I'll spare you the details of my sordid family history, but suffice it to say, I've dealt with this for my entire life. It's kind of a family curse.
Looking back, each year can be pretty clearly broken out into upswings and downswings. The upswings can be pretty wild--you should have seen the trouble I got into when I was eighteen!--and the downswings are disastrous. Usually, I just get to be a grumpy, generally horrible person who obsesses about bad things, but I have been suicidal.
As I get older, and continue to handle my illness without medication or therapy, the swings are shortening. I'm having upswing and downswing months instead of years. The swings don't feel quite as severe, and for the most part, I'm very high-functioning. I can act fairly normally 95% of the time. But that other 5% is a doozy.
Friends who have watched my career and tried to work with me, beginning April 2011, can probably tell when I've been up and when I'm down. When I'm up:
- I answer my emails as soon as I get them.
- I'm a wild chatterbox on Twitter.
- I announce a thousand new projects and launch ambitious plans to do amazing things that will advance my career in amazing ways.
- I redo covers, re-edit books, and revamp my presentation to something New and Better.
- I have very unrealistic expectations for my performance.
Everything is great! I'm a superwoman! I'm soaring!
And then, a couple weeks later, I'm down again.
- I don't check my email. Eventually, it piles up, and I delete 75% of it unread.
- I avoid social media.
- I struggle to keep up on all the projects I took on when I was manic, drop some of them, and turn into an Avoidy McDonttalktomeaboutit-face with the things I really can't handle.
- I mope around about horrible sales, horrible writing, horrible life, etc. and generally hate myself and everything I do.
- I feel like I'm living life through a foggy haze and can't focus on anything.
I can just barely continue to function. Usually, when I'm down, all I can handle is writing and editing. I don't like it, but I can do it. All the other necessary trappings of publishing become utterly impossible. I feel terrible about the ways I cope with it -- I do not like canceling projects, I do not like deleting emails, and I do not like letting down people -- but I also feel helpless to do anything else.
Yet I'm an adult, and I have a business, and I can't do things when I feel like it. If I commit to something, I have to be able to follow through. In order to follow through on business things, though, I start to fall behind in other areas--I forget to pay my bills, my house turns into a disaster, I avoid my husband and son, on and on. It's ugly.
This is why I've implemented my "No" Policy: If someone approaches me with a new project/idea, I decline. If someone is so generous as to offer me a guest spot on their blog, I say no. If someone would like me to do a book cover, I direct them to different artists. And when I start getting all these bright ideas about things I should do that will advance my career in amazing ways, I tell myself the same thing: "No!"
I'm not very good at this yet, but I'm getting better. I'm implementing a blanket "no" until I catch up on all my previous commitments, many of which I've outright canceled just to keep things simple. I will finish The Descent Series next year, and that's all I'm writing until that happens (aside from one other book, which I am cowriting with a friend, and determined to finish). I have to catch up on business accounting and stay on top of it. I must not delete anymore emails unread.
That said, I have very limited mental resources. There are only so many things I can handle.
I really need help.
Help comes in two ways: 1.) I'm making enough money now that I can hire people to handle some things for me. I'm hiring editors instead of doing all the work myself, I'm hiring artists instead of designing covers, and I'm seriously contemplating a personal assistant to handle my email correspondence. 2.) I need to see a therapist. Period.
This is my promise to myself, and to all my friends and readers who look to me to Get Things Done: I am going to get help. I am going to punch my anxieties in the face (did I mention I have a hard time with phone calls and keeping appointments?) and see my doctor about getting my thyroid condition treated again, and then get a referral to a therapist. I am going to get on top of this. I will conquer it.
But I really need you guys to back me up on this. Please be patient if I'm avoidant, difficult, or completely unreachable. I'm not doing it to be mean, flaky, or because I don't like you--it's because I'm struggling with ugly mental demons. Understand that if I say "no," I really want to tell you "yes," and hopefully I will be able to do that again someday. And if you get a chance, please think warm tingly thoughts in my direction as I try very hard to get myself out the front door to a doctor's office.
I love you all so much. Your support means the world to me. If you've got my back, I know I can do it.