Battling depression – and losing.
As writers we all have times when we face a crisis in confidence, often being plagued by terrible self-doubts. In my case, those anxieties are magnified. Certainly out of all the friends I know, especially writer friends, I would say I’m by far the least confident as a writer. I see them saying things and doing things I wouldn’t dream of saying or doing, conducting themselves with the reassurance that they are right and know what they’re talking about. I never think that, certainly not where writing is concerned. The most confident I am, is with my artwork, I know I can draw and paint well, though I’m utterly crap at any digital art.
But writing although it has been a apart of me since I was three apparently, the earliest in the whole school to read and write, writing, particularly in recent years (since I got ill in 2013) has also been my Achilles Heel and something I admit that I am terribly insecure about.
But recently, those nagging insecurities, self-doubts and paralysing fears have been given tangible substance and I admit, it has triggered a terrible reaction in me that I’m struggling to control. Because so much of my identity of who I am and what I am, is tied up with writing, to suddenly find that something I was so proud of, something I thought was fantastic, poetically written, tense, engaging, historically accurate (I did a History A Level on the subject), something I had done exhaustive research on and which had filled my imagination for months and months…was in fact crap, has been like an earthquake to me. I honestly believed it was one of the best stories I’ve ever written. I still don’t know what is actually wrong with it, the feedback I’ve had focused on different areas, but I still don’t know what it was about it that they disliked so much, what made it a bad story, because honestly, re-reading it, I still think it’s great even though now that’s tinged with my brain saying – no Sophie it’s shit, remember, you’ve been told it’s subpar, deal with it.
Criticism is something we all get, and up til now I’d always dealt well with it, I’ve had a life time of practice after all. But something about this just broke me. I can’t put it anymore plainly than that. It triggered the very worst of those negative voices I carry around with me, and unfortunately triggered an awful lot more – my depression and the worst of my dangerous feelings and feelings of worthlessness. It symbolised that not only was I wrong, not only was my writing not good, but that my judgement was WAY off!
How can a writer continue if they can’t trust their judgement? If what they think is good is crap, or vice versa?
It also meant that a book, Ravenwing, that I have been working on (80,000 words+), which has so much of me and my life in and which when I pitched it to a couple of friends received a luke warm reception to say the least, is also crap. That book has the exact same character in it as the crap story and is written in exactly the same manner, so if one is rubbish, the other will be too.
For someone like me who struggles against an illness that robs writers of their voice, that steals away my short term memory, to the point where I can’t remember books I’ve read only months before, and that makes mental fatigue and a 30min max concentration span so overwhelming – to have yet another obstacle in my way has been more than I can deal with. I don’t need anyone else tearing me down, I do that well enough on my own, but yes, the whole experience has broken me.
I don’t know where I go from here. I can’t trust my judgement and I can’t trust any writing ability I may or may not have. Not only will I never write another short story again, I’m now left wondering if I can ever write anything again. The mountain is too high as it is, but now my hands and feet are tied and I’m blindfolded.
So yes, depression has sunk its claws into me and I would quite happily bury myself in a hole and never reappear again. My energies are spent, my confidence (such as it was, under my ‘bubbly facade’) is in tatters and I genuinely don’t know where I go from here. I’ve never felt like giving up more than I do now. Giving up on everything. What the fuck is the point?
So I’m taking a break from everything, from FB, social media and the constant whirr of noise that hits you, the ups and downs of people, the dramas, the tears and smiles, the narcissistic selfies, the congratulatory patting of backs, the woes, the worries, the inner thinkings, the copious piccies, all of it. I need a rest, I need space. I can’t take the optimism and confidence of people, especially my friends when I’m feeling as if a black hole has swallowed me.
I wish everyone well, I always do, and I love my friends. But no-one can help sort out what’s in my head. I know they’ll be back chat and talk from some people and inevitable bitchy comments of – “really? oh ffs, what’s she making a fuss about?”
What am I making a fuss about? Nothing, absolutely nothing…that’s kind of the point.
I really hear you. I have nothing to offer but solidarity and hugs. xxxx
Thank you Viv, I knew you’d understand. It feels like looking into the abyss at the moment and the temptation to jump is almost overwhelming. I know depression skews your view of the world and of a given situation, but at the moment I just can’t see my way through. Thanks honey, going back to my duvet. xxxx
Is this just one person’s opinion of your story? Do you trust their judgement? Do they maybe have their own reasons for tearing you down? Is there anything – anything at all – I can do to help?
Wow, thanks honey, sounds stupid but it’s just lovely to hear from you. No, it was from two people in the end, one initially who had a gut reaction to it and I think really hated it but didn’t want to tell me that to save my feelings and may have then influenced the opinion of the other, as they sent them an older version of the story to look at rather than the last edited version I had sent them. But I don’t think there was anything malicious to it, though I did find their style of editing very different to what I’m used to. I’m used to you, Roz & Caro editing stuff, things being changed and reasoning being given, so you can see the logic and reason behind changes that need to be made, rather than someone just not liking it or saying that it’s subpar without giving any details why they think that. I still don’t know what was actually so bad or subpar about the story, so I can’t improve my writing or move forward beyond the fact that they didn’t like it. Either way, as stupid as it all is, it’s just ended up triggering something in me and making me ill. I can’t do anything more. I’ve dumped the story and the 80k novel that was connected to it. I’m sure it’s just stupid depression talking and I’ll see things in a clearer better light soon, but atm I just feel like permanently giving up, sticking to art work and never writing again and I know that’s a daft reaction but it’s just how I feel. 😦 Sorry honey, and thank you. Went to the doctors yesterday for a blood test and blood pressure check and I’m off the scale so that’s probably not helping, they just phoned me up today with the blood test results and apparently there’s something wrong with my blood too, so that may explain why I’m feeling so crap. Something to do with TSH levels being too high, whatever that means. They wanted to see me tomorrow but I’m working so I’ve made an appointment on Monday afternoon. But thank you Jo, just ignore me, I know I’m being pathetic at the moment, I’ll snap out of it at some point. ❤ xxx
Sophie, I understand what you’re going through. Writing is hard enough, but ‘being a writer’ is harder. Everything we do is tied in some way to our writing. If it helps you feel any better, know that we all have those ups and downs, those times when we question our ability to write, especially when our sales are low. We need encouragement more than most people do. If there’s anything I can do (read your story?), let me know.
Thank you Susan, just need to try and sort my head and find a path forward. Cheers. ❤
In case it helps:
If writing is you bliss, keep writing ☼
Thank you honey. 🙂 xx
I know what it’s like to feel lost or to completely lose any shred of self-confidence you’ve ever had. I suffer from severe depression, and when I’m at my worst, it’s impossible to believe anything good about myself at all. But… I promise, promise, PROMISE you that you are an amazing writer. Your work is excellent. Of course, there are always people who will disagree because every book is not for every person. But, I LOVE your writing and others feel the same. The world is a better place because of you as a writer and because of you as a human being. I’m here any time you need an ear to listen. ❤
Thank you so much Tricia! Yes, I’ve been at rather a low ebb to say the least, but you’re spot on about depression, it is terrible when you’re in its grip but I know it does skew things and makes how we see the world and our place in it, a rather bleak vision. Thank you honey, slowly climbing my way out of the hole but you know how difficult it can be. We’ve never had oodles of confidence anyway, so when that is shaken, its so easy to let the negative voices rule the day and fight back against those terrible self doubts. Lol, perhaps it’s a writer thing, always doubting yourself. But thank you sweetie, that listening ear goes both ways as well. Anytime you need to talk, vent, moan or celebrate, so let me know. ❤ xxxx