Let me get real honest about my struggles with mental health lately
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I read somewhere once that, when you break, you don’t quite get put back together the same again.
The Japanese art of kintsugi repairs those broken pieces with gold but, to be honest, I’ve never really felt like my scars were majestic parts of myself to show off. Instead, I’ve mostly kept those physical and emotional scars hidden deep beneath the surface — one at time peeking out when I felt strong enough to share.
For years, I’ve prided myself on being fearless in my writing and yet I’ve kept silent the past couple of months about the struggles of my mind. Sure, I’ve written about anal sex, my sexually manipulative ex-boyfriend, alcoholism and recovery, and my anxiety… but there are still some topics that are terrifying for me to write about.
For the past few months, that topic has been my mental health.
Sure, I’ve been fairly honest about my anxiety struggles in the past but, lately, it’s felt like something else entirely. I can’t fully put my finger on what’s going on with me but I know that I am not okay. Or, at least, I am starting to realize that I am not okay and that I need help.
It’s nothing super serious. I’m not suicidal, thank goodness, but I’m struggling.
The past couple of months, I’ve had a really difficult time wrapping my head around my work. For a while, I thought it was that I was suffering from burnout symptoms so I quit a couple of my regular part-time writing gigs. Then I thought it might be that I do not have enough self-care, so I am consciously doing more of that. And now I am fearing that the real problem is that I am not doing what I truly want to do and that has been truly difficult for me. But, really, it might be all of the above coupled with more than just my usual generalized anxiety disorder.
You see, I’ve begun to suspect that I have ADHD. And maybe depression, too.
For as long as I could remember, I was a really good, studious kid. I got good grades, was a bit of an overachiever, and ultimately a high-functioning alcoholic. When I finally broke (a.k.a. lost my dream job of being a Food Editor due to my missing a few too many days of work due to massive hangovers and blackout drinking), it was bad. I went to rehab, was okay for a bit, relapsed, and eventually left my home of 12 years, New York City.
Upon moving, I met the love of my life and things seemed to be going great.
I was a full-time freelancer now, primarily as a Food Editor (and then Lifestyle Editor) at Brit+C0. This time last year, they let me go due to budgeting issues… and it was okay. I realized that the beauty of being a freelancer is that even when the majority of my income is coming from one place, it’s still not all of it. So I recovered quickly and bounced around to different part-time writing gigs, doing stints at HipLatina, Oxygen, Romper, FIERCE by mitú, and Simplemost in the past year, along with other one-off writing that I was doing. Plus, for six months last year, I was the News Editor at 21Ninety and only really left because they were severely underpaying me.
But now… I don’t know.
After a year of writing for lots of different places, I am feeling lost. I don’t really know exactly what I want out of my career and that is terrifying to me. I’ve always been a big planner and I’ve always known exactly where I wanted to go. And now, I’m just not so sure.
Part of that is because the thing that I most enjoy (being an editor in terms of assigning pieces, working with writers, managing an editorial calendar, writing headlines, coming up with ideas) is not easy to get when you live outside of NYC. I’m really happy with my personal life here in Florida, where I’ve managed to fall in love, get married, buy a house, and hopefully have a baby soon, but my career just isn’t what I have always imagined it to be.
That’s no big deal, right? It seems like all I need to do is figure out a Plan B… but Plan B is difficult. The thing I really want to do is the thing I can’t do because remote part-time or full-time senior editor jobs are few and far between. And all of this worrying about what I am going to do and how I am going to do it has started to really impact my mental health in a big way.
Not only is my anxiety seemingly getting worse but now I’m realizing that perhaps there are other underlying conditions that I previously never thought I had.
One of those is undiagnosed ADHD. There’s a lot of reasons why I think this but most of them have to do with a serious lack of focus right now, always multi-tasking (or more like jumping around), lack of motivation, time management problems, impulsivity, former substance misuse, constantly switching jobs (even when I was living in NYC), the inability to do anything that I’m not interested in… I’ve been reading a lot about ADHD and a lot of things I read make me go, “oh shit, that’s me!”, including the fact that my brother is diagnosed with it and this problem often presents in families.
Meanwhile, today I started to really look into whether I might be mildly depressed. It’s an idea that my husband and a few friends have tossed out in the past but it wasn’t until yesterday, when I was seriously struggling to finish something, that I thought I should really look into it. Some of those symptoms include fatigue (despite sleeping 8-9 hours a night), weight gain, lost interest in my writing, and a general hopeless outlook in what the future of my career looks like.
All of this is to say that… I’m struggling.
There’s nothing truly wrong with my life, if I were honest. I have plenty of work, I’m still getting cool bylines, I’m increasing my pay, etc. By all accounts, I should be happy and excited about what is happening right now and eager for my new venture into different types of work (content marketing, for one) but I’m just not. It feels like there’s just a gray mist all around and that the only times I feel happy or excited are those brief moments when something really great happens… and then I go back to a gray place.
For instance, I have a really big byline coming up that I am super psyched for. I can’t WAIT for this piece to be live but, even today, I was struggling with fear and self-doubt as I was doing some edits that my editor asked for. Nothing even that huge or out-of-the-ordinary for a writer but I was still terrified and feeling like a failure.
I probably shouldn’t be feeling like a failure when someone says “You did a great job!!” and just asks you for a couple added things, right?
But I did.
And those feelings of being lost or feeling like a failure or self-sabotaging or impostor syndrome or whatever you want to call them are not going away no matter what good news I get.
Sure, I’m telling myself that things will get better once I do find that golden egg (a part-time or full-time remote editor job where I can truly use my talents and skills to their best ability) but what if they don’t?
For now, I guess I just needed to say all of this.
I know that I am not the only writer struggling with feelings of self-doubt or, even better, with mental health issues. I’m not the only one who is depressed or anxious or has ADHD. But for me, I’m just trying to figure it all out. Thankfully, I have an appointment with a new psychologist on Friday. Hopefully, some good news (which I consider a diagnosis since knowing WTF is wrong with me is a huge step towards helping myself) is on its way.