At the RWA Conference in Denver, Leslie Kelly and I gave a talk about Slaying Mental Health Dragons. We talked in great depth (and with brutal honestly) about what it’s like to be a writer fighting depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
the talk wasn’t taped, I was asked if I could post the tips we shared for those days when the demons get to be too much. Finally, a month late, I’m posting them. The timing is extremely apropos because I’ve been battling a lot of demons since returning from Denver. Largely because I’m struggling with finding a productive writing schedule that meshes with my new day-job reality. (But more on that another time.)
Back to the demons. What can you do the darkness starts encroaching?
Tips from Barb and Leslie
Live a healthy lifestyle Exercise and diet won’t cure depression, but they will make you feel momentarily better. Meditation – builds up the gray matter that allows our Precuneus to shut off once in a while.
Unplug. Avoid triggers like social media, the news, etc. There is nothing wrong with putting yourself in a bubble if it makes you healthier. Trust me, if something important happens in the world, you’ll find out. Avoiding social media is especially key. That last thing you need when feeling down or stressed is reading other people’s highlights.
Be reasonable about what you can accomplished every day. Don’t overpromise. All that does is set you up for failure. Be kind and realistic about what you can do on a daily basis. Maybe it’s writing 100 words or sketching out a plot idea. Maybe it’s showering and getting dressed in decent clothes. And whatever you achieve – celebrate the accomplishment.
Building a support network. It’s very tempting when you’re depressed to pull away from friends. Don’t. Do the opposite. Stay in contact. Talk to people. Depression has the habit of making you think only you feel the way you do. Open up and Share. Some may not get it. But others might. You might be surprised to find people who feel exactly the same.
If you take anything from this, it’s that Mental Illness Lies. It makes you think you’re alone when you’re not. Do not surrender to those lies.
Lastly, I’m going to leave you with this quote from Leslie, because it’s awesome. I’m thinking of printing it out and hanging it on a wall where I can read it every day.
Cry if you must.
Curl up in the closet if you have to
Hide in your house if you want to.
Spend a day in bed if you just need it.
But after every single one of those things:
Get back up. Get dressed. Make your bed. Eat a vegetable. Take a walk. Write a page. Email a friend.
Give yourself time to feel bad, to be sad, to mourn.
But then…GET THE HELL BACK UP