“Creature you fear the most…”
I have a long, ongoing fight with depression.
“You? Dave you spend half your time trying to be Chuck Norris. You don’t tolerate weakness in yourself. It’s for other people.”
Yeah. No, it is not. And part of the whole doing rufty-tufty stuff is a coping mechanism. Mostly I cope fairly well. I’ve had a few bleak sit-down-stare-at the wall sessions, for good and fair-enough reason, most of the time.
“That’s not depression, Dave. That’s a normal reaction to things being tough.”
Shrug. Maybe you’re right. I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist. Maybe it is just normal. It hasn’t been my life. It got to me in my early fifties – financially and work wise a tough patch – but not exactly my first or by far, our worst. I assumed this was a problem for other people, and I sympathized with them. It just wasn’t my problem. I’d take on hell with a fire-bucket full of damp sand. I think that was what really got to me: the reaction was not entirely proportional to the cause. Some things I’d ride over, other, lesser things would upset me to the point where instead of being able to write them off and continue working, I’d sit and stare at a blank screen.
Look, you can’t begin to succeed as a writer – other than by being a pampered darling of the industry who has every bump flattened for them (and there are few of those) – without being driven. You have to have a huge amount of faith in yourself, and as a result a high level of self-confidence and motivation. You have to maintain that for years, in most cases, and even if you’re an overnight sensation who only had to write one book to become beloved… still months of writing etc.
I suppose it has a toll. Dealing with Trad publishing (stressful, suspenseful, slow, badly paid for the level of effort, hours, and opacity, at least for most of us, certainly for me for year after year) and other vicissitudes which happen in anyone’s lives, let alone idiots who emigrate to remote islands with no money and no near-at-hand support systems. I must admit last year, when our dear council threatened to demolish the home I worked so hard and desperately to build, that we’d spent the better of the last 11 years living like church-mice’s poor cousins, never buying anything not life-and-death essential, never eating out, scavenging, painting-blue-and-making do for, with Barb’s health in serious question, and another Royalty statement full of obvious issues and pitiful pay… I took a long walk on the beach and thought of just walking into the sea. Never reached that point before.
Fortunately, I phoned a friend. He talked me into a better state of mind. And, although the saga with our home is not yet resolved, things have moved in positive directions (it’s a bit much to hope they’d admit they were wrong – which I believe in the letter of law they are – but at least some compromise seems reachable), the medical disaster resolved into a minor lab issue, and I ended up getting some rights back -and a determination to go Indy and put it all behind me.
Still, it’s been a long, long long haul back up. And small things seem to make me back-slide more easily. I think some of that also comes down to this Wu-Flu mess – and the fact that it and the situation that I see the world in does not fill me with optimism. I’ve done my best to future-proof and make our family as anti-fragile as possible – but it only takes one idiot bureaucrat to screw your life up. Also if – as seems very likely to me, we’re heading into a depression/vicious recession, with stagflation/inflation/hyperinflation, and quite possibly wars and civil collapse in various places… well, that hurts everyone, even the best prepared. And even if it’s not me crushed by it – my friends and relations will be affected, as well as millions of good people who have done nothing to deserve all this. Seeing it (and the idiotic, avoidable, stupid, greedy short-sighted rent-seeking getting worse) is a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and not making me more cheerful.
On the other hand: staring at the screen – or the wall, doesn’t make me more cheerful or anything better either. And I need to focus on writing NOW, and publishing myself NOW, while it is possible, and push those preparations ahead, NOW. As I said, I’m no shrink: I can’t prescribe or even guess what goes on with others. But I can tell you what _I_ have tried to do to help myself. At least some of it seems to work, to some extent.
In no particular order:
1) I set measurable, small goals. I set them across a range of things. I found just setting one goal – which might elude me for some reason (sometimes I just don’t realize how hard it would be, sometimes I need a part or something that is going to take weeks to get here) was a mistake. I write lists. I cross things off. I try to target visible, countable but achievable things.
2)Tidy/pretty things. Just sorting my desk makes me feel better. It’s a hell of a process, we still have a lot of building work to do and less space than it all needs – and the uncertainty doesn’t help.
3) Deal with horrible jobs that I have been avoiding. Just knowing that’s done is a lift.
4)Do physical, tiring stuff, preferably outside for at least three hours a day. I have enough for 50 hours a day to do. It makes me sleep better, and helps with the vitamin D (which, yes, for a writer can be a major issue and factor with SADS too.) It might give me a dose of endorphins too. And it helps with the over-eating – which I certainly tend to do when depressed.
5) Do things for others. It stops you thinking about your own problems so much, and, who knows, you might help them too. A kind word, a positive comment – hey, I need them. They’ve been a welcome gift. Maybe I’m paying it forward, or back. Trust me: it’s always worth doing.
6) Indulge in some escapism. If i have achieved nothing else in this life, I hope some of my books have left people feeling a little respite. I know I have my comfort reads and that’s always been a major goal of mine as a result.
7)As a form of respite (and I believe it’s the relentless nature of depression that hurts me worst) do something that takes all of my concentration (if I can’t concentrate: I don’t. I read a book. Go to other measures. Tidy.). For me that’s diving, these days. It’s dangerous, hard and I can’t think of anything but that. Also I enjoy it.
8) Cuddle. Sorry partner, I love you, and enjoy that – but a dog is best. It loves you and doesn’t ask questions or share your worries and depression. I miss that black dog terribly. One day, when we have this sorted out, and a fence in place…
Anyway: slowly (I wish I could say fast, but I’m just working on ‘forward’) CLOUD-CASTLES is getting ready. I have an old book -SHATTERED SWORDS I am re-editing, and I will be re-editing and putting up SAVE THE DRAGONS. There’s a slew of other work happening. It should be faster, but at least it happening.
Nil carborundum Illigitimi. And bare is the brotherless back.