So I got an ask a while back about what it’s been like writing Chameleon Moon with my various emotional stuff. And that is, in brief, chronic anxiety and depression. It’s kind of amazing how little those two small words IN NO WAY begin to cover what exactly they entail, and what every day means when they’re in (or on a bad day, defining) your life. I put it off for a long time (guess why?) but figured that today was as good as any. Because it’s been a hard enough day that I’ve thought about it, but not hard enough to make me unable to write about it.
In a word… it’s hell.
A lot of you have asked me if I’m scared.
I’m like the Hulk. That’s my secret. I’m always scared.
I also have some physical problems. Chronic pain (back/spine/head/neck issues), hand issues, thyroid and kidney weirdness, extreme sensitivity to cold, anemia and hypoglycemia, and several other unpleasant things, which also make things difficult. But the question wasn’t really about that, so I’ll be sticking to the big stuff. Depression and anxiety.
I can’t speak for everyone, because every single person’s brain is different, and the individual ways in which your brain on depression or anxiety will try to destroy you are different. But when you are (when I am) depressed, nothing matters. I’d cry, but I don’t have the energy. I’d talk to someone, but they definitely hate me regardless of evidence, so why bother? I’ll just make everything worse. When I’m in an anxiety state, everything matters, and I psychoanalyze every single word I have ever said and come to fifteen different (and contradictory) conclusions as to why they’re wrong, why I’m wrong, and why nobody will ever love me.
Now imagine having both of that happening at the same time.
Now imagine trying to write a coherent sentence, and have it not reflect everything going on in your brain that very literally feels like it’s trying to kill you. I’d imagine that writing while terrified and depressed is a lot like trying to do anything while terrified and depressed. Except that it has to do with expressing yourself. And that’s kind of the opposite of what I want to do, because an “expression of myself” would kind of be a horrified vomit of emotion and tension (and maybe some literal vomit as well.)
It seems impossible. I’m supposed to be writing something that comes from myself, and is a creative and entertaining thing that will be enjoyable for many other people, right? But it’s hard when I don’t want to show anyone what’s going on inside my head. It might scare them. Sometimes it scares me.
Sometimes I don’t have the energy to write at all, and it seems unimaginable. Why would anyone want to read what I have to say, anyway? And even if they did, they’ll hate it anyway. I can’t do it. I’ll stare at a screen for hours, feeling worse and worse with every passing second until writing is the last thing in the world I want to do, and crawling under my bed forever seems like more fun.
So you force yourself. And it does get easier. Of course I have to catch myself on a good day, and then it’s easier to push through and get the writing done. And sometimes, when you have a deadline, you can’t wait to feel better, you just have to write through it, even if it is ABSOLUTE GARBAGE (like how I am convinced 98% of what I write is). And that really sucks. Doing anything when you feel like that sucks.
I find ways around it. Little reward systems sometimes - write a paragraph, look at a video of a kitten or bunny. Write a chapter, hide under a bunch of blankets and play a videogame. Obtain a cookie, perhaps. Consume said cookie. Repeat the process.
Or… you can find little cheats.
Like you can actually write about your struggles.
Chameleon Moon isn’t just about people with superpowers who probably shouldn’t have them. It’s about them dealing with them, and living in this horrible, dangerous, impossible situation in which they might all be dead at any given time. (Which is a literal representation of what it feels like for me sometimes. The ground under my feet is cracking and there’s a fire burning under me, I’m living in Parole.) And along with the physical situation, a lot of the characters have mental and emotional problems too.
A little sneak-peek. Regan, my main dude? The lizard guy with the tongue? He’s run by fight-or-flight. He’s constantly in a state of acute anxiety, and at any given time he wants to either lash out or run away. He’s always got the shivers, he jumps at shadows, he builds up walls of sarcasm and flippancy and doesn’t let anyone in, he snaps at well-meaning people and can be an absolute asshole and shit to be around. And it’s all coming from a place of fear. And this is something I know really, really well. And when I feel like this, honestly, writing Regan is a little bit easier. Because I know where he’s coming from. I can see how I’d react in his situation, how anyone would, dealing with the stuff he deals with.
So you can kind of do it like that. Take the anxiety and use it. Channel it into a character who helps you make sense of it. Make a lizard guy who’s scared all the time, treat your own fear as a unique, useful look into his brain, and use it to write him that much better. Make your anxiety work for you.
That’s the optimal outcome, anyway. No shame if you can’t. I can’t always. You deal with this any way you can. Even if “dealing with it” is hiding under a bunch of covers and crying for a while.
If I had a lot more helpful hints on how to deal with this, I’d tell you, believe me. I don’t. I don’t always know how to get through myself. But here’s a few things I can tell you:
- There’s no shame in asking for help. If you feel like you’re drowning, tell somebody. You deserve to be safe and as happy as possible.
- Writing can help you. This is your world you’re creating. Let it help you with your “real” world. Help yourself however you can.
- The bad times pass. They really do.
- (If they don’t, go back to bullet point one, and ask for help.)
- You can do this. I believe in you. Fully. Wholeheartedly. Powerfully.
- You are a goddamn hero.
Let me say that again.
If you are writing anything - hell, even if you’re not writing anything, and you’re just trying to live your life, and maybe contribute something positive to society, or even just spending a day trying not to die?
YOU ARE A HERO.
You are a fucking rock star. You are a goddess or god or glorious genderless or all-gender deity, worthy of praise and all kinds of desserts. Just getting through a single day feeling like this is a VICTORY. You’ve WON. You hear me? You are victorious. If you are reading this RIGHT NOW, YOU ARE ALREADY VICTORIOUS, BECAUSE IT MEANS YOU ARE STILL HERE.
And, my God, if you manage to write or draw or sing or dance something, even while feeling like the single worst being crawling across the surface of this planet? You’ve done one of the single best things on the surface of this planet. One of the hardest. And one of the most important. Well done. Bravely done.
These are things I need to remind myself of. Especially if I’m going to get Chameleon Moon published and in your hands next October. It’s going to be a push. But I can do it. It’s going to take every single bit of my bravery to do it, get it done and not throw up when I think about other people reading it, and judging it. I’m scared.
I’m always scared.
But I’m always here. Because nothing matters more than getting it out there. Getting it done. Making something where there was nothing there before. And when it works, when these people who come from your head end up on paper and interact in meaningful and beautiful ways and make each other better people, and drag each other through hell and out the other side? It makes me think I can do it too. And you can do it.
You can do it.
I’ll be trying too. Probably for all of my life, this is something I’ll be trying and struggling and crying and working with. You’re not alone. I guarantee you’re not alone, but if you feel like it, know that there is at least one chronically scared, sad writer person out there trying to write a cool thing right along with you.
Let’s be heroes together. <3