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NaNoWriMo 2015

NaNo-2015-Participant-BannerNaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—starts in just a few weeks. During the month of November, novelists attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It’s a marathon-style event that encourages people to write. I haven’t done it in years.

Usually, I’m already waist-deep in another writing project. This year, though, things are very different.

Depression got the best of me. I haven’t written anything in weeks. It’s a bitter cycle, because not writing makes me more depressed.

So I think it’s time to rectify this.

I’ve tried everything else. When I face the blank page, I still feel unmotivated and overwhelmed.

So a friend and I made a pact. We decided to participate in NaNoWriMo to get ourselves back on track.

Starting November 1st, I’m going to write every day—even if I only manage to lay down a couple of sentences.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Add me as a buddy!

When You Can’t Write

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

They say there’s no such thing as writer’s block, that it’s just an excuse. Normally, I agree with that. Writer’s block can be worked through. It might feel impossible, but there are ways to do it. Some of these include: pushing yourself to write anyway, taking a break to work on something else that is creative, getting up and moving for a little while.

But then there’s depression.

It’s a consuming emptiness that stifles your ability to do anything, never mind face the blank page. Sometimes it manifests as self-doubt. Other times it’s a drowning grief.

And you can’t just push through it.

It’s not that simple.

This poses a serious problem when deadlines are looming and you’re too restless to sit still and string together a single sentence. Depression, for me, removes all desire to do anything. Just getting dressed becomes an insurmountable task. I can’t even decide what to wear—and I’m probably not even leaving the house. So I just stay in pajamas. I do nothing.

So how do you write when you are depressed?

I can only tell you what works for me. You may have to experiment until you find a system that works for you. And honestly, the same tools don’t always do the job for me. It’s a work in progress.

  • Don’t force it. It’s incredibly frustrating to face the page without being able to lay down a single word. Be gentle to yourself. You are sick; depression is very similar to having asthma. It is chronic and makes you more susceptible. You wouldn’t give someone with asthma flack for not being able to run during allergy season. Give yourself the same room.
  • Focus on what you can do. Accept that, right now, writing is not going to happen. Find something else that you can do. For example, when depression hits and I can’t write, I channel myself into marketing. It may take me five times longer to write a blog post or make a teaser than usual, but these are things that get me out of my head a bit while still being productive.
  • Get help. At one point, I was seeing my therapist every week—sometimes twice in the same seven-day period, depending on how I was doing. When I notice that my writing is suffering, I know that it’s time to go back to that weekly schedule. A therapist can help you work through the depression if it’s situational or ride it out if it’s a chemical imbalance. She can even help you tell the difference between the two. (I have a chemical imbalance, but get even more depressed when life gets sassy.) She will remind you of the tools at your disposal to help yourself.
  • Adjust your medication. Not everyone does well on medication for depression. (I have a hard time with it, myself.) If you are already on medication and suddenly feeling depressed, check in with your doctor, as the drugs may be having an adverse effect. (Please note that I am not a healthcare professional and that you are responsible for your own health. Always use medication under the supervision of a professional.) My latest bout of depression was probably because of the antidepressant I was on. Three days after stopping it under the guidance of my APRN, I felt much better—not out of the woods yet, but better. Your medication may need to be increased, decreased, or accompanied by something else. If you are not taking medication and find that you are struggling even with therapy, it may be time to explore that option. Talk with your healthcare team to determine what is best for you.
  • Write in a journal. It sounds crazy: “I can’t write, so how can I write in a journal?” But some days, keeping the pen moving is all that keeps me sane. I don’t usually re-read this stream of consciousness writing. The purpose is to get out of your head while keeping the habit of using the written word. Some of the things you write may be incredibly negative. Be sure to balance that out with some things that are going well for you. You may even use positive affirmations—strong statements of positivity, such as “I am strong” and “I will get through this.”
  • Ride it out. Depression, like everything else, is not permanent. It may come and go, and may affect your life quite heavily. But each episode is only temporary. “This too shall pass.” Remember that things will get better. Give yourself the head space to let it be. Sometimes the only way to get through depression is just to accept that it’s there. I tend to kick and scream, and that almost always gets me nowhere. When I can let go of my initial reaction to fight it, I find that the depression still hurts—but I’m no longer at war with myself. I baby myself, treating myself in little ways: tea, long hot baths, reading my favorites, and immersing myself in movies.

How do you deal with depression when you’re on a schedule? Leave a comment and share your tips with me!

Shame

via Project Semicolon
via Project Semicolon

I have something to confess: I am profoundly ashamed of myself. Every time I think I have depression, I cringe. And I have no idea why.

No one made me like this. Sure, there’s the stigma attached to mental illness. And maybe that’s part of it. But no one ever explicitly told me there was something wrong with me—except for me.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to parade my depression around boldly. I had a pen pal support group for people with depression. I blogged about it without even blinking. Now, just the thought of publishing this post terrifies me.

But I’m going to do it anyway, because someone out there feels like this too. And I want you to know that it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel ashamed, because we are a work in progress. And someday, you and I are both going to feel proud of who we are—because we should be. Anyone living with depression has serious guts.

Take it a little at a time. Someday soon, you will feel just as strong as you truly are.

#FridayReads Only She Can Save Herself

Scorched, by Jennifer Armentrout

Sometimes life leaves a mark…

Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now.

Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers.

Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock bottom, only she can save herself.

Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after…

I read this book in just a few hours. Not because it was super short. It wasn’t light reading, either. But I devoured it. I had to know what happened next. Because Scorched isn’t just a romance. It’s about living with depression and anxiety—two conditions that are a huge part of my life.

Andrea tries to self-medicate using alcohol. Her concerned friends aren’t sure what to do. Even she isn’t sure.

There were plenty of moments of levity. I laughed out loud quite a bit. Scorched balances out some pretty heavy material with brilliant dialogue and witty narration.

My favorite part about this book was the relationship between Andrea and Tanner. He gives her room to figure things out for herself, with lots of support.

Readers who enjoy books that tackle real issues with the prevailing message of hope should definitely pick up a copy of Scorched.

If you read and liked Scorched, you may enjoy my novel Diving Into Him, a story about a young woman struggling with alcoholism and her dream of redemption.

Sade on the Wall: Chapter 1

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“Don’t you dare tell anyone,” I stage-whispered to my fourteen-year-old brother Corey as we got closer to Reggie Wilson’s porch. The party looked like it had started hours ago. Kids sat on the front porch, drinking out of big plastic red cups and smoking cigarettes. My eyes widened. Our parents—my birth mother, who we called Mommy, and Corey’s birth mother, who we called Mama—thought this would be a good old-fashioned clean Halloween party, mostly because that’s what I thought it would be. The Wilsons were famous for the haunted house they put together for the neighborhood kids every year. Judging by the lack of strobe lights and headstones on the lawn, it looked like Reggie’s parents weren’t even in town.

“Only if you let me try a beer, Sade.” Corey smirked. He moved ahead of my best friend Jackie and me, and went inside. I stopped walking and stared after him. I didn’t think he would say anything to our moms, but you never know with little brothers.

“Don’t worry about him,” Jackie said with a wink.

A couple of people stared at me, pointing. I glanced down and slapped my thigh with the palm of my hand. “Shit,” I said, looking down at the Disney princess costume Mama had sewn for me. The ice blue dress fell to my ankles, the long sleeves and velvet fabric clinging to my body. Although I loved the costume, it just wasn’t sexy enough. I yanked off the dress, revealing the short fairy costume that Jackie let me borrow. The night air felt cool against my legs—about normal for Connecticut in October—but it didn’t matter. We would be mostly inside throughout the party.

“Relax people, nothing to see!” Jackie called to them as she helped me put on the fairy wings. I slipped my feet into her heels, shoved the white flats and glacial blue dress into my bag, and followed her inside.

I felt the eyes of everyone on the porch on me as we walked past, but the screen door closed behind us in seconds, shielding me from their smirks and head shaking.

There must have been a hundred people inside the house. Although Clarington is a small town, I didn’t recognize any of the faces we passed. Music boomed in my ears. People either danced, or stood off to the side drinking out of more big red cups. In the hallway between the living room and kitchen, even more people stood talking.

I followed Jackie into the kitchen, where three long tables were set up with cups all over them. Kids stood at either end of the tables, tossing a ping-pong ball back and forth. I turned to ask Jackie what they were doing and realized she’d gone ahead into the dining room. I hurried after her, my heart pounding, terrified I’d get lost or someone would spill alcohol on me, and Mommy would smell it and ground me forever. I hoped the dining room would be less crowded so Jackie and I could catch our breath and try to find Corey. It was even worse in there. It only took me a few minutes to see why. Kids were lined up with more of those red cups in their hands, waiting to get them filled at this huge metal drum in the corner of the room.

“Sweet, a keg,” Jackie said. Her mouth was really close to my ear. “Isn’t this great?”

“Did you see where Corey went?” I asked, but she didn’t hear me over the music. She grabbed a red plastic cup from a stack on the shelf and held it out to me. I shook my head. She shrugged and got in line. I followed her and tapped her shoulder. “Did you see where Corey went?” I repeated.

Before she could answer, the kids in the dining room started counting. A really tall kid was doing a handstand on top of the keg and had the nozzle in his mouth.

“Twelve! Thirteen! Fourteen! Fifteen!”

“Come on, Harry!” a blonde girl yelled, jumping up and down.

“Twenty! Twenty-one! Twenty-two!”

I wondered how he didn’t fall down, or pass out from holding his breath for so long. I poked Jackie. “What’s he doing?”

She rolled her eyes, and I blushed. “It’s a keg stand. You drink upside down for as long as possible. You get drunk faster that way.”

“Oh. Uh … okay. Are you doing one?” I really wanted to ask her when she started to care so much about getting drunk, or even how fast she got drunk, but I already felt stupid enough.

“Hell no! I have to walk home!” She grinned. “Why, do you want to?”

I shook my head. “No way! Remember when we used to do handstands and get dizzy?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, I guess it can’t be all that fun, then.”

“Thirty-five—oh!” Everyone’s gasps rippled through the crowd. Silence fell over the room.

We looked up. The kid doing the keg stand sat on the floor looking dazed. A couple of people helped him up from the floor, then helped someone else get up onto the keg.

I watched the first guy—Harry—gag with his hands on his knees, hunched over the garbage can. I tapped Jackie again. “I’m gonna go see if I can find Corey,” I said. “I’ll be right back.” I headed back toward where I thought the kitchen was, but without Jackie, the house seemed much bigger.

I tried to remember how to get back to the dining room. I spotted a door that I thought looked familiar and went inside. Music videos flickered on a TV, but I couldn’t hear them over the music. Several people sprawled all over couches, making out and rubbing their hands all over each other. One girl even had her shirt off and her bra unhooked. I rolled my eyes and left the room quickly, heat spreading across my cheeks. I went straight back through the hall and found myself in the kitchen.

“Hey!” Someone touched my arm.

I whirled around, swaying in Jackie’s heels, a little off-balance from stopping so abruptly.

A girl dressed in rainbow colors, her blonde hair dyed to match, nodded to me. “We need an extra player. Danielle’s too drunk. You down?”

I glanced at the long tables and shrugged. “I’m looking for my brother, but maybe later.” I didn’t think there would be a later, but I didn’t want to look lame.

“Aw.” She sighed.

“I just wanna make sure he’s all right.” I smiled like I was a pro at big, crazy drinking parties.

“Oh no, he didn’t drink too much, did he?” She took a sip from a brown glass bottle. I didn’t recognize the name on the label, but I doubted it was soda.

I shook my head and laughed. “Corey? Yeah right. He’s never even had a beer.”

Even though I was a year older than Corey, I’d never had a beer, either. I wasn’t about to tell her that, though. She had a metal ring through her nose, a couple of tattoos, and something told me the dye in her hair wasn’t the temporary stuff Mama allowed us to use.

She laughed. “I’m Olivia.”

“Sade,” I said, pronouncing it extra hard—Sha-day—so she got it.

“Like the singer?”

I cringed. I’ve never even listened to her music, but I don’t plan on starting anytime soon. People always assumed I was named after her. “Like the chick standing in front of you,” I said, my face hot. The words stumbled out of my mouth and I regretted them almost instantly. I swallowed hard, hoping she wouldn’t take offense.

Olivia laughed again, though, her eyes sparkling.

“I’m getting thirsty!” A guy with dark hair and a goatee drummed his knuckles on the table. He looked older—a lot older.

Olivia winked at me. “So, you playing?”

“Let me go get my friend first. Be back in two minutes!” I said, and headed toward the dining room.

“Aw, come on,” the older guy said as I left.

I found the dining room, but Jackie was nowhere to be seen. I went back into the weird little hallway I’d walked through earlier, and stood in front of the door to the make out room. I did not want to go back in there. I headed back to the kitchen and rejoined Olivia. “I have no idea where my friend went. Did you see a little blonde Puerto Rican girl in a sailor costume?”

Olivia shook her head. “Blonde Puerto Rican?” She lifted an eyebrow at me. “Isn’t that, like, an oxymoron?”

I started to explain that nothing about Jackie was ordinary. She was Puerto Rican with blonde hair and blue eyes, and didn’t speak any Spanish. She could dance and usually had a line of boys chasing after her. She knew how to make me laugh and kept my secrets. We had met in kindergarten and became best friends when another girl stole my lunch money and Jackie kicked her until she gave it back. I couldn’t sum up almost ten years of friendship in just a couple of words, though.

“We playing or what?” the older guy demanded.

Olivia rolled her eyes and turned to me. “You’re on my team. You ever play?”

I decided to just go for it. I figured Corey was off having his own fun, and Jackie obviously was, too. There was no reason why I shouldn’t, either. I hesitated, though, because I didn’t know what they were playing. I wondered whether I should try to wing it and make myself look dumb, or admit that I’ve never been to a party and look even dumber. “The rules are so different everywhere,” I said, inspired by a poster board taped to the wall with “House Rules” written in big, black letters.

“Okay,” she said, “obviously, you have to get it in. You can’t bounce it off the table, and clean catches don’t count. If it hits two cups, they,” she jabbed a finger at the older guy and his partner, a short blond guy that at least looked like he was still in high school, “drink one each. If you knock one of their cups over, it doesn’t count. You drink. That’s pretty much it. Got it?”

I nodded. She handed me a ping-pong ball. It felt weightless between my fingers.

“Me first,” she said and, with a flick of her wrist, sent the little ball sailing over the table. It just missed one of the cups. I realized the cups were lined up in a triangle, with the tip pointed toward the opposing team. “Your turn,” Olivia said.

I swallowed hard and stared at a cup in the second row. There is a reason I don’t play sports. Please don’t make me look stupid, I thought as I tossed it over. I squeezed my eyes shut.

“Yay!” Olivia squealed, and hugged me. I opened my eyes. The guy with dark hair set the cup to the side and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

The game went by super fast. The next thing I knew, Olivia and I won and were “racking up” again to play against two other guys. Her friend, the still-drunk Danielle, cheered us on from a chair on the side, smoking cigarette after cigarette. She kept offering me one, but I said no each time. The only person I smoke with is Jackie, and even then, it’s only once in a while. Cigarettes are too gross to get hooked on.

I expected beer to taste nasty—since neither Mommy nor Mama ever drank it—but it was kind of fizzy, like soda, but the color of ginger ale, bitter and wet, kind of like the yeast Mama used for baking. I loved drinking the foam the most.

Each time we started a new game, Olivia reached into a box and pulled out two or three cans of beer. The first time, I watched her fill the cups with just over a mouthful, maybe two, but after that, I started filling them. By our third game, I was filling the cups with three or four mouthfuls, and Olivia laughed each time.

“You are gonna get us smashed,” she said, hugging me and leaning on me. “I feel so good right now! How’re you feeling, girl?”

I nodded. I barely noticed the rough words in the rap blaring over the speakers anymore, and the boom of the bass made me want to dance. Everything—even when I missed a cup or knocked one of the guys’ cups over—made me laugh.

As we racked up our fourth game, I heard someone shouting my name. I turned and saw Corey pushing through the crowd watching us play. “Sade!” he yelled.

“What?” I finished filling our cups. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s eleven-thirty!”

“Okay,” I said, and tossed the ball. “So what?” I froze as my younger brother’s words sank in. “Oh shit. Olivia, I have to go!”

“Aw!” She pouted, then turned to her friend. “Danielle, can you play another game?”

I followed Corey, tripping awkwardly in Jackie’s heels. “Slow down,” I whined. “Where have you been?”

“Upstairs, playing Xbox with Reggie and some other guys. Where’s Jackie?” he shouted as we circled the downstairs part of the house a second time.

“I tried looking for her earlier. The last place I saw her was in the kitchen.” I leaned against a wall and yanked the heels off.

“We are in so much trouble,” Corey said.

“I know,” I said, my heart pounding. “I don’t think I feel too good, either.”

“No,” Corey said. “Look.” He pointed.

There, in the front door of the living room, stood our moms.

Read Chapter 2 »

October Goals

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I used to set goals for myself every month.

I don’t know why I stopped.

Maybe because I thought they were stupid, that they were just distracting me. In truth, I think they were keeping me on track.

My goals for 2015 were divided into three areas of my life:

Career

  • Make a full-time income
  • Write the South of Forever series
  • Write a YA series

Marriage

  • Get an apartment
  • Have a date every week
  • Be more patient

Health

  • Get a diagnosis and treatment
  • Eat healthier
  • Do more yoga

Jury’s still out on the yoga thing. I remember to do it maybe once a month. #oops

The last time I set goals for the month was July.

That’s two months of nothing. Interestingly, I was super depressed throughout August and September. Does setting goals really impact my mental health that much? Maybe.

When I think about September, I think about new beginnings. But when I think of October, I can only think about the impending winter. November is even worse.

It doesn’t help that I feel so heavy because of the medication I’m on. Thinking is very hard right now. But I want those goals. I need something to refer to this month to keep me on track.

I think, when you are in a fragile place, you need to set goals that are super attainable but not too easy. I decided to pick three things that I’m already working on.

  • Release Savannah’s Song
  • Adjust depression medication
  • Read 1-3 books

Savannah’s Song comes out on the 26th. I’m seeing my APRN tonight to do something about my meds. (I still think I want to come off of everything and start fresh.) And I’m already reading K.A. Tucker’s Ten Tiny Breaths.

Sometimes, when you’re down, you need to build yourself back up.

I’m a work in progress.

Happy Birthday, Popi

Popi, me, and Noni on the day I graduated college.
Popi, me, and Noni on the day I graduated college.

My family is scattered. At one point we all practically lived in the same house. Now we’re separated across Connecticut and Virginia. Normally, I miss them but I’m able to go about my day. We’re all living our own lives, occasionally reuniting to celebrate the milestones. Times like today, though, I feel the pang of that split.

It’s my grandfather’s birthday, and all I want is to be around my family.

I can’t.

I’m too sick.

Plus, later, I have to go to the DMV. Today is not my favorite.

But thanks to Facebook, we can trade photos and stories. My sister dug up this photo of my grandparents with me on my college graduation. My aunt and I were discussing the various traits we all inherited from Popi. Across the gap, we’re still closer than ever.

Nightmares

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’m seriously starting to hate Wellbutrin. First it turned my thoughts against me. Now it’s ruining my sleep.

When I first started taking it, it made me laser focused. I could think. I could write again. For about two weeks, I tackled my To Do list with a fever. I even commented on it to my therapist, that it was almost too good to be true.

It was.

Two weeks ago, after being on Wellbutrin for a couple of months, I lost all concentration. I stopped writing. Disturbing thoughts started popping into my head. They weren’t suicidal thoughts, per se, but they were definitely not mine.

Last night, the nightmares started. I’ve always had odd dreams on Wellbutrin. They were quirky and charming. Now they’re bloody and terrifying.

It all reminds me too much of when I was on Viibryd.

I still can’t quite talk about the hellish experience I had. But I know when it’s time to get out of Dodge.

I have an appointment with my APRN for psych meds on Thursday. He has razor sharp instincts when it comes to these meds, but I want off. I won’t wean without supervision. I know how dangerous that can be. And I’m sure that there’s a drug out there that will work for me. I’ve just had enough for now.

Maybe I’m a little traumatized. Maybe I’m being too extreme. All I know is, Viibryd almost killed me. I won’t make the same mistake again.