Wednesday, July 6, 2022

IWSG - Writing and Mental Health

It's time for the July edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is a space for writers to voice their insecurities and get support from their fellow writers. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name and sign up on the link list.

The co-hosts this month are J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton. While you're bopping around to visit fellow IWSGers, be sure to say hi to the co-hosts and Alex!

The optional question this month is: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

I kind of wish I was in Oz right now. At least there evil people can be dealt with fairly. In Oz, there are evil beings, but everyone knows who they are. That last part seems to make a difference. Also, there didn't really seem to be disease there. Then again, it's been a long time since I actually read the books, so it could be I didn't remember those things.

Things weren't all rainbows and sprinkles in Oz. I do remember that. But it was still a place to escape as a kid. Return to Oz isn't anywhere near as popular as The Wizard of Oz, but I always loved it. It spoke to that part of me who is healed by seeing the darkness be overcome. In the beginning, Dorothy is in a...we'll call it a mental health facility. I seem to recall some electroshock, perhaps? While evil witches trying to kill little girls and their dogs is freaky, as are flying monkeys, and, most of all, being far from home with no idea how to get back, the beginning part of Return to Oz (and much that followed) always stuck with me. The princess (?) who could change heads, the wheelers, and people being turned into ornaments and decorations if they didn't play a game right.

I don't remember exactly why the beginning got to me so much. Perhaps because this time Dorothy's family had purposely sent her away. They hadn't believed her, had thought she was sick, and they'd sent her away. Why wouldn't that disturb a child?

This springboards into what I'd thought about posting today. I've never kept it a secret that I deal with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Unfortunately, I've had a series of personal life issues that have retriggered the PTSD, so I've been struggling with that. National events have likely compounded it, as what I think set it off was a sense of helplessness. I don't handle being helpless well. I'm a person who prefers to take things into my own hands and fix them. I'm good at fixing things, but some things cannot be fixed.

What does this have to do with writing? I've seen a lot of friends in the writing world suffering from mental health issues lately. The world is a rough place to be right now. If not all, then many of us are suffering from the drastic life changes that came about from a worldwide pandemic. Our lives changed in myriad ways during this, whatever the reasons, and as humans, that requires coping mechanisms. It also often means that there will be ripples, even if we don't know where those ripples originated or how far out they'll go. 

Often, impactful situations can hurt our creativity. Even if it doesn't touch our creativity, it may hurt our mental and emotional energy. It turns out we need both of those things to write. I know that I struggle to write when things are hard. While a handful of people were posting about all they were getting done during the last two years, many more were posting that they couldn't write, that the words weren't coming, that they couldn't get themselves to focus on work.

I think, in general, things had started feeling lighter, better, different, and that it maybe lulled us into a false sense of security in terms of looking after ourselves. So now when we're suffering, it may take longer to realize that it's happening in the first place, let alone what personal reasons there are for it. As a result, we might try to push ourselves through it instead of taking the time to stop and care for ourselves and cope. We might get frustrated and angry that we're not doing more, meeting writing goals, buckling down, being as productive as we think we should be.

It took me a couple weeks at least to realize the PTSD was active and that's why I was struggling so much. It's not like you can take a test that magically shows something like that. After all, I spent decades suffering it and not knowing what it was. However, I also know that I tend to self-analyze so much that sometimes I can see things like this in myself faster than others might, so it felt important to send out a gentle reminder that...things aren't okay. Not for a lot of people. Don't be hard on yourself if you're not perfect right now. (Or ever, really, because many of us are always hard on ourselves). Figure out what works for you to cope with depression, anxiety, or whatever you may personally suffer from, and take the time to do those things. I know that may feel like ONE.MORE.THING you have to do. Believe me, I know. All I can say is that you're doing your best, and if you can find it in yourself to do one thing for yourself that will help, that one thing might add up and get you through it.

Take care of yourself first. The writing and creativity will follow.

Switching gears, it's time to report my submission stats for June. I do this each IWSG to keep myself accountable.


0 new submissions

7 rejections (5 personal)

0 acceptances

24 stories currently on submission

So how are you doing? What are your insecurities? Are you submitting? Are you taking care of yourself?

May you find your Muse.


Roland D. Yeomans said...

Sometimes I am all three of Dorothy's companions ... not ToTo for he is too brave. :-) I hope your submissions find success. Me? I am still struggling with too much work and not enough time to write!

Jemi Fraser said...

I remember not being able to read about Dorothy - but I got too upset and couldn't. Never did go back to the books even though I love the movie. When villains are obvious it does make life so much easier! PTSD is a sneaky bitch. Our mental health is always important and these past few years have taught us that we have to make it a priority. *hugs*

Janet Alcorn said...

"Take care of yourself first. The writing and creativity will follow." I need to cross stitch that and hang it on the wall above my computer. So, so true.

The Oz books were my favorites when I was a kid. They were the first chapter books I read on my own, and they were an escape and a refuge for years.

I'm sorry you're struggling. I have trouble with feeling helpless too, and the events of the last several years (and especially very recent ones) have made me feel even more helpless. It's exhausting and painful. Hugs if you want 'em.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Drug use & overdose, suicide, mental health issues, killing people - the pandemic triggered a whole series of bad events that have messed up a lot of people. We do need to be easy ourselves, Keep reminding yourself.

Olga Godim said...

I'm sorry you're struggling with your mental health. I also have depression, but I'm keeping it under control. It's easier to do in Canada, I suppose. Take care of yourself.

Loni Townsend said...

I take strides to take care of myself because I want to be there and able for my kids. For the past few years, I've spent a lot of my time doing things for my husband because he's been injured and unable to contribute. I find myself telling my kids not to rough house around Daddy because he's hurt. I chose my husband, and I'm willing to put in the work to take care of him, but I take care of myself because I don't want to become a burden to my children. I openly talk about my mental and emotional struggles with the hope of letting my kids know that there are healthy ways to manage these feelings, and if they end up with the same depressive spiral I fall into, that they're not alone and this is how I get through it.

I hope things look up for you soon. I hope things look up for the whole world.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Myself and my youngest of five sons suffer from PTSD. His is related to serving in Afghanistan while mine occurred during my tenure as an ERT member. It's gotten easier because we had the resources available to make sense of certain situations. I try not to dwell on images or memories. I'm only mentioning this because I want you to know I understand. There's a lot more help than there was 30 years ago. Please keep sharing, Shannon. You're not alone. I hear you.

Diane Burton said...

We tell each other to take care of ourselves. That is so much easier to say to another than to do ourselves. The world is in such chaos. Has been for a long time. It's easy to see that, but it's harder to feel like we can't do anything. Helplessness is a terrible feeling. Sending hugs to you and everyone who is suffering.

Mel Chesley said...

I used to have the entire series of books of Oz. Sadly, I don't remember reading them, I do know I read them all at least three times over. But I also have depression, anxiety and PTSD. I can't remember that part of my childhood. But it definitely would be an interesting world to live in!
Good luck with your PTSD. It's difficult these days to pinpoint the triggers. It's pretty much knocked me on my backside, along with other things, and my writing has suffered for it. Keep fighting the good fight! <3

J Lenni Dorner said...

Oz sounds good. Gotta get a flying monkey. 🐒😄
You make some excellent points about mental health. It is harder to create and be creative when the world keeps crumbling around you.
For the IWSG July prompt asking which book world I would live in, I narrowed it down to three choices.
One is a short-story I published. One is from a popular series. And one is better known from television, but there are books. It's all on my blog.
"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Warren Buffett
Over at Operation Awesome, our Pass or Pages query contest is open this week with July's family saga genre. Know any writers who might want to enter?

J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shannon - we are more aware today about mental illness, while we're all adjusting to the after effects of Covid. I do hope things ease for you and for others - so many other people don't help with their criticism and/or their actions ... I do feel for many ... with thoughts - Hilary

Andrew Leon said...

I haven't written in longer than I can remember for... reasons. The people who should care, don't, so I haven't been able to repair myself and move on.