A lot of creative types including myself and famous authors in history have suffered from mental health issues. I don’t believe in romanticising the idea of artists being mentally ill because I know authors and poets and others in our category who have no history of such sickness. Another reason that this isn’t an idea to celebrate or go gaga over — those of us who have been afflicted by anxiety, depression and other disorders know what kind of living hell mental illness involves. Starting from the fact that mental health problems are invisible to most people. But oh, it can ruin your body too as the blood pressure, palpitations, lack of sleep, tormenting thoughts (exhaustion) and hatred for life take over. To make a long story short, the last one month has been full of anxiety and my word count is zero. Sitting down and being focused on a new story has been a challenge. A challenge that I’ve said no to, feeling guilty. So guilty.
Here’s the good news: Twitter writer folks love being supportive and they reminded me that writing every day isn’t a must for success. Something that I mentioned in my recent post about writing rules. And then the mental health community folks on Twitter sent me positive vibes, reminding me to take things one hour at a time when one day at a time wasn’t working. Plus, the wonderful mental health bloggers who reminded me about the importance of no guilt self care. Thank you all.
So here’s my little list of learnings for you incase you find yourself stuck in a phase of terrible health — be it mental or physical or both as they often go hand in hand.
1) Taking a break to make yourself feel better is not a bad thing. Hopefully, you’ll come back refreshed and stronger, ready to attack your creative project with joy. Joy is important because it’ll show in our work. An unhealthy writer isn’t a good writer.
2) If you have a therapist you turn to, set up an appointment as soon as you feel yourself starting to sink into that darkness. If you have not taken professional help before, go ahead and ask others for recommendations and go. Counselling through video chat is an option too if stepping out seems scary.
3) Self care doesn’t mean a luxurious spa session. Start with simple things like allowing yourself to sleep in or reading an old book that touched you in some way. Ask a good friend to visit you. Don’t shut out everyone for ages because it’ll become a habit to stay alone and overthink and isolate yourself more.
4) The writing can wait. But if the guilt is too much to handle, spend little bouts of time prepping for the main writing part by jotting down points about your plot, characters, story progression. Maybe dictate little bits of it into your phone for future use when you can write. Reading may not hold your attention in this state, but you could try listening to an audio book or music that goes with your writing project’s mood. It’s all a part of the writing process. You are not procrastinating.
Remember, good mental health is wealth.