Monday, 26 February 2018

Spoonie Writer: Mental Health Care


This is a topic I've covered before, and it's something I'm going to cover again for a number of reasons. One being that a lot of the time, the focus is on physical health. Whether or not, as a spoonie, you can physically do this or that. The spoon theory covers more than just physical conditions, the umbrella also covers mental health issues. I'm not just a spoonie because of my physical disabilities, but because of my mental health as well. It's been something I've talked about before (here) as well as in my vlogs and day-to-day tweets and such.

As someone who is very very productive, I wanted to touch on the times when I'm just...not. I have depression and generalized anxiety and have done for the majority of my life and writing career. A lot of the time, the focus in both the writing world and the outside world is on how much you can get done. I, as someone with multiple conditions, am seen as more valid because I work constantly and hit goals. But it's not always like that, and even if it was, that doesn't have an impact on anyone else's worth of validity. There's too much of an emphasis on pushing yourself to breaking point than there is on taking care of yourself when you need to. On taking the time you need to get things done safely and healthily.

I don't generally talk too much about the mental health side of things. It's not necessarily a concious decision, more that my mental health is mostly well controlled with medication, while my physical health is bouncing around and up and down. However, that doesn't mean that my depression and anxiety don't have an impact on my day-to-day life. I decided to do this piece for both real talk, and also to address the fact that writers who are mentally ill, are just as valid as those who are chronically ill when it comes to the spoonie tag.

Whether you're just starting out as a writer, or are published and long into your journey, having mental health issues can be yet another hurdle to get over. It's a long, hard road, and there's a lot of work that goes into it. But pushing yourself to your limits because someone else you know or admire or whatever has done so, isn't the answer. I've been published for nearly thirteen years. I've been a writer for nearly seventeen. In that time I have dealt with highs of writing daily and kicking arse and I've dealt with horrific lows where I couldn't write, not just for the day or week, I'm talking years. And one big thing I learned was that it takes as long as it takes. And that's okay.

That said, it didn't come to me overnight. I didn't wake up one morning and suddenly be "better". It didn't happen quickly. I didn't one day suddenly be more productive than others. It took time, it took lots of med adjustments and therapy and I'm still not there yet. I used to be, and still am in some ways, very competitive with myself. "Oh I managed to write a book in this time, let's beat that this time!" The amount of pressure I put on myself was silly and wrong, and it's hard to break that mindset that to be valid, you have to also be productive. It's a dangerous thing because you work yourself to the bone and then you realise you don't have anything more to give. You're empty and yet the world doesn't stop. Your life doesn't stop.

And that's when I realised that if I wanted to do this right, if I wanted to be a writer, an indie author, someone who could be successful while also juggling mental and physical health problems, I needed to allow myself to be sick. It's a big thing in the world where to be sick, you're supposed to follow some rules and all of that. I learned about it during my uni days, and also through living my life. There are rules. One being that you do everything you can to shorten the sickness, another being that you don't stay sick for long. I can't remember them all, but as someone who has lifelong conditions, I can tell you that the rules suck.

In mental health, there's also this stigma that accepting help, in acknowledging that you're not coping, that that makes you weak, which is so not the case. Life is not meant to be a fight between the things you want to get done someday and the urge to end your life right there and then. Life is not meant to be filled with darkness. There are supposed to be light in there too. Accepting help, whether that's in the form of therapy or medication, or simply taking some time for yourself and talking with a friend. That takes strength. To tell someone, to be vulnerable, that takes a hell of a lot of strength.

So basically, take care of all of you. Whether you're like me and cross both physical and mental sides of the spoon theory, or whether you're one or the other, there's no shame in needing to take longer than maybe an abled or neurotypical person would take. It takes as long as it takes. And that's okay.

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