Life

Why Is My Mental Health So Shit?

Alright, let’s talk about my health. The title of this post couldn’t be anymore obvious, but you know, I’ve never really thought about how frigging true it is until lately. I know people say stuff like ‘oh he worried himself sick’ or ‘they gave themselves an ulcer from all the stress’. And I think, yeah, people’s immune system gets low when they’re stressed so of course that happens. But I never thought too much about it, until it actually happened to me.

Yeah, hindsight and self-discoveries just make me feel ultra stupid. So basically I had a deadline coming. I’m part of a non-official writers’ group – more a support group than anything else “professional”, although on my resume I’m certain I can call it such. Anyways, it’s my turn to submit some chapters from my novel. I volunteered to do it, it would help my work tremendously, but oh my god was it super hard for me to sit down and work on it. Like, right now the chapters I want to submit needs major rewrites, because they’re the beginning chapters and I hadn’t gone back to fix them yet and they don’t match anything else later. Process of writing drafts, completely normal, but holy shit, so much pressure to make things perfect from scratch again! My creative process basically shut down, and I just became this listless blob for a few days, and then I developed that lymph node swelling/throat thing I talked about yesterday, and it’s just all downhill from there. I ended up not going to the monthly meeting at all because I was too tired to read other people’s things to critique, let alone talking to other people (via Zoom but still), and so, here I am today, nothing good written, missed deadline, sick, a bad place.

I’ve always been a bit trepidatious talking about my work. Where I realistic am, instead where I wish I am, stuff like that. I guess the first step of progress is just to be honest with myself. (And being honest in public is a whole different thing, but I think it helps more? Accountability and all that.) I’ll talk about this in detail in another post, because this one is about how my utterly crazy mental blocks basically made me physically ill for two weeks. I called my doctor today and scheduled a tele-health appointment later this week. The symptoms may or may not completely dissipate by then, but at least I can get some round of antibiotics if it it’s still there. Or something – I feel like my body is just completely breaking down right now with infections everywhere. This isn’t me being a hypochondriac; I’m really not in a good place health-wise. At least the doctor could either calm me down and be like, no you don’t have cancer/etc. just stress here’s some anti-inflammatory drugs, or he would actually be concerned and I’ll get it looked it. If it’s something serious early detection is key right? The point is, if my brain didn’t go crazy I probably wouldn’t be in this situation right now, and I don’t know what to do to make myself calm down. Well, I do, and that is finish the novel completely, which means I’ll be calm in like six months, which is not acceptable! Ahem. Right. That’s another post. Sorry the blog is kind of all over the place by now. I’ll keep you updated. Stay safe, everyone!

Life

Apparently Stress and Sickness Go Together

So I got pretty sick last week. Nope, not Covid, and not any cold or flu either. My lymph nodes acted up and my throat swelled, and I was just dog-tired for no discernible reason. I basically slept all day for a good few days, and every time I swallow it was, well, not painful, per se, but uncomfortable. Like my esophagus was dragging a bowling ball with it, and you can hear this weird ‘click’ when it finishes. It started at the top of my throat, and then traveled downwards. I was freaking out thinking it’s cancer or something crazy, until my s.o. calmly told me, no, the chance of it being cancer is astonishingly low. Cancer doesn’t just suddenly pop up and certainly doesn’t get better when you take anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You’re just stressed and have some sort of infection. Stop freaking out.

I hope he’s right, but it’s been a full week now and it feels like the swelling has gone down a bit. It has moved to a small area on the lower right side, and the clicking noise isn’t nearly as loud, and there are now some times when I swallow it almost feels normal. So, cancer is unlikely. I am thinking of calling my primary doctor, though. They’re doing telemedicine, I believe, but during this time I really don’t want to have anything to do with hospitals. My s.o. also said maybe you caught a strain of flu that’s prevented by your flu shot, or a cold you had before, so instead of fever/coughing etc. you just have an overactive lymph node. I don’t know. I am thinking I was just super stressed, and the birth control pill I’m taking is not helping things much either. (To regulate my period, so I can prep for the next stage of my IVF.) I’m going to call and make an appointment tomorrow. Maybe at least the doctor can give me some antibiotics or something.

Yeah sorry I’ve been gone for a while again. But guys I’ve been pretty stressed lately, and yes, the quarantine does have something to do with the overall state of things, but I’m pretty sure my stress comes from my work. I’ll talk in detail about that some other time. Maybe tomorrow. Now I’m just going to sign off and take another nap.

Life · Writing

Silver Lining

I had the worst case of food poisoning a few days ago. I couldn’t remember the last time I threw up – I don’t tend to throw up when I get sick. Well, this time I pretty much projectile vomited the whole night, and was basically bed-ridden for three days afterwards. I could feel my stomach being all knotty from hunger but had zero appetite, and zero energy to boot. It was an ordeal.

On the third day I had enough energy to stay awake but not enough for anything else. So I spent the portion I wasn’t drifting off to sleep thinking about life. (Isn’t it weird that we never think about living until we feel like we’re dying?) Specifically, what the hell am I doing with my life and why is it the way it is. Where am I in my life? Am I happy? If I’m unhappy, why? If I know why I’m unhappy, what do I have to do to change it, and what’re the concrete changes I have to do? It’s one thing to realize I need to “work more” but what exactly does that entail? Write more words every day? Write more words more consistently? Install a page blocker so I don’t get distracted by social media and waste precious hours while I’m in my “work” time? Things like that.

And I think I made sort of an epiphany kind of break through. (Yes, super cliché, but it is what it is.) I had a vision of what ultimately should happen, where I want things to be eventually (finish book, publish book, write more books until I die.) But I don’t have a vision of what should happen much sooner. When you’re working by yourself, sitting alone in the house (with a million everyday chores and other living distractions), with goals you yourself set and no real “punishment” if you don’t meet them, it’s very, very hard to gauge how much progress you’re actually making when your goal is six months from now. There’re no regular check-ups and reports, no meetings to attend to discuss your performance, so how do you know if you’re just lagging impossibly behind or right on track until, well, six months have passed and you see where you end up?

Short answer: you don’t. Or rather I didn’t. I’ve been told that writing’s a marathon, not a race, and that’s true, but you have a pre-plotted road and known miles for a marathon. Writing you have nothing. You don’t know exactly how long your novel will be – ballpark, yes, exact number to the tens digit? Not really. So what do you do? Well, for me, I realized that I need to have a clear goal for every day. What I’m doing now is basically write something everyday and hope in six months it’ll all come together from sheer perseverance. That doesn’t work for me anymore (may have never worked for me, actually.) I need to set a vision, a concrete “what percentage of this project will you be at by the end of today?”, and then set out to do it. And it needs to be very specific, not “I’m going to wrap up as much of this section as possible” but “character A will be at place B and the last sentence will be —” It’s like a mini finish line for every single day. That’s the most useful way for me to progress forward, I think.

This may sound a little like semantics or a ‘duh’ moment, but it’s actually quite a radical change from the way I usually work. It’s like a smoker instead of smoking a pack a day, he smokes just one cigarette short of a pack. To others it’s 24 cigarettes instead of 25, but this smoker has been smoking a pack a day, every day, for 5 years straight. That one cigarette short is a significant change in behavior. I’m only hoping that I can achieve the same.