe around Harry/JK's birthday on the 31st?), we'll have to see what the response to it is.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

There are few books I can reread over and over. For the most part the thing I like most about books and reading is trying to figure things out before the writer actually tells me. I think really that's one of the main reasons I love the Harry Potter series so much, JK Rowling kept me guessing until pretty much the very end of the last book, which is a hard thing to do.

Last week me and a few other gals started the #HPReadAThon where we'll spend the next few weeks rereading the entire Harry Potter series. It's been a few years for me, so it's almost like new again (almost). I think this is one of the first time I've read the series through the eyes of a writer, though. I paid extra attention to the words that were used and the way they were used to try to figure out what makes them so captivating. Honestly? It's not the words so much as the characters, character development, and story line. Yes the words are lovely, but they are for the most part very simple (albeit clever). Kind of helped me to see things I could improve on to make my work a bit better.

Tonight (after I get my 1K written for the day), I'll start Chamber of Secrets. I read Sorcerer's Stone pretty quickly, but I know as the story line progresses my reading will slow to soak in ALL THE THINGS. If you would like to join me, feel free to comment here, email me, tweet me, or message me on Facebook. We aren't really going at a planned pace, so you can still catch up!