Let’s talk – Yeah I’m swell (part 1)

What’s the best way to break months of silence? To talk about mental health of course! I could just blame my absence on depression and those understanding enough would give me a pass. Of course it’s never as simple as that.

Mega-corporation Bell just had their ‘Let’s Talk Day‘ campaign on January 28th and although I’m a little late I figured it’s a good time to talk about why I’ve been away. And while there are legitimate criticisms against Swell Bell’s charity work, I’m not here to add to that conversation. I’ve seen many people and friends on social media share their personal stories about their struggles with mental health and I would never try to take that away from anyone. They lived those experiences, I haven’t.

So this is my story… one that lacks a grand narrative. Depression is like that. Back in August I decided to take some time off of work and focus on my writing to try and make a career of it. The experiment was very successful as I wrote a bunch of short stories and entered a lot of contests. Every day I hit those keys and met my goals. Things were looking pretty good.

Aside from the sudden career change, this was also a strange period in my life as my stepmother passed away after her battle with cancer (chronicled in my Ghosts in the Post entry from months back). The old adage of writers taking inspiration from death and tragedy rang true and my proverbial pen flew across the page. These were also in formats that I wasn’t too familiar with; poetry and personal essays.

Some other people took notice of my heightened writing abilities and my poem ‘Ritual’ won the Bear Review’s first annual Broadside contest.

Ritual

Not only did the finished product look great (kudos to the editors of the Bear Review) but this was my first published poem. It was also my first paid creative published work. So you’d think with this kind of minor fame and fortune my head would swell with pride but my brain had other plans.

Success and happiness have a tendency to disrupt the tidy depressive haze that usually guides my life. Having a steady writing routine and being able to focus on a singular task helped pull me up from the fog… So obviously I needed to sabotage myself like Shatner trying to say the word ‘sabotage’.

I decided to take a break after my productive month of August. I went back to my old, reliable mistress; video games. Through September and October a put a lot of hours into my various black boxes. While a lot of it was not the best use of my time I can at least say the 3 or 4 weeks I put into Super Mario Maker at least allowed me to follow another dream of mine: to create video games. This was in spite of the fact that most of the Mario courses I made weren’t that great.

bad mario maker

My levels were at least better than this…

It was around my foray back into the gaming world that I went back to my ‘full time’ job, or more specifically, the job that actually paid the bills. My writing month of August had been great for my creativity but not so much for my wallet. However, I hadn’t taken a break from this job just because I wanted to follow my dream but also because I was worn out psychologically. While some of that was due to the nature of the job a lot of it had to do with my depression; it caused a lot of anxiety on days where I was scheduled to go in.

Because of my mental illness, going back to work ended up being a huge blow against my psyche. I obviously had failed. The month of writing had just been a phase and I was trapped in my unhappiness and in a job that was feeding into those negative thoughts. Obsessing over these feelings gets to be quite unbearable so the video games helped dull my mind and kept me distracted. Even after I had early success with my short story ‘Murder Dialed up to Five‘ and my aforementioned poem I still fell back down into the pits of self-loathing.

However, November of 2015 was going to be the comeback for my writing. I had a plan, the event was in place, nothing could go wrong, and nothing ever goes awry when it comes to mental health right?

Continued later this week…

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