Self-Publishing Diaries: The 30-Day Draft

Last weekend, after locking myself in a bathroom for forty minutes and crying until my head hurt I realized, I had nothing else to lose. My job has become a place where I can put myself on auto-pilot, entering data like a robot in need of a software update. On weekends I sulk by reading romance and listening to true crime podcasts. The repetition finally got to me and I became overwhelmed with the reality that my days are numbered and for the past few months, they all looked the same.

I’ve decided I’m going to write an utterly horrible romance novella and publishing in the next two months. Write it in thirty days, edit it in ten, and market it for whatever time is left. Because I desperately need something to distract me from what feels like an empty life.

This project is going to be like a crash course for me. One good thing I’ve gleaned from university was due dates. No matter how much I didn’t want to write my first draft, those dates kept rolling in with professors expecting evidence of progress in their dropboxes. Writing on my own has no accountability. I can go months without penning a word and no one’s going to say anything.

This diary will be an expectant professor. This novella will be the groundwork for what I hope will be a career in writing romance. I have nothing more to lose because crying my eyes out on that cold, hard bathroom floor was proof at this point, I don’t enjoy any aspect of my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I’ve done something worth celebrating.

Day One: Outline + 1,000 words. Feels a feat, but I have the whole day to either watch Netflix, lie around on social media, or write something that will take the mind of my sadness. Writing’s the only option I haven’t tried. God, I hope it works.

Updates will be weekly.

This is going to be utter crap. But, hey, in the end, I’ll finally be able to say I finished something.

Stan & Framing Suicide as Strategic Decision

 

Warning: discussion about suicide

The lights were already out when my boyfriend and I walked into the theater. I was annoyed because we were late and my depression had been suffocating me all weekend. We made our way to the middle of a row using whispered “excuse mes” to find good seats. I sat down, trying to get comfortable while the woman in front of me reclined her seat back so far that the cold plastic knocked my knees. Given another reason to be mad at the world, I tilted my legs at an angle to avoid any additional bumps during the next three hours.

I’d seen the 1990’s It when I was a senior in high school. My obsession with horror stems from being traumatized as a kid by my father. His movie pick for a night we spent stranded in a seedy hotel room was: The Visitors. Watching horror has since become a fun game of testing my limits. I see it as forcing myself to build a mental tolerance for the disturbing, so if faced with fear I’ll be prepared.

The movie was much more engaging than the original. I have yet to read the book so I can’t speak to the difference in the plot there. What I can say is Stan’s storyline in the 90s film was disheartening and unsatisfying. While in this version his ending was just as horrible, the film tried to give some sort of reasoning behind his decision to not join his friends in Derry.

Once Stan hears of Pennywise’s return he’s the only one of “The Losers” who doesn’t fulfill his promise to come back. In the 90s version, he writes “It,” in blood on the bathroom wall, cementing his reasoning for suicide — and, making me theorize maybe It possessed him to do the act? In this year’s version, it’s revealed that Stan wrote his friends letters, providing a full explanation for taking himself out of the game.

Stan confesses he knows he’s not mentally stable enough to go back to Derry and face Pennywise again. And he knows his absence would mean inevitable doom for The Losers. Without the seven of them together, Pennywise would win. Stan decides to kill himself, thus breaking their entangled fates.

As someone who has been suicidal in the past, and still deals with suicidal thoughts currently, my emotions about this adjustment to the story was mixed. My throat tightened when it was revealed the Stan wasn’t just some scared kid who turned into a scared adult. An act his friends and audience saw as cowardice turned out to be the reason behind their success. Without Stan being honest with himself and friends, they wouldn’t have stood a chance. This small change makes a huge impact on the narrative. It’s a change that is as harmful as it is compelling.

When I was ready to kill myself one of the things that comforted me was the idea that I was making life easier for those around me. After I was gone and buried no one would have to check on me to see if my depression was once again dragging me down. My boyfriend wouldn’t have to deal with my mood swings. My family wouldn’t have to worry about me struggling to get through work while having anxiety attacks. I could leave whatever money I did have to them to help fund a happier life. A life that would be brighter once I took my clouds with me.

That’s the message Stan’s death sends. He’s noble for giving up because he could see that his fear not only got in his own way but his friend’s chance at a better life. It’s unfortunate, but terms of the story, it’s true.

On my good mental health days, I know my death wouldn’t make the people around me better off. The darkness I carry would linger. But, Stan’s death did bring hope. His death brought the possibility of a happier future. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with how his decision worked. Stan’s choice tells the audience that this sacrifice was worth it because the monster is dead…

We left the movie as soon as the credits began to roll. Stuck in the traffic of exiting viewers, I nodded my head when my boyfriend asked if I enjoyed myself. It was good. It was troubling. And it was sad. I’m not sure what responsibility films hold in terms of the messages they spread. I’m not sure how this message will be received to those who are currently struggling with thoughts of suicide. I know for me, it was hard to watch. But, also, unfortunately, realistic in its portrayal of how some of us decide to escape from pain.

 


If you’re currently struggling, please, reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

 

Feature Photo: Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

Fictional Characters Who’ve Helped Me Through Bad Mental Health Days

Making friends is a skill I still have yet to master. To be honest, I haven’t been actively trying since the third grade. When I was in grade school I transferred four times within five years before eventually being home-schooled until I graduated high school. So, that provides some explanation for my lack of refined social skills. Naturally, I gravitated to books and television as not only a source of entertainment but as a way to have company without any effort expected on my part. Stories will always be the place I feel most comfortable. And though it’s not a cure by any means, it makes the dark days a little less lonely. These are the characters have been my friends in throughout various important moments of my life.

 

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Emma Swan – Once Upon a Time

On a surface level, there’s not about my life that allows me to identify with Emma. No matter how much I hope, I’m not a displaced fairy tale character with royal parents and happy endings constantly on the horizon. And her tragic backstory doesn’t intersect with my own family history. But, her feelings and experiences with abandonment hit home.

When I originally spoke up about my mental health problems I was brushed off by my family. I was instantly lonely after realizing that the people who were expected support me at my lowest were nowhere to be found. Throughout the series, time after time, Emma’s hits a dark point with no one around to pick her back up. Instead, she moves forward for herself. She’s a survivor. She’s sloppy about it and that’s what I love about her. She reminds me surviving doesn’t have to look perfect.

 

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Rae – My Mad Fat Diary

This series came at the perfect time of my life and I’m forever grateful for its existence. Rae struggles with an eating disorder and the series explores how she learns to manage her intrusive thoughts while balancing her friendships. I was in my second year of university when I watched the first episode. University wasn’t the space I’d imagine after years of society telling me it would be home to some of my best memories. And I was trying to re-invent myself like Rae but failed miserably.

Rae has an amazing way with people. Watching her with her friends made me long for someone like her in my own life. She was caring and non-judgmental (once she got over her jealousy). When I wasn’t wishing she was my friend, I was tearing up at how her thoughts about herself mirrored my own self-hatred. There’s one particular scene from the series I always go back to because it has given me one of the best tools for dealing with really bad self-talk days.

 

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Bertie – Tuca & Bertie

I recently finished season one of Tuca and Bertie, and in an instant, Bertie became a comforting favorite. Her life mirrors what I’ve been experiencing since graduating from university. I briefly moved in with my boyfriend and got a job doing something that pays the bills but isn’t the most stimulating. And, now, I’m trying to hang onto the things that make me happy, like she does when it comes to baking.

Seeing her fight for a promotion at work after originally being insecure about talking to her boss was encouraging. I’m up for a promotion and battle thoughts of insecurity about the whole situation. Bertie is a snapshot of my present. And it’s nice to be reminded I’m not the only one that is anxiously stumbling through my days, attempting to feel comfortable outside of my safe zones.

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I can’t be the only one who finds solace in fictional characters. Share some of yours below! I’d love to get some show/book recommendations. Your favs could also be potential candidates to add to my carefully curated “friend group” – cause I’m always on the hunt for more characters to add. Yes, you can sit with us.

Lessons from Purchasing a Car When I was Depressed

Technically, I can’t afford my car (meaning, I’m putting way too much of my income towards it, not that I can’t make the monthly payments) and even worse, it’s actually a pretty crappy vehicle. The front seat headrests are torn and hollowed out from previously installed DVD screens, there are cracks and scratches all over the back of the seats. Anytime the AC turns on there’s a knocking sound on the passenger’s side, which probably means something important loose beneath the dashboard. The brakes make a hissing noise any time I stop after driving for short distances (something two mechanics have assured me is fine, but I’m not convinced) as if to constantly remind me, every time I turn on my car, I was insane to sign my name on the dotted line, dedicating 72 months to a vehicle that most definitely isn’t worth this much of an investment.

When I went to the dealership I was having a depressive episode. I had already signed my papers for a 2011 Honda Accord which wasn’t great (it stalled whenever I accelerated) but definitely didn’t give me as much anxiety about my 2017 Kia Sportage. The dealership called me to come back in under the guise they’d forgotten to give me some financing papers to sign. In reality, none of the banks approved my loan because of my short credit history, which simply consists of student loans and a single credit card I used for groceries in university to build some semblance of a credit score. My first time at the dealership had been with my boyfriend and his friend who had previously been a car salesman. So, I was confident there was no way any of the salespeople would try to get over on me. But, for “signing the financing papers,” I went alone and it’s the first major decision I regret making in my adult life.

The moment I stepped into the dealership I knew something was wrong. The dealer that had been trying to get a hold of me on the phone greeted me with a well-practiced smile and told me to wait “just one second” for him to get the paperwork. I sat there for nearly an hour with a dying phone and an itching instinct to come back when my head cleared from all the spiraling thoughts. It was getting dark outside and I had been up since 4am for work. At this point, everything I had researched about car shopping had fallen out of my head, into the abyss where most of my memory and sense goes to die once the depression sinks as a replacement. And my god, did I pay for the absence of sense.

Life lessons are difficult to handle when I know some of the pain could have been avoided if I was mentally healthy. And the lessons are even more of a headache when I have to pay for the mistakes by facing years, and years of debt. What I know now is this:

If you have mental health problems, DO NOT make a major decision if you’re not feeling well (or, at least, don’t make it alone).

My depression has been on a steady decline since I graduated from college. I had been receiving free therapy for my constant mental health problems, and the support from my therapist had been something that got me through a terrible year of my life. Without that mental support, things have been falling through the cracks faster than I can manage to figure out what to grab onto and when to grab onto it. My head was far from clear that night at the dealership and my thoughts were bordering on suicidal before I even pulled in the lot. As the dealer gave me the whole spiel on what a great deal I was getting I simply nodded and told myself my decision didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to be alive for long enough for anyone to collect that amount of money.

I’m not completely better now, but I can definitely examine things past the fog of my mental illness. One thing that would have saved me from myself was having a second party there to share their perspective. My thought process when I’m in a depressive episode understandably irrational. If I had spoken up and confessed this to my boyfriend then I would have had to second head I desperately needed.

Just because you can fit it in your budget, doesn’t mean you have to.

My planned monthly car payments went up $120 dollars when signing for the new car. I’m very meticulous when it comes to budgeting, partly due to my anxiety. And partly due to my fear of being homeless because of a close scare a few months ago. When I saw the extra money tacked onto my monthly payments the first thought was: I do have enough money for that.

Knowing my income would allow me to make monthly payments and still not be in the negative was a feeling of relief. I was only considering the surface level outcome of the situation. Sure, I could write a check and not worry about rent and food. But, extra money going towards my car was money I could have put towards savings or investments or something that would pay off in a better way.

You can’t always see them immediately, but there are other options.

One of the repeated thoughts that circled through my head while at the dealership was that I had to make a decision right then and there or I’d be out of a car. When in reality there were/are plenty of car dealerships that would have had a suitable car within my budget. I could have found financing on my own or took Lyft to work until I managed to figure something else out.

Depression and anxiety enjoy making me feel like choices need to be made in an instant. When my anxiety levels reach their peak I feel as though there’s a clock ticking in my head, encouraging me to point to which answer I want when I don’t even understand the question. But, honestly, the majority of life’s choices don’t happen in a heartbeat. And they don’t need to because there’s no bonus points for quick answers.

 

What I have now is a car that will — after I factor in the repairs — cost me more than my four-year degree. It squeaks, knocks, and eats my pocket for gas way faster than I ever thought was possible. This car is my introduction to decision-making as an adult. Hopefully, a few years down the line I will be grateful for everything this choice has taught me. Because now I understand how much my mental health can affect my finances. And now, I’ll have a painfully expensive reminder of how serious it is for me to factor in how I’m feeling when it comes to signing away thousands of dollars I have yet to make. At least, it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget. In the end, maybe that’s all that truly matters.

First Work Week in a Call Center

Something about my new job doesn’t feel right. I know in the long-term this isn’t the right position for me, but for now, it’s all I could get. My week first week of training was a difficult adjustment period for my inner time clock and the information thrown my way made me want to scream, but instead, I slept. I slept and I slept and I’ve kind of been going on auto-pilot ever since.

I’m stuck in between two decisions. I know there are more than two ways to look at things, but during this past week, I could only look at my situation through a binary lens.

Option one: work my hardest to be the best at this job, which would involve me dedicating so much extra time to an already packed 40 hr work week.

Option two: do the bare minimum to keep my sanity, but potentially not be that great thus opening up the possibility of me being terminated.

There’s a medium in there somewhere. There is enough time in the day for me to sit down and work on my personal projects before having to sit in a chilled building for nine hours listening to someone lecture about company policies and customer handling. There is enough time for me to remind myself every day that this doesn’t have to be forever. This job can be simply a paycheck. I don’t have to love it to do it. And I don’t necessarily have to be excellent at it, but good enough to simply not get fired.

A part of me always wants to put forth my best effort. It’s the perfectionist side of me. But, I have to remember that perfection is what ran me in the ground during university. I refuse to let a job I don’t wholeheartedly enjoy run me to the ground.

This upcoming week I’m attempting to do so more adjustments to my schedule. I’m prioritizing my mental health which means I refuse to lose any sleep and do something that involves writing or reading each day. Fiction is and will always my life raft.

This post is all over the place but it feels nice to brain dump and not worry about blog structure so much. I think I might do this more often.

The Realities of Poverty and Dreaming

I want to be a romance writer. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was twelve, reading Judy Blume and trying to sneak some of the more mature YA off the shelf and into my library checkout stack without my mom noticing. Because whenever she did manage to notice she questioned me with disapproval in her voice.

It’s always felt like a silly dream. I went through college telling people I wanted to write for big, important magazines about big, important topics. I applied for copywriter positions at marketing firms and got a replies asking for samples. None of which I had, of course, because I’m pretty sure chapters from my young adult novel wouldn’t do. So, I wouldn’t reply because anytime I tried to go open a doc and type up some piece that would resemble copy I’d freeze up, convinced that my brain didn’t/couldn’t produce that kind of content. But, I think having that sort of privilege has now passed. My no’s are soon going to have to turn into yes’s and eventually, they might even turn into please’s.

Things kind of crumbled at home after I graduated college. Well, they had been crumbling for a while, but I could ignore that because I was a three-hour drive away at college, separate from the collapse. As my parents began the divorce process nothing was stable anymore. I’m a firm believer in not telling someone else’s story without letting them at least say their piece so I can only tell you what happened from my end. From my end, nothing makes sense anymore. Our home is in foreclosure and we’re all struggling to somehow build something out of the quickly shattering pieces. It’s like trying to build a sandcastle in high tide: useless. And I feel so abandoned most of the time. I still have most of my family, but we’re fighting an uphill battle and I feel so helpless.

Last week we got some news that revealed we might have less time at our house than we originally thought we would. There had been a small hope before that we would keep the place, but that looks like an impossibility now. I can’t put into words what it feels like to hear that homelessness is a possibility. I can only say that my bones felt hollowed and my tongue felt heavy after learning the news. The draft that I was outlining didn’t matter and my thoughts of holding out for a job that I would enjoy felt like the stupidest decision I’d ever made.

I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a job that will allow me to do something that I love. I don’t have the luxury to finish my novel and dedicate my time to making it the best that it can be. I’m not writing this to say, oh, woe is me. Because I know that there have been plenty of authors that were close to or under the poverty line. What’s in my bank account will never interfere with my love for writing. But, it will interfere with how much I can do it and what I say with it.

Currently, I’m in a desperate hunt for a job in a larger city. I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend that doesn’t mind if I stay with him while I job hunt for the next month – I’ll forever be thankful for him. I’m applying to any and every full-time job. And a lot of them are positions where I know my mental health will suffer. It scares me, but it won’t be forever.

I know homelessness is hard to recover from and I don’t want my family to get stuck trying to recover. I’m currently the only one who is qualified to get a full-time position so it’s on me. And that’s the scariest thing. I’m afraid of what will happen to my depression. I’m afraid I’ll be so exhausted I’ll stop writing because there just isn’t enough time or energy. I’m afraid dreaming will only be dreaming.

This isn’t how I wanted this blog to go. I wanted this is a place where I ranted and raved about romance and pop culture. But, I feel this is something I can’t ignore on here. This is my life right now and I want to document where it’s going. I’ll keep updating about my job hunting for the next few weeks. And, of course, write about some romance because it’s my perfect escape, even if it can’t last longer than an hour or so.

Understanding My Depression and Staying Still

I am what I refer to as ‘leveled’ right now in terms of my depression. Whenever I’m leveled I usually try to take advantage of my energy by eating three meals a day, working out, writing, and creating to-do lists I have a realistic chance of completing. I’ve never really timed these leveled moments, but I know roughly, they’ll last a few weeks before I or something in my life triggers me to retreat into a heavy sadness. Thereafter I’m stuck for a few days with thoughts that feel more like reality than my actual life – which always waits impatiently for me to come back. It never pauses or slows, though I can’t blame it.

I’d like to say it has gotten easier for me throughout the years. I’ve been depressed since I was in my early teens and first considered suicide when I was seventeen. When I’m in the thick of it now, it still feels like my emotions weigh a million ton. My brain is as harsh as it has ever been and every time I recover I’m surprised I made it out again.

What’s helped me over the years is a mix of things. I went to therapy for two years. Changed my diet by dabbling in veganism before settling on a type pescetarian diet. Started trying out different exercises before figuring out I really enjoy biking and Pilates. I’m sure my efforts made and still make a difference, but the efforts, of course, never seem to completely do away with my recurring episodes of sadness.

I attended college with the depression. Occasionally skipped classes and dropped courses because of the strain. I met my boyfriend while struggling to get a hold off crying spells between dates and late night text conversations. I loss friends because a part of me insisted on juggling friendships and mental health was a feat I wasn’t strong enough to take on. And, besides, who really wanted to hang out with a person who seemed to never completely get out of the darkness? At least, that’s what I reminded myself each time I held back in my social life.

Having a suicide plan is something I’ve never admitted to anyone. I’ve shared my thoughts of suicide with a therapist, but always denied I had a plan because I was too afraid of what might happen. I’d read frightening stories of people who were hospitalized for their own safety and I couldn’t take the idea of numerous people finding out that my mind was in such a dark place I was going against basic human survival instinct.

How I got through the suicidal thoughts was being still. It’s something I coax myself to do on those terribly dark days. Being still with depression feels like second nature. But being still with suicidal thoughts often became a challenge for me. When something’s wrong I like to act. Even if that acting a simple Google search. Staying still and waiting for the next day is what kept me alive. It’s what continues to keep me alive.

I’ve been on this journey for ten years now. Most times it doesn’t feel like I’ve learned anything because my thoughts get so dark. But, I’m still here so something must be working. So, my advice to anyone who is struggling would be to be still when it comes to thoughts of ending your life. And definitely move when it comes to talking, or running, or eating, or praying, or writing. Whatever works.

There are ways to get through this. I know it doesn’t feel like it the majority of the time, but I promise.

If you need help or just want to educate yourself more about suicide prevention visit here. Thanks for taking the time to read this. And if you’re hurting please reach out. If not to me then to someone. Anyone you trust. I’m rooting for you.