The truth of the matter is that I'm freaking out, guys. This is to be expected, of course, with my first novel debuting in less than 40 days, but annoying nonetheless. I've been pretty open about my struggles with anxiety, and one of the most frustrating things about it is not being able to STOP. That's why it's a disorder, after all. Normal people can stop freaking out—when you have an anxiety disorder, you can't. (So if you ever get the urge to tell a person with anxiety to just STOP freaking out, don't. We really, really wish we could. I promise.)
My meds help, but there is this threshold of stress that I reach where the anxiety outweighs my body and the medication's ability to contain my excessive angst. This is rather inconvenient, seeing as those moments are usually moments I need to be composed and focused and generally not crazy-looking. Like, say, when I have to promote my book plus working on a tight deadline or—please just kill me now—speak at my own impending launch party (preferably sans passing out).
I'm trying my utmost best not to freak out by doing all the things I know help my anxiety levels, like exercising and cooking and talking with friends and watching mindless reality TV. I am trying to stay out of negative thought patterns and focus on work. I am trying to eat nutritious meals so my body is at its strongest to combat stress. I am trying to stay away from any place where I may see publishing news/reviews/etc that may trigger insecurity and fear of how my book will fare out there. Trying, trying, trying.
I get so tired of trying to contain my stress levels. It feels like my whole life right now. It's frustrating as hell. (You know I'm annoyed when I start using such scandalous words as "hell.")
The worst thing is that all this gets in the way of my creative process. Oh, I know what happens in this WIP of mine. Technically, I should be able to write the rest of this thing with no stopping I have the story so firm in my head...and yet every day is a challenge. Just the thought of opening the WIP fills me with anxiety, not because of the words but because of how I FEEL about myself as a writer. When I get particularly stressed an anxious, I start thinking things like:
I will never get this right.
I'm a horrible writer, no matter how hard I try.
This story is just plain stoopid. Yes, spelled that way. It's too stoopid to deserve proper spelling.
No one will care.
And if they do, they'll just hate it.
I will never write a better book than the ones I've already written, so why keep going?
Super negative thought patterns, right? And I know that, too, but again it's part of that whole disorder thing. Knowing you're being irrational and not being able to just STOP. It takes so much work to quell that horrible inner dialogue. So much work to keep going forward when all you hear is those lies in your head. Some days are better than others. Some are much worse than others. I never know which I'm going to get.
So when all the writing challenges are in your head, what do you do? I wish I had all the answers to that question, but I don't. I have learned to accept that not all the things my brain tells me are true things, that sometimes I have to rely on the good opinions of my closest friends until I believe it myself. Those poor friends, they must get tired of saying, "IT'S GOOD. SHUT UP. KEEP GOING." But they do it, and I'm ever grateful for it.
I've also learned to STOP working when I'm having a super bad day, because everything I work on will just be tainted by that anxiety and I'll push myself into a panic attack. And I usually have to flee from social media because it's so easy to start reading everything as, "Everyone is more important and funnier and cooler and smarter and more talented than I can ever hope to be why do I even bother?" Comparison is certainly a deadly thing to an anxious personality.
Being okay with slow work days is also something I've gradually come to embrace. Sometimes I just have to be happy with the page I wrote, instead of worrying over the seven I couldn't manage. And I've especially come to understand that I can in no way feed my inner critic with criticism that comes from outside. I already beat myself up enough without reading reviews—I already believe too often that I'm a terrible writer and my books are drivel. There's no need to search for other people who may agree with that.
And most of all, I have learned to keep going. Even when it's annoying and exhausting and seems impossible. Having anxiety makes some aspects of my life so much harder than they should be, but I decided many years ago that I wouldn't let it stop me from doing what I most wanted to do. And this whole author thing is what I love even though my personal challenges sometimes get in the way.
If you got this far, thanks for reading. I think I mostly had to write this for myself after a long day of mental warfare.