On Saturday, I presented a “Social Media for Writers” workshop to my local RWA chapter. As part of the presentation, I shared my reason for backing away from social media for a time last year, that I had been depressed. I wanted these inspirational women to know that there are times when it’s okay to back away from an online presence, times when it can be overwhelming to put yourself out there in a positive light. Several women thanked me, and one woman asked me if I intended to blog about this. Until she asked that question, I hadn’t considered it. I wasn’t sure anyone would care. Rather, not care exactly, but maybe since I blog about writing and books, it wouldn’t be pertinent. Seeing the response of those women, though, changed my mind because I think a lot of writers (and people) go through this.
A year and a half ago, my day job offered me the option of working from home. Introvert that I am, I loved the idea. I didn’t really think through the implications. That working from home would be a lonely endeavor, despite being on the phone a good portion of the day. Add in the writing, which is a solitary job, and I found myself extremely isolated. I had too much time to think. Too much time to assess and criticize myself. Too much time in my own head.
At that time, I was also doing a lot of thinking about my writing career. No matter how much I told myself that I was in this for the craft and the books, I still had expectations. I hate it, but there it is. I had expectations around reviews, sales, marketing, publicity, reader response… The list goes on. I am a Type-A control freak. If I could have built a plan to deliver on my expectations, you bet your ass that it would have been color-coded, collated, and outlined in parts with graphs and charts. But if I’ve learned any lesson since I send my first book into the wild, it’s that I have control over nothing but the words on the page. Feeling out of control – and having too much time to think about it – culminated into a disillusioned attitude on my part. Doubt spiraled until I wondered how badly I wanted this or if I was talented enough to keep at it. My dream had come true, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was asking myself “Now what?”, and I didn’t have any of the answers.
Between the isolation and the disillusionment, I sunk into a depression. I was sad all the time. I struggled to get up in the morning. I suffered from insomnia at night. My friends would ask me to do things, and I had to make myself get out of the house to meet them. The whole idea of getting dressed and going somewhere overwhelmed me. Used to seeing my family several times a year, I went 11 months between visits. And when it came time to promote my latest release, my energy was at an all-time low. All of my energy went toward my day job, and I had little left over.
I filled the hours with reading. Books have always been my standby to escape the world. That is the true reason that I read 323 books last year. It’s a sad testament to my desire to hide from myself and how shitty I felt. I got behind on email (I’m still getting caught up), and I’m sure I let people down. And writing? Seriously, I felt empty. That well had dried up like the Sahara. I owed options to both of my publishers. I wish I could say that their expectations weighed on me, but I felt too numb to care. And not caring made me feel like a failure, which made me sad, which just fed into the whole damn cycle of my depression.
It has been a slow process to come out of this. I still am. It began with a career change in my day job. I left my marketing agency of 10 years to start a new position. I now work in an office around lovely people. Never discount the impact of putting on makeup every day or wearing clothes that can’t be described as pajamas. I also had a great call with my agent where we talked about the past and what I’d like my future in publishing to look like. I’ve been hanging out with friends, and, lo and behold, I’ve begun writing again. Slowly, it feels like I’m getting some control over my life again, but I have to remind myself that control is an illusion. It’s too easy to have the world swept out from under you, or (as happened to me last year) to slide into a state of mind where you feel like you’re giving up on everything.
I’m becoming a happier person, though sometimes I still want to retreat. I’m choosing to surge forward, even though it feels like I’m moving through a swamp some days. And I’ve made the choice to talk about this. I started with my sister and a couple of friends, all of whom began to call me often to check in. They refuse to let me isolate myself again, even though I’m not always the cheeriest person to be around when I let my guard down. (I excel at faking a cheerful front, so most people had no clue this was happening.) I hope that sharing this here makes a difference, too. People didn’t know I was depressed because I didn’t want to bother them. Like my sadness would drag them down. It sounds like a silly thought in retrospect. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone if I’d talked about what I was going through. Which is why I’m sharing this here, so maybe someone else going through this won’t feel so alone.
So that’s where I am.