TL;DR and content warnings: mental health stuff, depression, suicidal thoughts.
I can handle depression. I’ve had fifteen years to figure out what my moods are and how to cope with them, and what works best for any given problem. That’s not fun, but it’s cope-able. I know what to do with it.
What I’m currently struggling to handle is depression + medication.
I’m trying to work out what’s new, and what’s the same. What’s me, and what’s the medication. I’ve got a handle on depression, anxiety and emotion storms: I don’t have a handle on depression that feels like a black hole, anxiety that gives me the nevousness but not the fear, emotion storms that come and go as quickly as a passing cloud.
Medication throws everything I’m used to up in the air, and I have to try to catch it all as it falls.
I’ve still got the thought spirals for anxiety (why do you knead bread? what do we have for dinner? what would happen if there was a solar flare apocalypse and do I need to learn how to make an oven? I should be reading books. I should be working. I should be resting. I’m not sleeping. I need to sleep. I should be working. I have bread flour to use. do you knead it for the gluten or the yeast?) but none of the fear. None of the restlessness. None of the whirlpool. It’s just my brain going THINK THINK THINK without any reason.
I’ve still got the emotion storms, but I can’t feel them build; they’re like a sudden rainstorm from a blue sky, rather than the build-up of thunderheads that they were before. Then, I could see them forming: I could understand the situations and emotions that were going into them, and get myself to safety before I broke down (or just broke). Now, I get a few minutes’ warning and then I just break, crying uncontrollably – and then it’s gone. I’m ok again.
I’ve still got the depression, but it’s got no punch, because all of its feeling has vanished. The black hole that has formed under my ribs is just sucking all my emotions; I can do surface reactions, but I can’t feel anything more. No tug of the heartstrings. No stomach-hurting joy. No gripping sadness either, and no whirlpool of fear, but it’s just sucked…everything.
It’s also given me pretty bad suicidal thoughts; there’s no emotion behind it so I know it’s not actually me, but it’s still pretty frustrating when my brain throws up “oh yeah, kill yourself!” as a solution to small problems. Gee, thanks, brain. That’s not a good solution. Eff off. (I’m fine, by the way – zero intention. I think someone referred to them as “passive thoughts” which is a good way of thinking about it; versus the active intention, which if I ever had I would certainly do more to get help. At the moment I’m just fighting weasels.)
On a random sidenote, I was reading Neil Sharpson’s blog, and he mentions (understandably) freaking out over sudden suicidal thoughts. And I just thought.. well, hey, it’s just another day for me. That’s pretty scary if I look at it from one point of view, but it’s actually also reassuring. I know my brain throws them up, and I know how to deal with it. (Kick the weasels. Hard. It’s not easy or fun but it works.)
I can also understand the thing about the first six months being the most dangerous, because you still have depression but you also have energy. I do still have depression. I can feel it. But I don’t have any of the emotions behind it – and that makes it harder to understand, and to cope with.
But for now: I’m keeping going. I’m holding onto my routine, and my partner, and my friends, and everything around me, and just stepping forward. I’m trusting that if I just keep on a bit longer then everything will start to settle, and everything will start to balance again. I’m trusting that the medication will work and that despite the difficulty, this is going to make me stronger.
My world’s on fire, how about yours? And no, I definitely don’t like it. I would much rather have boredom. (Earworm brought to you courtesy of Mr David Moore breaking into Smash Mouth at any and every opportunity.)
After the glorious fun that was the political fuckery of December, I had a long think, and then a bit of a thought-splurge on Twitter about what I could actually DO.
My overall conclusion? Be more kind.
(I’m still debating getting that as a tattoo.)
Off my list so far, I’ve subscribed to the Guardian, and also joined the Patreons of Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Uncanny Magazine, Locus and Shoreline of Infinity. (If you’re into podcasts, by the way, I also highly recommend Breaking The Glass Slipper.) I’ve asked at work about payroll giving to donate to The Trussell Trust, Shelter and probably BookTrust (and I already donate to Tommy’s), and I’ve also asked about mental health first aid courses. I’m looking into Arts Emergency too, and the possibility of internships.
What else? I did Christmas cards for the neighbours, and I’m starting to get to know people. I want to do a crafty evening once a month, and get into the habit of buying a foodbank item when I shop. Beyond that, I’ve started to consolidate myself; sort out what I have and where I have it, and get myself onto a firmer footing for the next ten years. It’s going to be rough, so I want to know where I stand before we hit stormier waters.
I also want to be better at being there for people this year; I always do find it hard as an introvert and someone with limited spoons, but I want to make sure I keep up with friends. I know I forgot things, so my calendar is going to get lots of new entries to remind me! I’ve already got a bundle of random cards to send out, and I want to pick up some odd little gifts in the sales that I can just post at random times. Beyond that, I need to make sure I actually keep in touch, too!
Everything else on the list is ongoing… but it feels good to have started it all! If the world’s going to try to make selfishness and hate a priority, then fuck that. I’m going to do my best to be kind.
And as a final thought:
My response, all I really know to do, is to create cool shit that does include all those normally shoved to the margins. To reclaim magic and wonder and share it. I can do that. Some of you can too. Let’s do it. pic.twitter.com/WHXo0ABK6W
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) December 20, 2019
I might not be able to make cool shit at the moment, but I can bloody well enable it. I’ve got the power to choose what I want to publish, and I’m damn well going to enable what I want to see in the world. Diversity, kindness and weirdness are the watchwords of 2020!
I, once again, manifestly failed at 2019’s aims.
I mean, I sort of did do them… read more, yes, but at work. (LOTS more.) Reading at home? Um, not really, despite trying. Writing? Nope. Baking? I’ve been doing bits, but not much, and definitely haven’t got the macarons right yet. BAH.
Friendships? Actually, I feel I’ve done ok there. I’ve kept up many of them, despite obstacles, and the list of people that I’ve sent Christmas cards and presents too has felt good, even if I haven’t seen those people much. I’ve also made a bunch of new friends, or consolidated other friendships – so actually, that’s one success.
And adventure? Well, yes! It hasn’t been as dramatic as I would have liked, but I’ve been to Ireland, Italy, Scotland…
And I have grown; I have learned. I’ve found new paths. I’m still struggling to find the joy in it all, but that’s something I’m working on – I’m putting my roots down, and I’m hoping that they’re going to keep spreading.
What do I want to achieve in 2020?
Actually, I think I’ve only really got a couple* of things I want to work on.
I’m hopefully (fingers crossed!) going to Canada in October, Belgium at Easter, and have various trips to London planned. I want to do a long weekend at least in Norway and Prague. I want to go to Wales and trundle round castles. I want to explore more of Oxford. I’m taking the long routes home!
2.Qualifications and Consolidation
In my work life, I want to get to SFEP Professional level: I’ve nearly got the hours for it, and I’m just doing more training credits. That would be really satisfying, although I definitely want to do it alongside more useful development for my job – every editing role is specialised, and so I want to keep working on my own development and needs.
In my personal life, I want to Get Shit Sorted. I want to sort out my finances, and also various accounts/passwords/will/pensions/forms/all that boring jazz that only becomes important if something goes drastically wrong. It’s tedious but it makes me happier to have it done!
This kind of fits in with the consolidation, but I want to spend more time just being. I want to sit with a cup of tea on the sofa and look out the window. I want to plan the garden and work on it. I want to take time to write cards and see my friends. I want to work on my courses and finish some projects and just let myself do the things I want to. I want to let my brain have time to recover, and let the grey recede, and start living again.
And hopefully, somewhere in all of that, I’ll be able to start reading, and start writing.
Somewhere, hopefully, there’s a story that I want to write.
So – here’s to 2020, a year of slow building and small joys.
*Ok, so there’s a story behind the “Foster Couple”. When you say “a couple” to me, I’ll bring you three. Or four. This is because my father is an engineer, and therefore if you bring him two screws, he’ll drop one or need three or they’ll be the wrong size and actually it’s just easier to bring more than he needs, and therefore it’s become a habit that if you want two, you say two. If you want a couple, you mean three or four.
This especially applies to donuts. Who actually wants two donuts when you could have more?
I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to do this, because… well, 2011 to 2019 feels like it’s been a pretty shit decade for me.
But… actually, you know what? It hasn’t. In this decade, I’ve been a librarian, a web developer and a book witch, and I’ve now been an editor for a-year-and-a-half. I’ve read I-have-no-idea-how-many books, and I’ve written over fifteen books and numerous short stories. I’ve played and GM’d several RPG campaigns, and written ridiculous numbers of words in side-stories. I’ve added heaps of skills of my DIY toolbox, not least the incredibly useful one of knowing when NOT to drill into a wall. I’ve played a bunch of board games and want to play many more. I’ve crafted and sung and travelled. I’ve got my library degree. I’ve had some amazing commutes and lived in some lovely places. I saw friends get married and have kids, and I’ve got to see them grow. I’ve been to numerous cons, including WorldCon in Dublin. I’ve run my own business. I’ve loved and laughed and made an incredible number of friends.
In my personal life, I started the decade by getting married. I’m unfortunately ending the decade still married (yay for long divorce proceedings!) but it’s all looking hopeful for the New Year. And in the last year-and-a-bit, I’ve met my wonderful other half and moved into a house full of books (only some of which are my fault.)
And speaking of which, obviously this decade has involved books, books, conventions and more books.
Otter asked me how many books I’d read, and… well. I honestly wouldn’t even know where to start with a number! Let’s just go with “lots”.
I also started running my own business – Book Polishers has now been with me for two years, and I’m still trundling along with it. It sometimes feels annoying to work a full day and then come home and do the same, but it’s also a bundle of different subjects and people, with much more involvement in the actual book format – so it’s still something I enjoy!
On the writing front, I’ve published five and finished nine books in the Greensky Series, plus a number of short stories. I’ve published four short stories in the No Man’s series and have three books waiting for me to do something with them. Madcap Library is ongoing, and my random Dresden fanfic is up on Wattpad. I’ve also done NaNoWriMo and won twice! Beyond that, I have a pile of short stories and ideas that are waiting for me to get some inspiration again; it would be nice if writer’s block would let me go, but I’m content that I’ve done a lot of stuff this decade.
I’ve also been blogging here since 2014. WUT.
In more fluffy news, we had cats, cats, a daft lizard, and more cats (Frankie & Benny, Spike, Cashew, Peppermint, and Peter & Jodie)…
…and I’ve done all the DIY (by which I mean “caused general chaos”), all the crafting and all the baking.
And I’ve travelled.
I’ve also spent this decade with some downs; losing Ryan, losing my relationship and a house I loved, moving a lot and losing a lot of friendships… it hasn’t been fun in many ways. But it’s definitely been a lesson in trusting myself, trusting my gut, and also learning that I can live with my mental health problems – and that I am stronger than I thought I was. I’ve learned to take care of myself, and learned that doing it pays off. It’s actually been incredibly satisfying to be able to put my knowledge to use: to have friends talk to me about mental health and be able to give them good advice; to have my partner ask about a DIY thing and to know what to do; to be able to talk books and writing and craft, and be happy with my knowledge! I’ve still got so much to learn, but it feels like everything has been worth it so far.
It’s been an… interesting decade.
Here’s to the next!