Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Writing and Anxiety

Squishy, Squishy
Writing with social anxiety is an issue I have been thinking about lately. Mainly because the closer I get to finishing my novel the more I realize that if I want to be a writer, people are going to read my work and judge me for it. Becoming an author seems less like a pipe dream and more like a real possibility these days and that absolutely terrifies me. I feel like I need to share these feelings with you. Maybe so you don't feel alone or maybe so I don't, but hopefully my story can help someone else. And that makes it worth sharing. Let's start from the beginning:

I have had generalized anxiety and a panic disorder since I was 14, only I didn't know what it was until I was 19. So, technically I have known about these disorders for about 9 years. I have been on and off medication and I am currently off of it for other medical reasons. But to describe what I experience is similar to a heart-attack only it won't kill me. I just have to suffer through it over and over again. It prevents me from being social and sometimes leaving the house because I am so afraid of an attack in public. However, I have gained some control over it in my personal life and I have less and less attacks every year. The only area of my life that it still permeates my every move is writing.

Maybe because writing is the newest aspect of my life, but I am paralyzed almost daily by fear and doubt. I question my abilities, my motives and my future. I sabotage myself so I hurt myself before anyone else can. Case in point: I had my final chapter due last Sunday and I physically could not finish the required word count. I had procrastinated to the point that my chapter was god-awful and I realized later that I had inadvertently switched point-of-view characters mid scene. Subconscious sabotage. And it all derives from my anxiety and fear of unwarranted judgment. I am old enough to know how the world works but yet I am not old enough to not care. I don't want to be ripped apart by reviewers I will never see. I won't be able to stand up for myself or make my own case. They're just words but they can crack a weak confidence faster than a bullet. And I am not sure I could handle hitting rock bottom again. I want my voice to be heard but not at the expense of my personal well-being.

It has been a rough few weeks, I am better. I can smile. I can compliment my work. But the little dark creatures that live within my mind are still there. I still doubt my contributions to the world will be of any significance to anyone. For right now that doesn't matter. What matters is that I continue to beat this strange disorder that has the possibility of letting me completely lose myself in a false reality. A reality of fear. A reality of inconsequence. Writing has helped me control my demons but at the same time has brought them to the forefront of my life again. Publishing seems like such a giant leap of faith and I don't even know if I am prepared for it. Or for the likely utter disappointment.

Anxiety and panic has made me appreciate the small things but has also kept me from reaching for the big things. Can I come back from a giant crash and burn? Probably. Will I keep writing? Absolutely. These are the only thoughts that keep me pushing forward despite my self-sabotaging nature. It may take me longer than I hope, but I am stronger than the pulse pounding, body shaking fear that fills me. Anxiety will not kill my career. It will not kill me. That's what I have to keep reminding myself when I am staring at a blank computer screen unable to bring my fingers to the keyboard. I am a survivor. I will win this war. I will not be silenced.

If anyone out there experiences this type of paralyzing anxiety please feel free to share your story. I think sharing with each other will only help. We are not alone.

Talk to y'all soon,

-Jami Lynn