I’ve been beating around the bush with this for a while, but my writing has been pretty stalled for the last couple of years.
Yeah, I get things done. Sort of. I have a hard time starting things, and continuing with them. Lately the people I’m close to and I have been talking about my high levels of anxiety, and we’re coming to the conclusion that I probably have an anxiety disorder, and while I don’t have the emotional symptoms of depression, I seem to have the physical symptoms of it. The signs started showing up around puberty, when I was in middle school and I went from having lots of friends to having very few, and getting picked on a lot, and my grades went from awesome to embarrassing for everyone involved. Grades were always something I struggled with, usually passing my classes by the skin of my teeth all the way through high school, and college was a real test of not necessarily my abilities, but my emotional and mental endurance. It was hard. Not the classwork, really, but just being involved was exhausting. I skipped a lot of classes not because I overslept or couldn’t make it, but because I could not muster the emotional and mental fortitude to even get out of bed and into the shower. Going from my kitchen table to the car seemed like a daunting task. Sometimes I didn’t go because I had no clean laundry; putting things in a basket, walking across the parking lot, and putting my things in a machine was just too much for me to comprehend, even on a Saturday when I didn’t have to work.
I still deal with this. If I can handle the socially nerve-wracking experience of committing to a social activity outside of my home with someone who is not my boyfriend, it’s about a fifty-fifty chance – sometimes not even that good – that an hour before the activity I will come up with an excuse to back out; not because I’m busy, or don’t want to, but because the idea of leaving my home to see a movie, grab some lunch, go sit on someone else’s couch and read a book… “overwhelming” is the only word I can really think of. A couple of persistent friends will drag me out of my place anyway, and usually when that happens I DO enjoy myself, and am glad that I went out… unless overwhelming anxiety over whether I can find at seat at Panera while I’m waiting in line makes it necessary for me to leave, even though I can see an empty table for two from where I’m standing. (That actually happened last week, which is when I started to realize I have a problem.)
Socially and academically, I’ve been dealing with this crap for most of my life. My friends and family have learned what I can and can’t handle, sometimes better than I have, and accommodate me when necessary and push me when I need it. It has gotten worse in some areas and better in others, and I’m looking into seeing a psychiatrist to figure out what exactly may be going on with me, and how we can fix it. My trichotillomania, mild tachycardia, panic attacks, nightmares, and social anxiety are likely all symptoms of one thing, instead of being all separate issues by themselves.
The most devastating symptom of this, however, has been fairly recent, within the last few years: writing has become a struggle.
I remember in high school and my first few years of college, the words just spilled out of me, and I didn’t even have half as much to say as I do now. By my junior years, though, it was like a dam had been built up. The words were there… but they weren’t coming out. Trying to organize a plot – in my head, on paper, visually or verbally, any way you like – feels like trying to do pre-calc in my head in a room full of screaming toddlers. For the last three years, I’ve been writing and re-writing the same ten chapters of my novel – the ten chapters I managed to get down on paper before the dam set in. It’s not writer’s block – I’ve had that before, and I know what it feels like. I still love writing, and I can’t see myself doing anything else, but anymore when I sit down to write I feel the same way I do an hour before a pre-planned social engagement. I have so much that I want to put down on paper, I have so much to say, but if my brain had a tongue it would have developed a debilitating speech impediment. The process has become so slow and painful and frustrating, especially because I know what I want to say and how I want to say it and for some reason it just won’t come out.
So, that’s what I’m working on right now. If I can finally finish Resurrection this summer, great. If all I can churn out is one or two pieces of flash fiction a week, great. If all I have to show at the end of every Friday is one entry in my diary, then… that’s progress. That’s improvement.
I’ve got a lot of hope, though, and it’s in the realization that something in my brain isn’t working right. I thought the way I feel every day, my average state of mind, my “normal” was the same as everyone else’s “normal.” Now that I realize, no, it’s not… that means that it’s possible for me to feel better, to get better. And that’s pretty exciting. That means I’m just stalled, not totaled, to go with an automobile metaphor.
So I’ll keep trying. I’m not going to give up on myself, or my stories. I hope you won’t, either, those of you who have stuck with this blog through it’s stops and starts and hiatuses and lord-knows-what-else I’ve pulled. Knowing that someone actually cares about what I have to say, and what I have to write, is what keeps me trying at this. 🙂