Mental Health - An Encore

You know, sometimes I get blog posts out with some regularity. Other times, I don’t. This is one of those “other” times, apparently. Not quite a month, but definitely on the longer side of things.

I’ve got a few updates to talk about before we dive into today’s topic: mental health.

First of all, I have started to get (some) feedback from my betas. Rat is in the hands of around 20 or so people of varying age, gender, background, and writing level. The nerves have calmed down a little, especially after receiving notes back from two of my betas, but they’re not gone completely. I feel like I’m in this weird limbo where I’m not working on my main project at all, but progress is being made on it. It’s very surreal, and that’s before I even get to the notes. I won’t talk about those in any specific way, but I’ll say I was both pleasantly surprised and enthusiastically thankful? I was worried about how I would take feedback, but I suppose getting critiqued most weekends for two and a half years does something.

Second, I went to the 2019 Nebula Award Conference after party last night, the so-called BarCon. I met up with some of my friends and fellow writers and did some schmoozing. My take away was I was wholly under-prepared. I was introduced to a few people who I should have known, I didn’t look up anyone’s names before hand, I didn’t look up who was being nominated, and I made very little effort to get to know other people while there. Next year I will get tickets to go to the actual conference and do better.

Thirdly, season two of The Genre Hustle is ending! Our season finale is this coming out this Monday and, as is true to form, we’re ending the season with another writing gripes episode. We talk about what frustrates us as readers and what frustrates us about our own writing. It was a fun episode to record, especially since all seven of the co-hosts were able to make it. Check it out when it comes out Monday!

But let’s talk about mental health again. If you missed my previous blog post on it, find it here. I was pretty open about what my experience has been with depression and anxiety, but now that almost a year has passed, I wanted to address it again, especially with it being Mental Health Awareness month.

I look back to where I was a year ago (and a year before that, and so on) and I can’t help but smile at the progress I’ve made. I remember what I was doing a year ago, where I was at financially, professionally, and where my health was. The kinds of decisions I would make. It was rough.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no poster boy for mental health and success now. I’m not suddenly cured. Far from it.

But things did get better. Little steps, little changes, support, love, and friendship have all helped me make my way down a path towards a better self. I’m nowhere near the end of that journey, but I’m a hell of a lot further along it than I could have imagined a year ago when I wrote that blog entry.

I talked about exercise, diet, small goals, and socializing. Looking back, I can see how each of those has had an effect on me, especially socializing. Forcing myself to get out of the house, to interact with friends, to be social… that’s been the core of my improvement. Human interaction, connection with friends, change of environment, having fun. They have been huge for me. Taking walks in the park has been good for my health, obviously, but, again, it got me out of the apartment and into the sun. It gives me a chance to listen to audiobooks, too. I’ve cut out a lot of red meat from my diet, as well as some dairy. I did it for health reasons, but it’s something I had been thinking about for environmental reasons for a while, too. I haven’t had fast food or a cigarette in all of 2019, too. Just small changes that add up to something greater than the sum of their parts.

I still get slumps. I still find myself struggling, backsliding, and making terrible decisions. But the slumps are shorter. They’re not as deep. I’m not pouring myself into online video games to escape my life for 8+ hours a day. I’m able to get up and out of bed at a consistent time every morning. I still have anxiety nightmares, but I sleep through the night often now, where I was waking up 4-5 times a night before. When I’m feeling the slump now, I usually just eat worse and do less social stuff, but it’s been easy enough to start eating better again after a few days and I feel like I can’t hide away from the social stuff as well as I used to.

Even my anxiety is better. Like I said, I was at the Nebulas last night. I just realized I drove myself to Barcon alone, walked in, and spent almost 4 hours there without once worrying about what I looked like, what others were thinking of me, or breaking out into a cold sweat. I was completely comfortable and I didn’t even realize it until this very moment. Huh.

Now, I’m not trying to tell you that through hard work and determination you too can overcome your blah blah. No. Professional help is the way to go. Medication, if you can afford it and can find the right combination, therapy, etc. I’m just saying I’ve been so gods-damned lucky to be able to improve.

I’m going to keep trying to improve. You should, too. Reach out to me if you need to. Especially when it comes to mental health, I’m always available to talk. It’s going to be hard, but we can do this.

A.P. ThayerComment