Dealing with Anxiety, Depression, and Writer’s Block

I make no secret of the fact I suffer from anxiety, and this year has by far been the worst. At the beginning of the year I had several events happen all at once that increased my panic attacks from occasional to several a day. My fear was paralyzing to the point I became terrified to leave my home. I couldn’t breathe. I would shoot straight out of bed from a dead sleep, heart racing and skin slick with sweat. There was a mysterious lump in my throat I couldn’t swallow around. Food made me sick. There were sharp pains beneath my ribs. I went to the ER. I saw handfuls of doctors. I even had surgery. None of it helped.

So I decided to see a therapist. And even though it took months, food became enjoyable again. I could breath. The  heart attack sensations went away. I felt confident leaving the house. I could write again!

And then some things happened. The curve balls that life occasionally lobs out began to hit  me. Disappointments. *smack* Rejections. *thunk*  And the ever-present feeling of failure that always seems to be lurking in the crevices of my mind. *wham. bam. kablooey*

Depression can feel like stagnant water festering inside.

The whispers, Why are you even bothering? You’re just going to fail. You suck and everyone knows it. You’ll never be as good as the rest of them. They’re only nice to you because they feel sorry for you. These whispers descended on my like a strange black cloud. And every time I tried to navigate myself out, I only wound up deeper inside.

I hurt my leg so I couldn’t run–which made for a great excuse to keep from leaving the house. I began to believe the voices. I stopped picking up the phone. I stopped answering emails. I stopped writing. I stopped caring because, really, what was the point?

And then I saw my therapist, and what she told me was too amazing to keep to myself. Everyone goes through dark periods, but it’s how we look at those periods that will affect the outcome. To me, my depression (and inability to work) was like a stagnant puddle festering inside me. The longer I sat idle, the more infected I became, the more the darkness spread, the more “ruined” I became. I became more and more sure that I would never write again because after all, writers write. And I certainly wasn’t doing that.

But my therapist explained to me that was the wrong way of looking at it. Instead, my depression made me a tiger. At this point I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, how ridiculous. A tiger was strong, and I sure as hell felt anything but. After all, weren’t people who suffered depression weak?

No.

She explained that I was looking at things all wrong. I wasn’t weak, but I was a tiger crouching in the bush. My inactivity shouldn’t be looked at as stagnation, but rather a tiger, gathering his strength, watching, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce.

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A new way to look at depression–as a tiger crouching in the brush.

Not writing didn’t equal the failure I thought it did. Not writing can be productive in the watchful, restful way a tiger crouching in the brush is. I can use my non-writing time to rest, gather my strength, regroup, recharge, and plan.

Tigers can’t hunt 24/7. And it was ridiculous of me to assume failure meant not writing during every available moment of every available day. Absurd of me to compare myself to other writers who can write books in a week (so not me) and proclaim defeat when I couldn’t match their word counts.

This week I opened my laptop and, instead of staring blankly at the screen, my fingers are flying. My love of writing is back. Even though the voices of doubt are still there, they’re quieter. I feel refreshed. Focused. I know better to go forward thinking this is the way it will be forever. I’m still going to have my bad days, days where I must return to the brush, crouch down, gather my strength, and wait.

But for the time being, this tiger has pounced.