Writing this on Monday morning so please excuse my lack of enthusiasm. Monday started well (for a Monday) but when the second thing you see is that people who don’t know you talk trash about you where you can’t defend yourself, that’s kind of a bummer. First thing was the news about Sutherland Springs, and that sure puts everything else into perspective. I generally don’t comment on things that go on over there because as a non-US citizen I feel like maybe I would do good not to place judgment on things that don’t directly concern me, but of course my heart is with the people affected. Quite the way to start the week.
So, yesterday. Right now I feel like an old diesel engine that’s not quite starting. I was super motivated (and for once not sleep deprived) in the morning when I was typing the blog post, then enjoyed a great breakfast and some nice TV–Sunday is Outlander time! Still can’t believe I got my guy hooked on the show as well, but might be that he’s hooked on my constant commentary. Loved the books, and love the show! and caught up on Supernatural and Scandal. And then… down, down, down my mood and motivation went, until I was a tightly coiled bundle of misery, frustration, and general “meh.” First, I wanted to go swimming to try to get rid of it (because that worked so well on Friday), but didn’t make it out of the house. Then I had the idea to head out for a walk, but my phone had died because I hadn’t charged it up and I need white noise music when I walk and plot. To explain, I needed something to go over the next few scenes in the book so I could write it. Next, I tried to play some Diablo 3 on the PS4, but the season had ended and I felt terribly demotivated to keep working on my Necromancer, so meh again. Plus, D3 kills my fingers, and they are acting up right now (thanks carpal tunnel syndrome!) anyway so no D3 for me. Does that sound drab and frustrating to you yet? Hell yeah it was.
I ended up playing Skyrim for an hour (okay, two hours) which was surprisingly easy on my hands, but a bit upsetting on my stomach. Fun fact (I know, I have so many of those!): I played Skyrim for 5 days straight once until I not only saw it in my sleep but now get queasy very easily when I play it again! Yay me!
I hate being such a Debbie Downer at the moment but that’s my life right now! It got better when I got the keyboard again at 11pm and wrote those 1,357 words. Very fitting, Bree wasn’t in the best mood, either. But since the end of book #7 she hasn’t really had much reason to be super chipper. And if you’re thinking I project my own meh at my characters, it’s usually the other way round.
Let’s talk a bit about empathy, shall we? Because that’s kind of connected to being bipolar, maybe, or not. You ask me, I’m not a psychologist, and I still believe I know better what is going on inside my head than someone who has to rely on my frustrated, stunted explanations, so bear with me. So, last week I already said I have bipolar type 2. I should maybe explain, because a lot of this I’ve only found out myself in the past year, and I’ve always been very interested in mental health issues (and serial killers), not just because some of it might affect me. BTW, don’t care at all for “suffering from.” I’m not suffering. I mean, yeah, sometimes I am, but I feel like the suffering is worse with chocolate cravings. You probably know bipolar as “manic depressive,” the old moniker. There are several kinds, and atypical cases as well (yay!) but I’m 99% sure I’m type 2. Type 1 is the classic up-and-down of mania and depression. Mania might sound fun but it really isn’t. I can’t say myself, I’ve never had a manic episode. I THOUGHT once I had had one but turns out, as type 2 I only have hypomanic episodes that are elevated states, but not going-nuts-overdrive elevated. I was close once, and I often feel like I’m borderline insane, so please, allow me the insensitive remarks. Type 2 in most people (and me) is usually prolonged major depressive phases with interspersed hypomanic episodes. But hey, you can have manic episodes inside depressive phases, did you know that? Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
For the longest time, I thought I had depression. Which is technically true, but it’s not the end of it for me. Also, I love statements like, “depression can, sometimes, be cured, but bipolar is a chronic illness that you’re stuck with for life.” Because it’s caused by weird brain chemistry, and while you can screw with that using medication, you can’t make it go away completely. Thumbs up for life sentences!
I’m not sure I’d want to be cured if that was possible. Like many people who are bipolar 2, I love my hypomanic episodes. During the first one that I can actually pinpoint, I wrote Outbreak, GF#2! Over 117k words in a month, including ending book #1 and starting book #3. I’ve never had a month like that. It was amazing! The second phase I had this summer, roughly between end of June to early August. Wrote not as much but quite a lot. It was nice. I felt really good! I want that to happen again! Creative brain on 150% is fun. And weird, but I like weird. I define myself with “weird.” Who needs normal when you can be weird?
Last time I only slowed down, afterwards. This time I felt myself crashing, and September and October have been… let’s call it a struggle, but that sounds too active, as I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. Lots of things all came together, and it’s never easy to find reasons when there really are none. Many writers crash when they finish a book / publish it as they put so much effort into it that they end up a little “empty” once it’s out in the world. That happened. Had some unforeseen issues with other people, and because I can no longer claim that I’m not Nate, you can guess how that went down. Fun fact, when we were watching Mindhunter and Dr. Carr was explaining how the serial killers often justified their drive and needs, I felt like I could relate… a lot. It’s moments like this that make you feel really comfortable in your skin.
Anyway, back on target. Just like in August, even before Affliction hit the shelves, I felt myself crashing, sloooowly but surely, I’ve felt my mood pick up for the past two weeks or so. One would expect that to be a soft, slow curve, but no. It’s more like a series of false starts, hence the engine metaphor. I’m good for a few hours, and then I’m not. Like everyone else, of course triggers also work with me. Give me chocolate and I will be happy! Tell me someone is talking shit about me, and I’m down! But my mood in general, overall, isn’t dependent on anything, and that’s what drives me mad. Maybe literally. Bipolar people do get hospitalized sometimes. I hate inconsistency. I’m an inconsistent writer. Yay! But today is Monday, and I woke up being glad that it was Monday, because weekdays mean routine, and if there’s one thing that helps me get my mind straight, it’s routine.
6am: get up. Just kidding.
7am: get up. Have breakfast. Or not. I hate showering in the mornings so I try to avoid it like the plague. One more reason to hit the gym in the afternoon and wash my hair after it gets dunked in chlorine: no need to shower 16 hours later.
8am: leave the house, or if I work from home, hit the computer for some YouTube R&R.
9am: Office time! Or work time when I’m working from home or a coffee shop.
11:30-12:30: Somewhere in there’s a 30 mins lunch break.
2pm: Hit the gym! Swimming mostly right now but I love lifting weights, too.
4:30pm: Drive back home!
7pm-ish: When motivated, hit the keyboard again. Might run as late as 2am, because who needs sleep?
6am, after crawling into bed at 2am: I hate the world! Unless I’m in a hypomanic episode, because then, four hours of sleep are fine, so let’s conquer the world!!
Or something like that. Technically, it makes no sense for me to have a schedule as I’m a self-employed full-time writer and except for meetings and doctor’s appointments I don’t even need to keep daylight hours. I sometimes don’t. But routine really helps my mind when it’s not doing well. Blocks of time in particular. It’s agonizing to spend 8 consecutive hours not doing anything productive. It might sound fun to you if you’re blessed with a healthy mind but work a job that drags often, but not so much when you, technically, could do whatever you want… except that you can’t. That’s why I love my 3-part writing day, mornings, afternoons, and evenings. There’s a good chance that at least in one of those blocks I actually do write. Right now that’s evenings. In my day, I have about 12-14 hours of potential writing time. On those days where I write more than 10k words (that’s 40+ pages, so you can relate) I use up most of that time. Of course it’s frustrating when I only manage 500 words, considering how much time was “wasted,” but eh, I’ll take the 500 if that’s all I get! 2 more pages than I had the day before.
I’m sorry that this is so over the place and disorganized, but THIS is how my brain is when it’s not at 120%. Or a 100%. Right now I feel like I’m clocking in at 80-90%. That’s enough for writing. I live and breathe the story that’s in my head, don’t need that much brain power to transcribe it. Which is awesome, or else I couldn’t hack it as a writer. Surprisingly, that shuts down my inner critic (In writing, not when I can’t write) so it’s often the better parts of a book, pure creative voice. But focusing is hard sometimes. Human interaction harder still, even more so when you can never forget to pretend like you’re a fully functioning human being when really, you don’t feel like one at the moment.
So empathy, right! Forgot about that. One of the newest tidbits of information about being bipolar is that many are really strong empathizers. Like, feeling physical discomfort because someone else is miserable kind of strong. I immediately discounted that because, let’s face it, your girl here isn’t really empathetic…
Except that maybe I am. I’m shitty at showing empathy, that’s true. But my parents’ divorce and how my mom was incapable of handling the emotional side of it at first sent me into years of… I’m not even sure I can describe that as depression, because what I felt for the past two months doesn’t hold a candle to that. I certainly came out as a different person at the other end, when I managed to claw my way back out of that hole. Minus a lot of friends, or people I thought were friends but clearly weren’t, because where were they when I was barely more than a husk of my former self? Having their own issues of course, issues I can’t empathize with. Cat chasing its tail, you see?
Fun fact: It’s amazing when people tell you that you can come talk to them when you need help. Guess what you can’t do when you’re down? Reach out! Nobody’s to blame.
I do feel strong emotions, often. Books and movies do that to me. For instance, I can’t stand nice, happy endings, particularly in romance (that’s why I usually read the soul crushing, dark romance, that maybe 2% of writers can pull off. Not the everything is fine, just a hitch in the road, now it’s even better kind. That I cannot stand. Or relate to.) I like tragic endings and turns. Maybe because that causes emotions inside of me that I can relate to better. I don’t know. The older I get, the more I bawl at emotional endings. Service dog sitting at his marine handler’s grave? Floodgates. But that NCIS episode even got Gibbs teary-eyed, I feel no shame. But I have been thinking over the past few days, and I realized that yes, I easily feel physically ill in connection to emotions, and not my own, so I seem to be empathizing.
It’s a journey. And sometimes not one I’m happy to be on, but hey, it’s my life, and I kind of am determined to make the best of it. Like write these stories that I’m so damn proud of, and meet people who read them and really dig them. That’s amazing. That also helps with the bad days. Not immediately, but I’ve learned to go by averages and over-alls, because that counts in the end. I’m kind of tempted to delete this endless ramble here, but hey, maybe you understand better now why, sometimes, I just seem weird, and sometimes, I’m really not in a good place. Swimming helps, even if maybe not at the moment. I don’t think it’s because of the endorphin / dopamine high that exercise causes, but because it’s calm, and constant, whether I listen to podcasts or just my own breathing and splashing. Kind of like an hour of physical white noise to normalize it all. To center myself. To not care about all the bullshit that doesn’t need to concern me. What do I care if someone foul-mouths me or my books? Peanuts. Less so, because I actually like peanut butter. Insignificant piece of gravel. Even if it’s an entire heap, it doesn’t need to land on and bury me. I have bigger fish to fry. Like a damn amazing last 1/3 of a book that I’m maybe 10 pages away from starting into. And a next book that has Bree firing on all cylinders from start to finish. And an idea for the one after that starts with so much wonderful annoyance (that’s unavoidable) to just make me cackle with manic glee. And three more new series I need to set up, write, and publish. And so, so, so much more after that.
In a way, I feel like that new, changed person I was talking about before has so, so much to live for that happier, old me never did. I am actually glad for the shit my mind has put me through, and still is, because it irregularly balls up my entire life like a piece of paper, and when I flatten that out again, it has changes into something new, exciting, interesting. Sure, the crunching part is painful, and the being-balled-up stage is hell, but it passes, and once it’s over, I can breathe freely again, and the air has never been sweeter. I don’t need to conquer my demons. I just have to hang in there, pull through, and everything is right with the world again. Someone left me a wonderful comment here last week, saying that she believed that the reason why I’m capable of writing what I write is because my brain is wired as it is, which might just give me a certain edge. Maybe that’s true. I prefer to think of myself as a literary genius instead. Just kidding. Or am I? Hm. Please read that last part in Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson voice, please. Gosh, I love Deadpool.
If you need a takeaway message from this, it’s this: don’t judge me, or anyone else, on one single happenstance. That’s not (all) I am. Don’t pity me, please, but do continue to buy my books! I’m not lying when I say that I am a very complicated woman. I herd three people in my head: the good, the bad, and the writer. It’s the composite that matters. Or just the books that I put out. I’m okay with that as well. But yes, I am a sum of all my parts, and that’s not always pretty. I care about the bullshit, even if I don’t want to, because the bad part of me thrives on that and loves to endlessly display to me, over and over, and over again, because where would be the fun in not dragging myself down? The good is an eternal optimist that sees the best in people, and while often disappointed, she usually shrugs it all off within minutes. She’s the daredevil that made me believe in myself so I could start publishing. She’s the one who rolls her eyes at stupid haters and only has one answer for them: Who cares? And then there’s the writer who tries very hard to make a living while those two yahoos constantly fight over who gets to drive the clown car. Really. Move over. I have a book a write so people can tell me how awesome I am again!
I probably shouldn’t post this, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I think that all of us have our moments where we can’t handle shit. Maybe, knowing that you’re not alone helps. I don’t know. I also spent 1.5 hrs typing this so, yeah. Read it! Feel free to comment. Or just write me a private message if you prefer that. I have 14 hours a day that I cannot completely fill with productive writing, anyway, so I’m happy to give you a few minutes, always.