Hello, my friends! Long time no talk!
I figured it was time I tried to rejoin the living, so this is my attempt to give you the long, long version of the craziness that’s been my year. This was a terrifying post for me to write, so please forgive me if it gets a bit rambly.
You may notice that I usually don’t write too much about my personal life online. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that I’m so very bad at it. I’m terrified of oversharing, being perceived as a constant complainer, or even just being vulnerable with people who are essentially strangers. Some days, I’m afraid that I’m just another voice in the cacophony that is social media, and no one really cares.
So when shit started blowing up last year, I pulled my usual stunt. I went silent. I got off social media. I stopped talking to most of my online friends. I even stopped talking to my real life friends. Which, in hindsight, is pretty much the worst thing you can do when you’re going through a crisis.
But life is messy, and we all deal with shitty things. So, if you want the long version, keep reading (this ended up being SO much longer than I expected!) Otherwise, just skip to the end.
You see, my mom’s got an autoimmune disease she’s been fighting for a couple of years now. And last summer/fall, it kicked into high gear. She’d been on high doses of steroids, she went through chemo. And finally everything in her body just fell apart. Since last December, she’s been in and out of the hospital (more in than out, actually), and we almost lost her three times (she coded once when I was in the room with her). Because of her disease, she’s had half a dozen serious illnesses back-to-back.
It feels like I’ve spent most of this past year sitting in a chair in the ICU/ER/nursing home.
Then the depression, which I already struggle with, set in. So I changed my medications in January, hoping it would help me cope with all the craziness that was going on. It did – the antidepressant they put me on alleviated my anxiety. At the cost of pretty much all other emotions. You know when you see your mom dying in front of you, you should *feel* something.
But I didn’t. I just stared at the doctors trying to save her like I was watching a movie.
Don’t get me wrong. Thank god for those drugs. I’m not sure I could have gotten through the last year without them. But emotional coma left me completely unable to write. How can you spend thousands of words with a story you just don’t really care about? And connecting with other people? Impossible. I didn’t have the energy or the strength to be able to be a good friend to anyone, fictional or not, let alone myself.
For me, taking a break from writing and social media was probably a good thing. I’d been so focused on publishing, on becoming a better writer, on all the stresses of publication, and reviews, and promos, that I know I needed a breather. Unfortunately, this is not how I would have chosen to take a break.
But life doesn’t always give you that choice, so I dealt the best I could. Somewhere in the craziness of my mother’s illness, and sort of my own, I started a new job, sold my house, moved to a new city, helped my sister with her new baby, and tried to keep my family from falling apart.
And then Mom actually started doing better this summer. She was still weak and couldn’t really take care of herself, but she came home from the nursing home at the end of July. It was an amazing few weeks when she started getting her strength back. We were so hopeful that life would get back to normal.
And then she broke her hip. Getting into a car. Which required a full hip replacement. And another three weeks in the hospital and nursing home. Her bones are so brittle and weak from the steroids and the chemo, that simply starting to use them again has caused more issues. She’s finally home again, but we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Funny how stress works. You deal with it as best you can, but you never know when it’s going to break you. I thought I was keeping it under control, but yeah, it finally blew up. I’ve developed chronic hives over the last 4 months. My doctor says it’ll go away, but I also realized that if I don’t start taking better care of myself, I’m going to end up in the same boat as my mom.
So one of the huge things I’ve learned from this past year is that self-care is so important.
I was lucky that I have such a supportive family – I would never have gotten through this without Ryan or my sister or my friends who talked me down from the ledge when I needed them to. But I am also terrible at putting myself first, at making choices that are good for me, like not withdrawing when things get hard. It’s a constant struggle.
I’m not sure when or if life will ever get back to normal. Maybe this is the new normal, I don’t know. But I am trying to control the few things I can – I’m trying to take better care of myself, I’m eating better, exercising, changing my meds again to see if that will help.
But I’m hoping things are starting to look up, too. I was able to start drafting a new story last week. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day, but it felt great to put words on paper again. Mom got good news from the doctor last week too. So *fingers crossed* that we’re on the right path. And even better, my brain’s working well enough to start making dirty jokes again. When I can text my other half that I grabbed his package (from the post office), and then crack myself up with a “that’s what she said” joke, I know things are on the up-swing.
I don’t know when I’ll start really writing again. I don’t really have the mental energy yet, though each day gets a little better. And I’m trying to be kind to myself and not push it. But it’s so incredibly frustrating, especially when you see all your writer friends still plugging away, being successful, being part of the community. I want that too!
Like I said, there’s no real take away from this, I just wanted to let you all know where I’ve been and that I’m slowly coming back. And that I appreciate all of you who’ve supported and been there for me the last few months. It means the world.
And for anyone else struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or anything, make sure you take care of yourself, no matter what else is going on. Take a lesson from me. Don’t cut off your support group/friends. You’re going to need them. Go on medication if you need to, and keep trying until you find one that works for you. And remember that you’re not alone. There are a lot of support groups and programs that can help you, even in the darkest of times.