Some of the best things in my life have come from frustration.
In 2008, after three years without something fluffy to keep me warm at night, I adopted Hermes. The furry monster is my baby, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.
2012 wasn’t a good year for me. At all. I lost my very first publishing contract. My depression was out of control because of my day job, and a pretty severe bed bug infestation sent my anxiety levels through the roof (I have a thing about bugs. Don’t ask).
I hated my day job. I didn’t make enough to live on and maxed out 2 credit cards on fuel oil heating bills. 2/3 of our food came from my parents because I made $12 a YEAR too much to qualify for food assistance. It was also growing increasingly clear that I would not be able to find a job in my field without moving out of state–something highly unlikely, when we couldn’t even keep food on the table or heat our house.
So, I said “Screw it!” I told my boss I was no longer available on Thursday mornings, and signed up to do the thing I’d spent way too much money learning how to do professionally on a volunteer basis. Eventually, conservation work for the museum turned into volunteering in the village, which in turn sparked ideas for multiple novels, short stories, blog posts, costumes, and patterns. I’ve made some amazing friends, and I adore my weekly or bi-weekly days in the village.
Since this seems to happen every 4-5 years, my most recent “Screw it!” moment was when I decided to buck some conventional marketing advice, and set up that services tab you see at the top of the page. If you click over there, you’ll notice most of those offerings are free or donation based. I did that because, as I mentioned earlier, I know what it’s like to be working full time, and writing on the side, and living on the baked goods your coworkers bring in over the holidays, and going home to find nothing but condiments and a partial carton of milk in the fridge.
I want to make money from my writing. I do. Really. I’ve been working toward publication since I was 13. I have day dreams about turning in my resignation letter at my day job and screaming “Screw YOU!” at the top of my voice as I run out the front door.
But you know what? I have learned so much through helping others craft the perfect query, and tweak that first page so it’s just right. It’s taught me a lot about my own writing, and I am so thrilled that I get to help other novice writers, who maybe haven’t had access to the same resources I did, find a direction.
So, what’s the point of all this?
When you’re struggling with mental health, making changes can be the hardest thing in the world. There’s a certain amount of powerless-ness that comes with it. So many things are out of your control, it can be overwhelming. And if we could control our emotions, choose how we feel and how we react on an instinctive level, things like depression, anxiety, OCD, bi-polar, etc, wouldn’t be an issue, would they?
Just taking a different route to work because of construction, or having to change your evening routine by half an hour to accommodate a family member’s schedule can feel impossible. It can completely throw off every other aspect of your day as you struggle to get your bearings back. That routine, that safe zone–sometimes that’s the only thing that stands between you, and a panic attack. Or you, and self harm.
But those comfort zones? They aren’t always safe spaces. Sometimes, they are toxic little cesspools that make things even worse. You sit there, floating in that stinking water, knowing that ten feet away there’s a pretty little tidepool with star fish and warm, clean water, but to get there you have to walk across hot sand. You have to expose yourself to predators.
That first step, that first change that will put you on the path to something better is there. It’s waiting. But you have to reach that tipping point. You have to decide that the risk is worth the reward.
Sometimes, it’s something small. A slight change that paves the way for something bigger. Dedicating half an hour to self-care. Deciding you can’t live with the state of the kitchen anymore, and doing the dishes. It’s the first step to something more.
But you have to hit the “Screw it!” point first.
Today is the first day of a new year. 2017 was hard. If you suffer from mental health issues, it was even harder than most.
I want you to pick one thing. One thing you can do this year to improve your life. Here are a few baby steps, if you need ideas:
- Make a doctor’s appointment to review your mental or physical health.
- Start a journal or blog.
- Schedule a weekly appointment for self care.
- Sign up for a class or volunteer opportunity.
- Purchase something for yourself you’ve been putting off.
This year, my “screw it” point has been my mental health. 2017 was the worst it has been in a really long time, and the coping methods I’ve spent years developing have stopped being effective. So far, I’ve got 1 appointment down, and at least 2 more to go. We’ll see what happens from here.