On Changing Seasons: What Makes Me a Writer

I’ve wandered about for quite some time in search of the right words to say. It’s been months since I put a pause on my last project. The moment my mental health started spiraling, I put a pause on a lot of things.

It’s funny because writing is the one thing that helps in such cases, but if you have ever been in a depressive state, everything seems to be taking all of your energy. Getting out of bed, showering, waking up, walking – all of it becomes arduous. Being human suddenly just feels like a weight on your chest. How do people do it? How did I ever do it?

So I stopped writing. I’d let myself have little doses of it in moments where I could bare to pick up the damn pen, but more often than not, I just stared at the notebook that sat on my desk and haunted me. I got out of the writing mode so much that I fell into an even scarier head space: the one that told me that maybe I was no longer a writer.

Queue in the melodramatic thoughts that followed:

Maybe that’s it. Maybe I won’t be motivated anymore. Maybe words will never flow in the way they once did. Maybe I need to learn how to continue forward without a pen and paper by my side. Oh how doeseth one surviveth with such sorrow?

I think I can speak for many creatives who have felt this loss of the flow for a set period of time. This is the thing that keeps us going. The self expression that gives the hardships substance, meaning, and value. Our stories are what shape us. How we tell them is our empowerment, whichever medium we decide to do that with.

Every time it happens feels as real as the last. A lot of people will tell you to power through it. To do it even when you don’t want to. And if you’ve come here to listen to my point of view, I’ll have to admit I don’t know if I agree with that at all times – but hear me out first!

I think for a lot of people (not all), creativity comes in seasons. At least that’s the way I’ve begun to understand my experience with it. Some months, I’m feeling more energetic, social, and filled with life. My calendar will be filled with dinner plans and get-together’s. I’ll prioritize a coffee date with a friend over most things. Surprisingly enough, during these times, work is typically slower and I have more time to make for these social endeavors.

Then there are months where I want to just stay in and focus on myself. I’ll usually start shifting my schedule to have more “me time”. I’ll start cooking more at home, adding more yoga and pilates into my schedule. I’ll still make time for friends, but I’ll spread it out more.

There are work heavy times where I feel most of my energy directed towards my career. During this time, I won’t have much energy for a whole lot more so I dwindle down what my priorities are so that I can manage this time well. Maybe that could look like spending time at work and then having more lazy days with my partner afterwards which is the greatest extent of socialization I can do in this period. Maybe it’s seeing my friends once a week or once every two weeks so that I can stay connected whilst also not overspending the energy I have.

I have depressive periods, I have periods where I need more support and I have periods where I want to give more of my own support. And my favourite of all is the creative period. This one is my favourite because it looks different each day. It doesn’t necessarily mean I am motivated every day throughout this time – it just means it’s time to write. Some days it flows, other days it doesn’t. But creativity isn’t necessarily a consistent partner, though it is reliable so long as you also put in the time.

This periods don’t always come in chunks of time. Sometimes they blend together seamlessly or all chalked up. Some last longer, others don’t.

What I intend to convey out of this is that it is important to intuitively understand what we need in every given moment, each day. For instance I know the difference between me being lazy/stubborn when I should be getting off my butt to write and I know when it’s just not time to yet so I should stop beating myself up for it.

There are seasons in our lives, so it’s important to first know what those look like. And if you don’t, now isn’t a bad time to start noticing your patterns. Our bodies know more of what we need so if you are beating yourself up for not making art because you are feeling more connected to people, then I advise you to listen to the latter. You’re probably feeling the need for connection because that is exactly what you need.

That doesn’t mean we can’t b.s. ourselves. Know when you’re being lazy and know when you’re being too hard on yourself. Know your seasons and just flow with them the best you can because they’ll change sooner than you think.

What Depression Looks Like

what-depression-looks-like
When you're lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you've just wandered off the path, that you'll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it's time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don't even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.

- Elizabeth Gilbert

As much as I love words, they are often the most difficult thing for me to find. Words are how I make sense of things. Writing is how meaning comes into fruition for me. But then I fall into this low: this depressive state that I see as a puzzle – a maze of sorts – that I have to find my way out of again and again. The length of this period varies, depending on my resistance towards it, my environment, the people I surround myself with, and how I decide to spend my time alone.

I’ve realized throughout my experience with depression that I have to stop letting myself drown so deep while at the same time, allowing myself to sink inside of it. I have to spend more time with people who I feel safe and seen around. But what comes tumbling down is often those same relationships. So how do I manage it? Well, I have to first admit that there are many moments that I don’t. Most of the time, I just want to quit everything. I want so badly to diminish into thin air. To become a part of the sky – nothing and everything. Finally connected.

Because in reality, my understanding of depression is a disconnection. It is when I feel that my life is no longer valid or important. That this is all I will ever feel. That no one else is experiencing this same thing because they are ‘normal’. That there is no end. And the more disconnected I feel, the more distant I become which just brings the entire experience to a full circle. Depression is a resistance to feel. An everflow of numbness that seemingly has no end. So how to get out of this pattern of circularity? Feel. I allow myself to feel again to prove that I can survive that wave of emotion. Only then am I reminded that I can survive myself.

Distance and disconnection are both structures we create to withhold our feelings. They are walls we build to keep ourselves safe when everything feels fragile, broken, explosive, or weak. My depression is both a physical and an emotional experience. I’m often found shaking, crying, low energy which is all on my own time. What I show to the world, however, is that everything is fine. No one should know how I feel because not even I can make sense of it so how will they? And anyone who experiences mental health problems knows that there is also this enormous weight of guilt that surrounds it. It affects your loved ones just as much as it affects you, so it’s almost easier to pretend like you are fine.

But there is greatness I have found from making it past these periods of my life. That whenever they are finished and have taught me what they were here to teach, I will come out brand new. There is a new set of eyes I am given to see this world with. A new lens to filter my vision. A re-wiring, this feels like. A death and rebirth maybe.

All I know each time it comes is that it will also pass and I will be different. Somehow that is enough.

Defying Worth

There are pitfalls. I tend to stumble on them more often than I’d like to admit. We forget in hindsight, what these moments feel like until they find us again. And when they do, it feels like any progress we’ve ever made has fallen through because we’re right back where we started. Though it feels true at the moment, I know that it isn’t. I try to drill it in my brain that progress isn’t linear, but even I fall short sometimes to my own words and come to pity my failures.

These past few weeks have been testing me. I guess that’s the only way I can really put it without turning the drama volume up too loud. But they haven’t been easy. I stopped calling it depression a while ago. Now I call it “my low period.” I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, I just know that that works for me. There are moments, much like the ones I’ve been experiencing lately that make me question a lot. Why be kind when the world can be so harsh? Why work so hard when you wind up in the exact same financial situations you once found yourself in? Why not just quit all of it because it doesn’t look like you’re winning anyway? Is it worth it? Is any of it really worth it?

When I begin to ask myself these questions, I know I’ve taken a really wrong turn on the highway I was driving through. And then I remember that exits exist. That I can re-route again. That although a u-turn is not an option on this road (because that would be far too easy), there is a detour I can take to get back on the path I was on before.

I guess you might be wondering, how – or better yet, why? When you get to the point where you’re asking yourself if it’s all even worth it, how can you possibly convince your mind to go back? To try again at all? (Well, 4 years of therapy helps for sure.) But because finally, I have gotten to the point where that one question – the one I’ve been trying to avoid asking myself this whole time – is actually the one that gets me back on track.

E.E. Cummings once wrote,

“I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air 
Alive 
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness” 

I think those words always spoke to me in a way I couldn’t explain. Words like that remind me that words matter. That writing matters. That what we do here, matters. What I do here matters. And therefore, I must also matter. This string of connections that falls shortly after I’ve reached the lowest point I can get to is what brings me back to life. So I want to share it with you today. The words that have saved me many times before. The words that sparked some sort of a light within me when everything felt dark. If you have some of your own that have helped you, share them. They might just matter to someone else too.

My Vacuum Moment

I understand now that I am not a mess, but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often. I say, "For the same reason I laugh so often - because I am paying attention" 
- Glennon Doyle Melton

There’s this thread of distance I’ve been feeling lately. The feeling of being unwanted, like I’m “too much”. Something that clearly sprouted from childhood and still creeps up on me more often than I’d like. Times when I have to remind myself about the reality of the situation. That I am enough. That I am loved. That this is a projection of a distorted reality I’ve created for myself, by myself.

But sometimes, I let myself drown in the feeling. Just to sink into it some more. And then I scream, silently of course because how dare I become so loud that I confirm what I fear the most? How can I even think to claim a space that is far too big to call my own? And this moment – the moment when you decide that you are far too large to fit into this world is what I call my vacuum moment.

It’s the moment where gravity shifts, slow enough that you don’t feel it coming, but loud enough that you can hear the suction begin. It’s the moment when you decide to become smaller and smaller so to squeeze into the size you have decided this world will accept you in. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. You will not cry. You will not scream. You will not make a sound. Instead, you will nod and conform. You will say things like “I am fine,” over and over until it becomes a whistle in your throat. An itch you can’t seem to scratch.

And you know what happens next? You start to disappear. And the scariest part of it all is that you don’t seem to mind. Actually, you might even like it. Because going unnoticed feels safer than being seen. It’s true, isn’t it? That’s what I thought, too. That is until I realized that it wasn’t a vacuum I was suctioning myself into. Something that small and material couldn’t hold me in if it tried.

No, I’m not a dust particle. I’m lava. A vacuum couldn’t sustain me, but a volcano could. We can’t disappear, not for long at least. Trust me, I’ve tried. So many freaking times! When I understood what was happening, only then could I try to manage it. The thing about dormant volcanos is that they pretend like they are inactive. They hide and the lava within them boils. It twists and turns and at any moment, when no one is watching or listening or caring, they will explode. They will erupt and they will destruct. And that was what my reality was looking like.

Quiet. Sinking. Hiding. Erupting. Destructing. Repeat.

The sad part is, you make yourself believe it won’t happen again. That you can continue on with this pattern, and stop at hide. But we weren’t made to disappear. We were made to create, to play, to learn, to laugh, to be in pain, to cry, to love.

It’s been a long time since I found myself back here. That’s the thing about progress. It’s not linear. You find yourself backtracking to an old version of yourself you thought you’ve overcome, only to have to overcome her again. And then you move forward. And then you might backtrack some more. Become, un-become. Become again.

Besides, we’ll have to keep re-learning the same lessons until we face them. As Pema Chodron said, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”