Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Depression and Creativity

I've made it no secret about my struggle with depression over the past year and a half or so. I have, however, glossed over a bit as to how it's impacted me creatively. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and have decided that it's time for me to be more public about it and ask for advice.

I have been on Zoloft since October of 2012. It took over a full year for me to finally get to a dosage that suited me and actually helped. During this time I was a mess and life seemed more overwhelming and frustrating than ever. Mainly because I was ON medication but it simply wasn't working. Until November of 2013 when the doctor upped my dosage one final time and everything seemed to click into place. At least, I thought it did.

Ever since I started taking the Zoloft I have been blocked creatively. I simply haven't been able to write, read, or do anything that I used to enjoy that involved the written word. I used to write around 1,000 words a day; now I'm lucky if I get 100 words a week. I watch TV a lot now (which I never did before). I think because it's mind-numbing and something I don't really have to think about much. Watching people pick out ridiculously expensive houses in the Bahamas is easier than pounding my head against the laptop in shame.

It's not that I don't want to write. I DO. DESPERATELY. I have always had big dreams and goals. This may sound weird but I've never really failed at anything. Not when it mattered, anyway. And the fact that I'm failing at this makes me sick to my stomach. It then brings up the argument I always have with myself about not being good enough, not being a "real" writer, etc. Which is a slippery slope for me and probably everyone that deals with anxiety/depression. Once one thing goes wrong, everything follows suit and you're soon in a cycle of self-doubt that you cannot see the end of. 

I write all that to ask this: Are you on any medication for depression or anxiety? Do you feel like it hinders you creatively? Did you change medications? Did it help? I'm not against changing medications. However, I'm not looking forward to the side effects of going off one medication to try who knows how many others. It's frustrating to me that I feel like I have to choose between being a sane person and being a writer and it saddens me to see how often the two go hand-in-hand with each other. I'm finally at a good point mentally and I don't want to mess that up, but I refuse to believe that it's simply impossible for me to be mentally stable AND write. I also refuse give up on my dream. Not yet, anyway.



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

(Yes, these are words, but I found this on Post Secret and thought it was perfect for a Wordless Wednesday after my previous post this week. Happy New Year, everyone.)


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where I've Been

I've been thinking about this particular blog post quite a bit over the past year or so. I've written it many times in my head, and each time it's a little different. Sometimes I purposefully leave things out because they're too difficult to even fathom sharing with the world. Many times I actually started this very post, only to get a few sentences in and delete it. I think once I maybe even got a whole two paragraphs written. But, again, that may have just been when I was writing it in my head.

At some point last year things changed for me. My personality changed. My likes and dislikes changed. I stopped doing things I loved for no reason whatsoever other than everything seemed to be too much effort. I wasn't lazy by any means, but it seemed like I was in a daily fight with myself to get anything done. I'd stay in the bed until 10:00, sometimes 11:00 or noon. The simple act of reaching up and pulling the covers off my body and dragging myself out of bed seemed too much. The world was too bright and too harsh. Life was better under the covers. Life was easier when lived asleep and alone within myself. I had no one to answer to and no one to think about. Asleep, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

I stopped reading. In the past two years I can literally count on one hand the number of books I've read. If any of you know me you'll know this isn't me AT ALL. I've been known to read 100+ books a year. In a good week I'd read maybe five books. To go from five books a week to five books a year was... strange. It still is. But once I stopped reading I couldn't get back into it. I felt guilty. I have shelves upon shelves of beautifully sculpted words that someone spent years of their life crafting and perfecting. And I couldn't devote a single hour a day to read them. So I just didn't read a all. Not magazines, not internet articles, nothing. I'd go on Facebook a few times a day, and Twitter even less than that. "This is good for me." I thought. "I'm just trying to get back on track after XYZ [always a different excuse]. I need to find myself again, find my center, and things will be better."

I didn't get back on track. I didn't find my center. Things didn't get better. They got worse.

I stopped writing. It wasn't a gradual thing, either. I woke up one morning and told myself I was done. Done with the entire writing industry. Done with the publishing process. "It's too much, it's too hard. You can't possibly do this, Stephanie." That tiny seed of self doubt I planted soon sprouted into a forest, thick with fear, anxiety, depression, and worry. I couldn't see the sun. I couldn't see anything except for the gnarled roots and branches I'd constructed around myself.

I gave up. At 26 years old I felt like what little chance at a successful writing career was over. Which basically meant my life was over.

I went from not getting out of bed until noon to not getting out of bed at all. Sometimes, on a good day, I'd make it to the couch. This wasn't very often. I watched a lot of TV. Well, the TV watched me, anyway. I'm not sure how much of the shows I was watching actually infiltrated my brain. My husband would come home from work to see me on the couch, curtains still drawn, hair matted and unwashed. He would ask me daily what was wrong, but here's the thing: THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG. I was, simply, sad. For no reason whatsoever. I'd often wish for horrible things to happen to my family or friends just so my brain would actually have something to be sad about. (Thankfully that didn't happen.) I promised him things were getting better, that I was going through a hard time with XYZ (whatever the excuse of the day was). I'd say just about anything for him to stop asking me questions. For him to leave me alone.

Alone.
Alone.
Alone.

I lived like this for nearly a year. On October 27, 2012, I had a gigantic meltdown. I don't even remember what it was over, but I remember the exact date because it just happened to be our fifth wedding anniversary. And, of course, I had ruined everything. Because anything bad that ever happened around me was obviously my fault. I can remember crying so hard I couldn't catch my breath. My husband asked me over and over if I needed to go to the emergency room. "NO." I'd say sternly each time. No no no. I refused to go the hospital for "being sad." By the end of the night, however, I did agree to make an appointment to talk with my doctor.

Long story short, I went to the doctor that week and was diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety. "We can treat the symptoms with medicine," the doctor said, "but I'd really love for you to see a therapist as well to treat the cause." I hit an all time low. In my mind, therapy was for wives who had lost husbands. Parents who had lost children. I had lost no one except myself. He assured me that wasn't the case, and I promised to call. I went back each month for a check up. "Did you see that therapist yet?" The answer was always the same. At first I was ashamed of not doing it, but within a few visits I really didn't care. I felt slightly better with each med dose increase, but not much. Not what I thought I should feel like. He warned me that some people who take this particular medicine feel like it stifles their creative side. And it did. Not that I noticed too much at first because I wasn't writing anyway, but eventually I did notice. There was a day that I thought, "You know I should write today." I sat down, opened my laptop, and did nothing. Repeat this process every day for the next eight months or so.

Finally I told him this and he urged me, again, to reach out to a therapist. I finally did. I spent days researching various therapists in the area, trying to figure out which ones our insurance would cover. I found one I liked and called on a lovely spring day in April. "Her first available appointment is June 17th." I was a little upset that she was so booked, but I took the appointment anyway. It was far enough in the future I didn't have to think about it and I could finally tell my doctor that, yes, I did call. June quickly rolled around and the day of my appointment drew near. I found it odd that I never received a reminder call or a card in the mail or anything. I had the appointment date and time written down in three places, though, so it wasn't a big deal. I nearly called an canceled the appointment multiple times, but I didn't. I drove myself to her office only to find her door locked, and the lights out. I was about twenty minutes early so I thought maybe I was her first appointment of the day or something. I'd knock the door from time to time, or jiggle the handle. Nothing. Eventually I pounded on the door in tears. Still nothing. I called and left a garbled message on the answering machine, and left. Sadly, I never heard back from her. I'm not sure what happened, and I don't really care to know.

And no, I haven't called another therapist yet, though I know I probably should. 

I went back to my regular doctor in August and he upped my dose once more. Within two weeks I felt like a different human being. So THIS is what I'm supposed to feel like! I had forgotten, completely, what it felt like to be a person. I had forgotten what it felt like to be ME.

Am I better? Yes. Am I well? I'm not sure I'll ever be 100% well again. This is, apparently, something I will continue to battle for years to come. I have good days and bad days, but for the most part the good outnumber the bad. When I do have a bad day it doesn't feel like the world is caving in. I don't cry when the dryer shuts off and I realize I have to actually fold the towels. I can usually catch myself before I go down a train of self doubt. Usually.

I'm working on finding myself again. I'm working on the written word again, though slowly. I'm starting with magazines, which may seem stupid, but I can't dive straight in and write 1,000 words a day like I was before. Though I hope to be back there soon. Writing this blog post is a gigantic deal for me, and I won't lie and say it was easy. It's taken me hours and I'm mentally drained.

 I lost a year of my life to this and I'll be damned if I lose any more. I'm smiling more often, laughing more often, and attempting to repair the broken relationships that this illness has caused. I'm learning to breathe again, but most importantly, I'm learning to love myself again.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Young Adult Book Festival in Round Rock

Event time!! Live in the Austin area? Free this Saturday, May 11th? You better be! YAB Fest (Young Adult Book Festival) is happening in Round Rock! Here's some info for you:

  • Doors open at 8:30 AM, the event will be from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
  • The festival is held at Round Rock high school (300 N. Lake Creek Round Rock, TX 78681)
  • Over 20 authors will be in attendance, for a full list click here!
  • Books will be available for purchase from The Book Spot
  • Did I mention the event is FREE??
  • Did I also mention the keynote is none other than David Levithan and Andrea Cremer???

I hope to see you there and please help me spread the word!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

40acts: Do Lent Generously

I'm not Catholic, but once every few years I decide to give up something for Lent. I really like the symbolic meaning behind it. One year I gave up coffee. Yes, that wasn't my wisest decision, but I did it! It also introduced me to tea, which I now probably love more than coffee (shhhh). So when I heard about 40acts: Do Lent Generously yesterday, I knew I was going to jump in with both feet.

The idea behind 40acts is that instead of giving up something, you give back something. Every day for 40 days (the duration of Lent), you'll do one random act of kindness. They'll email you an idea every day, but I'm probably going to make up a lot of them on my own. Pay for the person behind me at Starbucks, drop off a donation to a retirement home, donate books to those in need, etc. The possibilities are seriously endless. I'll be Tweeting and Facebooking my acts of kindness for the day, but I'll also blog about it here when I'm done. I can't wait to see what all I'm able to do in 40 days!

I'm asking you to join me on the 40 day kindness quest. Yes, I know it's last minute, but if I can do it you can too! Who's with me?




Friday, January 18, 2013

Fired Up Friday

I haven't done a Fired Up Friday in a while, and when I ran across this quote this week I knew it was perfect. Happy Friday, everyone! What's inspired you this week?

Each book is a new book. I’ve never written it before and I have to teach myself how to write it as I go along. The fact that I’ve written books in the past seems to play no part in it. I always feel like a beginner and I’m continually running into the same difficulties, the same blocks, the same despairs. You make so many mistakes as a writer, cross out so many bad sentences and ideas, discard so many worthless pages, that finally what you learn is how stupid you are. It’s a humbling occupation.” -Paul Auster 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Post surgery! (some pictures, FYI!)

Holy wow. It's been so long since I've posted I'm not even sure where to start.

I decided a while back to take a few months off of blogging. I was desperately working to try to get my MG novel ready for querying, holidays were fast approaching, blah blah blah. Usual writer life type stuff I'd imagine. Then I finally got a date for my jaw surgery and all my plans came to a screeching halt. I'm proud to say that as of this past Saturday I am officially one month post-op! Hooray! It's been such a fast month.

FYI- I'm about to talk about the surgery and show pics (not of the actual surgery!), so if you're squeamish stop reading!

For those who don't know, I had surgery to realign my top jaw. It's called a LeFort procedure and mine was called a LeFort III because my jaw was split into three places. In all honestly I'm not 100% sure what the surgery entailed. I have a tendency to freak out over medical things so I wanted to know as little as possible pre-surgery.

I tried not to think about it too much, but of course I did. Like, all the time. I didn't know what to expect and the only other surgery I've had was to remove my wisdom teeth. When I signed the paper work the week before and read in bold letters, "This is not a minor surgery!" I kind of started to panic. But the wheels were already in motion and couldn't be stopped.

We had to be at the hospital at 5AM and surgery was scheduled for 7:15. It was an early wake-up call! When it was time to go back to the operating room they gave me a drug that would have an amnesia effect so I wouldn't remember much, but I do remember some things. Weird, random things. I remember the nurse wheeling me to the elevator, but I don't remember the elevator ride. I remember going into the OR and trying to figure out if it looked like Grey's Anatomy (sadly there was no McDreamy). I remember moving from my bed to the OR table and then my mind started making things up. People were talking to me and looking back now I know they weren't there. As the anesthesiologist put me to sleep there was a nice lady to my left that held my hand and told me it would be okay. I never saw her again.

Next thing I remember is being brought to the hospital room. I was told beforehand that I'd stay in recovery until I was awake, talking, etc. but I don't remember any of that. Also at some point I changed from the itchy paper operating room gown to a cotton gown. So I guess somebody helped me change...? Who knows.

The surgery was about three hours and I slept on and off that day, until I got violently sick. Apparently I'm allergic to morphine and it took them a few hours to figure this out. Oy. Once I was switched to another pain medicine I was fine!

My original prognoses was a liquid diet for 4-6 weeks then a soft food diet (mashed potatoes, mac and cheese) for another 4-6 weeks. However, I'm healing so well that for the most part I'm already able to eat anything. Earlier today I had crackers for the first time and it was glorious. It's funny how much I missed crunchy and salty foods.

I go for a post-op appointment tomorrow and we'll see what the surgeon says. I have to wear surgical bands (similar to rubber bands you wear with braces) all the time except when I eat, and they're quite annoying. I'm really hoping he says I don't have to wear them anymore. Or at least not 24/7.

And now, for some photos!

Morning after surgery

Day two

Day three

One week!

Teeth before surgery:







 After surgery (about two weeks post-op, my lips are still numb!)



 All in all I'm very pleased with how everything worked out. I was never in any real pain, just uncomfortable and that didn't last for long. Honestly the worst thing has been the facial numbness. My right nostril and the entire right side of my face is still pretty numb and will be for a few months, apparently.

I know a few of you have said that you've always needed this surgery, and if you're one of them, please go for it. I don't regret it in the slightest, and it's been so, so worth it.

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