52 Weeks of Editing: Week 15—When the Depression Monster Calls

52 Weeks of Editing: Week 15—When the Depression Monster Calls
Photo by Marloes Hilckmann / Unsplash

I'm late! I'm late! Here I am, a day late, rushing in like the White Rabbit, all flustered and confused. Let me tell you, it's been a week. For reasons I'll explain below, I couldn't write the blog update yesterday. In fact, let's make this whole blog post about not writing a blog post.

Here's the TL;DR: I had a depression. I slithered into it on Thursday, when I first began to feel ill. Friday it peaked, the eye of the storm settled over me. This morning, I woke up to a washed out brain and the sense that maybe I could do this.

Truth be told, there are a lot of times—usually Thursday evening to Friday morning—when I want to kick past me for deciding to do a weekly blog about editing something.

I don't want to show up here every week and write about something. My brain is fried enough by teaching, marking, living, writing now too. And I don't like being visible. Not like this. When I started, I was committed to the idea that you need to consistently show up and be visible.

Let me tell you right now: it's exhausting. It doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're an autistic perimenopausal person trying to stitch together three side-hustles into one main hustle and edit/write a novel series, that's a lot.

It's not just that it's exhausting, it's that I don't really like being visible at all. In the early days of the internet (the LiveJournal days), it was fine to just write a journal about your life and let it all hang out. The internet was more like a clubhouse for a certain type of person to visit.

Now it's much more interwoven into all our lives. Even if nobody reads your blog, the fact that it's there and can be read, is the scariest thing. Scary for a person who's never been that good at dealing with other people, social relations, rules and whatnot.

I try to follow the new rules for living on the internet, but after attempting to follow all the rules for the rest of the world, I'm too tired to come up with something compelling to say.

In the interests of being honest about writing life, though, I suppose I can attempt to be compelling about the least compelling of things. This is when depression hits, when the combination of fragile brain chemistry and a particular mixture of hormones, but you still want to write a novel. It's the middle of Camp Nanowrimo! Can I break my streak and actually reach this month's goal?

That's a weak attempt to create tension and drama. The truth is that I met the goal earlier this week. Yes, I wrote 30k words, which was what I'd wanted to do this month.

I could celebrate that, and write a blog post about how to achieve all your goals despite life, autism, depression, perimenopause, etc., but that doesn't feel honest. It only presents one side of the story, and ignores all the privileges I have that make it much easier for me to achieve the goal despite everything.

For a start, after spending all last week marking essays, I took a week off from work so I could spend time writing fiction instead. This is a bit risky, because it means I earn less money overall for the month. But I took the gamble because I do have enough in the bank to survive a break.

I haven't really taken time off for a while. I'd worked some of Christmas, spent January marking and English editing (the other job), and after a couple of burnt out Fridays, I decided I really should give myself some time off.

That turned into an opportunity to write intensively for a few days. I might've kept going for the whole week, but there are times when hormones just don't play along, and that's what happened on Thursday and Friday.

Many people in the world don't have the privilege of taking time off when they get sick, either, hormones or not. I do, but I tried, at least at first, to keep going.

The weight of depression was too much for me, though. I could barely move. I don't get the depression I used to when younger. It's no longer as dramatic or poetic as it was. Instead, it's me and the monster hanging out in bed looking for some sources of dopamine and serotonin to get through the slump.

I prefer comedy at times like this. There's something about a comedy special or a panel show that seems to help.

I did write. I won't keep what I wrote because it was sluggish and awful. A first attempt, after reaching the First Disaster point at twenty-five percent of the way into this novel. (I'm vaguely following a mish-mash of the Snowflake Method, Save the Cat, and whatever else I find useful in the moment.)

A long time ago, I recall feeling angry at the idea of writing regardless of mood or health. I won't offer it up as advice here, either, because I'm not sure it's wise. You might feel better for having written, or the depression monster might chew it up and spit it out as "This is in no way good enough! Now I feel worse."

All depression monsters are unique, you have to find your own way to live with yours. Getting to know its methods and working with them is the best advice I have for you right now. If your world won't end when you take a day off, take that day off. Find and make a list of all the things that help, that ease you through the pain, and do one or two of those things.

The writing can wait.

I'm not entirely recovered. I feel better today and the sun is out. I think I'm some way to figuring out the next stage of the story, so I will re-write what I did yesterday, and that will be enough.