I had a sort of health scare recently. I found a little something on my back that, in addition to other symptoms I won’t get into, had me calling the doctor quickly. Information is helpful to me, so while I don’t allow myself to go on a WebMD Googling frenzy (anymore), I do like to know what I’m potentially up against. After I looked it up, I found that the chance of it being anything serious was abundantly low.
Still, health stuff, of all stuff, is my biggest anxiety trigger. I have to go to the dark places it takes me in order to cope and work through it. To dismantle how unnecessary the worry is, how ridiculous the anxiety is being.
I did so aloud, processing in rapid fire to my husband, who has been my loving and supportive anxiety sounding board since, basically, forever.
Me: “What if it’s bad?”
Him: “It’s not.”
Me: “What if I’m one of the outliers?”
Him: “You’re not.”
Me: “What if I’m dying?”
He stopped drying the dish in his hand, looked at me point blank, and lovingly said, “It still won’t get you out of finishing your book.”
I laughed so hard because, my god, does that man know me. Because of course I was allowing this worry, based on nothing terribly significant, to take up so much of my mental space, my mental energy, that I hadn’t written in days.
And ultimately, on some level, had reasoned this would be what would derail my finishing this book. Because according to my anxiety and self-doubt, something is bound to.
Oh, well. Health first.
I don’t say that glibly. Of course health should be top priority for everyone (and why you should vote in the midterm elections on November 6 to protect your access to care!!!!). But, with virtually no evidence of illness, why would I let it derail my work? No, I don’t have control over what causes my anxiety, but I do have control over how I cope and manage it. Instead of letting the information that it was likely NOTHING soothe me, I continued to spiral.
Because the truth of it is, editing sucks. Rewrites are challenging, seeing and understanding the entire scope of the book when still in the thick of it is a challenging skill I have yet to really conquer. I was looking for something to get me out of it.
Ironically, the main theme of my book is how to eliminate yourself as your biggest barrier. This seems to be a lesson that I’m destined to learn; one that my anxiety is determined to teach me.
Writers and mental health challenges practically go hand-in-hand. We live in the minds of our characters, feeling and following their emotional journey, toggling between their lives and our own. (More on this in a forthcoming blog post). At the very least, it’s a mental strain.
The writers who achieve success aren’t necessarily all that much more talented or gifted, but they are the ones who persevere, push, remain dedicated to their story, to the craft through highs and lows such as these.
Honestly, I have been more tempted to give up during this phase than any other before. Not because I don’t believe in my story or my characters or my potential, but because it’s really f-cking hard to write a book, and some days I don’t have the mental capacity to handle it all. I suspect we all have those days.
But you know what you do then? You wait.
You wait until you take a day of self-care to read a book, binge a show, have a drink, or a long bath.
You wait for the day it doesn’t feel so impossible.
You wait until you remember that not doing it would be far worse than any of the challenges.
And you just may need to wait until the day you get the email from your doctor that says of course you’re okay.
No matter how much time has passed, when that day, the day, your day, arrives, you get back to work.
You’re not going to get out of finishing your book that easily.