So May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve been very open on social media about the fact that I have anxiety and take daily medication for it. And I’ve mentioned a couple of times how it affects my writing. But I’m not quite sure I ever wrote a full blog post about it. When I asked on Twitter if you all would like to read something about it, you said yes.
So, here we go.
I’ve always been a worrier. At least, that was what I called it. I thought it was normal to wake up in the middle of the night, nauseous and unable to breath because I just remembered something I said two weeks ago and what if that person told this person and the entire world hated me now?
It was bad in high school but again, I just chalked it up to like… teenage hormones. Normal stuff. In college, things weren’t so bad. Then I graduated and got a job, and the worrying started again. Again, I thought it was “my personality” or my temperament.
Then I had a kid. And if you’ve ever been pregnant, you get it. If not, lemme explain. You don’t just grow a child for nine months and pop that sucker out, lose the baby weight and everything’s all dandy until you get knocked up again. NOOOOOOPE. Getting pregnant forever changes you. I am more sensitive to smell and taste. I LOVED wine before I got pregnant. Now? I’m finally starting to like it again after six years. My body temperature runs hotter than it used to.
And my brain? Oh my brainnnnn. Bless your heart, Megan’s brain, because you didn’t take this well AT ALL.
With a newborn, I couldn’t handle life. I thought every decision would impact my kid’s future in HUGE NEGATIVE WAYS. It wasn’t until he was eight months old, and I had a complete crying meltdown in Babies R Us (because what sippy cup he used was super important, right?) that I realized shit was not right. I was not okay.
I think my official diagnosis is post-partum anxiety. But after talking to my doctor, we realized I’d been having panic attacks for years, which I attributed to low blood sugar. I just ate more protein. Funny how that never really helped…
So, I got on medication. Fun fact: Your body getting used to SSRI drugs is not really fun. Not so much. It was like morning sickness all over again for weeks. But once the drugs kicked in, it was like all the bolts in my body loosened. I wasn’t wound so tight. I could BREATHE. I could make decisions without agonizing over them for weeks.
I could live.
And for me, FOR ME, that opened up the floodgates of creativity. I’ve always been a writer, but I think I couldn’t let myself go enough for an entire novel to form in my head. Two months after beginning medication, I had my ribs tattooed with a ink bottle and feather quill, the words ‘carpe diem’ crawled below them. A month after that, I wrote my first book.
Wow, this is getting long. Sorry about that. I feel like you all needed that backstory.
So, writing and anxiety.
My medication, IMO, was what I needed to jumpstart my brain. The fog cleared. But you know what happened? Then there was SO MUCH SHIT TO FOCUS ON. And I’ve heard this is a common side effect of anti-anxiety meds, but I can’t focus worth a fuck, to be quite honest. My husband will be talking to me, and I’ll zone out in the middle of his sentence. I lose everything in my house. I miss appointments. I forget to take my kids’ snack into school. My brain always feels like it’s focusing on two many things at one time but I have a hard time… uh… weeding them out.
I’m a mess.
I’d rather be this mess than the other mess, though.
However, the one time I can focus is when I write. I get asked a lot how I write so much. It’s because I write in sprinting blocks. I shut everything out for 30 minutes to an hour and just WRITE. It’s amazing that it’s pretty much the only thing I can do that takes my entire focus. I get in the “zone” and I pound out words (I’m taking my abused keyboard into the Genius Bar to get fixed today because my N has had enough of my shit).
I’ve been working on different ways to organize my life. I used to be able to hold everything in my head fine but my meds are all, FUCK THAT. I have gone through three different planners and am now trying a bullet journal, so we’ll see how it goes! Hopefully that’ll help me sort my shit out.
I have been thinking a lot about my anxiety lately now that I took a short breather. I released a lot of books last year and wrote a lot too. I was constantly on deadline. I told myself I’d take a break in April of this year. And you know what? IT SUCKED. It was like my brain didn’t know what to do now that it didn’t have that dedicated focus time every day. It neeeeeds it. It fuels it. It allows me to sort out everything else when I have that time to spew out everything that’s circulating in my brain. Writing is like my brain’s every day spring cleaning.
Sometimes I hate my brain. I wish I could focus. I wish I didn’t worry myself to the point that I’m physically sick. I wish I was that organized mom who did cool Pinterest shit. I wish I could handle the PTA. I wish I didn’t say awkward things. I wish I was appropriate and didn’t swear too much or talk about blow jobs when I’m not supposed to. But I’m not. And the older I get, the more I’m learning to accept me for who I am, and not who I think I should be. I strive to be a better version of myself every day, but I can’t be something I’m not.
You see now why it’s all connected? I’m not the writer I’d be without my anxiety, without the medication, without my brain chemistry the way it is. I need it all, I guess. And that’s why mental health awareness is so important to me, because it’s a huge part of my life. If I hadn’t gotten help, I’m not sure I’d be writing right now. It’s one of the reasons mental health is such a common issue in my books. Because having your brain be your own worst enemy is fucking terrifying.
I write because I don’t know what else to do. Because there’s no way to clear my head. Because I think the writing is another form of medication for me. It’s not all I need, but it’s one component. A version of my therapy.
This business can be hard on those with mental health. There is constant rejection and criticism. I think at the core, you gotta write for you. And it’s okay to do what you need to do for self-care. Whether that’s taking a break. Whether that’s writing whatever is in your head regardless of whether it’s marketable right now. I also have side projects that I go to when I need to clear my head. Whenever I just need to get words down and not feel pressure.
This was long and ramble-y. But I hope it helped somewhat. Obvious disclaimer that this is all my experience and I’m not trying to diagnose anyone. If you feel like you can benefit from talking to someone, call your doctor. I know that first phone call is hard as fuck, but damn am I ever glad I did.
<3 ~ Megan