Sometimes You Can’t Push Past The Crap, and That’s Okay.

So originally, I was going to write a helpful post of how to budget your energy to achieve your goals. Because let’s face it, living with mental illness is a draining, exhausting endeavor. And I’m sure I’ll get back to that post at some point in the future, but as I was rounding out the second paragraph, the Superbowl started.

Everything was fine. The Schuyler Sisters rocked America the Beautiful. Atlanta was kicking Brady’s ass. Twitter was a semi-happy place for the first time since the election. And Lady Gaga gave a phenomenal Half-time performance that had me crying because BORN THIS WAY!

Then everything wasn’t fine. Patriots came back. Richard Spencer (the Nazi who got punched) was rejoicing the white-ness of the Patriots. And reality hit like a double decker bus speeding out of hell.

Safe to say, that budget-your-energy post kinda disappeared into the abyss of my irritation. I’ve taken on quite a lot (for me) this past month and that paired with new awful Cheeto-related disasters happening on a fairly daily basis, my ability to rebound from depressive states has pretty much disappeared. I’m trying. I swear! Hence the blog post.

But Holy Crud is it difficult. I love my country. I served in the Army for several years and spent one of those years in Iraq. That deployment was what got me into this little mental health pickle I’m now in. And funny story, my PTSD has very little to do with the incoming rockets our base took on a regular basis. My PTSD is the result of being used as a scapegoat for men’s incompetence. My PTSD was caused by my own effin countrymen.

So seeing the current state of America and how millions of lives are being destroyed by ignorance and incompetence and greed, it all gets a tad overwhelming to deal with. Because what was the point of my military service if people can’t love freely, if people can’t worship freely, if women can’t walk down the street without getting sexually harassed, if black men can’t walk down the street without getting arrested (for no good reason other than their skin tone), if refugees can’t find solace within our borders, or if First Nation Americans are being brutalized for protecting THEIR land from Oil-Industry greed. And let us not forget our allies who helped American troops overseas and at home, who had our backs in war zones.

I love my country. But I keep falling back on the same fear I had in Iraq: what if the people who I could supposedly count on could benefit from hurting me? This is always on my mind, and I can’t remove that filter from my eyes as I look at my family who all voted for the Cheeto and who refuse to follow what his actions are doing to this country and our allies.

But like Iraq, I have things to do. So here’s me, seeing the shit storm, pulling up a poncho, and hunkering down to achieve my goals. Because, in the words of Maureen Johnson, Trump doesn’t get to steal my joy.

Recovery & Broken Promises

And it’s 2017… well then…

At the turn of the new year, I realized that I made a few promises as a blogger that I totally failed in fulfilling. I’d promised I’d give you a run down of NerdCon, that didn’t happen. Was supposed to do all three posts for the Beautiful Books Meme during NaNoWriMo, that definitely didn’t happen. And getting back on a regular posting schedule, haha yeah… nope.

I kept hoping that I would get my feet back under me and I could be “the old me” again. The “me” who could handle multiple projects and intense deadlines. The “me” who didn’t flinch at the idea of interacting with people. The “me” who met every challenge with determination for success.

Yet here we are in 2017 and I’m still figuring things out. One thing that therapists at the VA say when you’re dealing with PTSD say is that I need to come to grips with the fact that THIS is my new reality and that I need to understand that I might never get back to “the old me.” I comprehend what they’re saying, but dear Lord, is it difficult to accept it. Because I want to do ALL THE THINGS.

Therapist’s response: Don’t overwhelm yourself.

She’s right, of course. The more I push to get back to my old rhythm, the more I end up snapping back into exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. This is probably TMI, as this is suppose to be a writing/reading blog, but I don’t want to pretend that mental health issues are something that can simply be overcome. I’m NOT saying that there’s no hope. I’m saying that mental health is a constant, a program running in the background. Depending on how many items you have open on your desktop, you can either run smoothly or get bogged down, have things shut down on you, then you get so infuriated that you want to throw the whole computer out the window… or maybe that’s just me.

I know the posts I’ve published since my giant hiatus have been mostly focused on my PTSD, and I want to apologize for that, but honestly, I think that this is a conversation that some people need to have. To know they’re not alone. To know it’s okay to talk about these struggles. Sure, this platform didn’t start off as a mental health discussion, but you know what, everything we do, everything we experience, affects our mental health, and subsequently our creative projects.

I promise I haven’t been “down for the count” since last I posted. I DID complete the 50k for NaNoWriMo. I DID perform in the musical I was cast in. I DID start querying. And lastly, I AM developing consistent friendships.

Don’t “aww” that last one. I spent most of 2016 pushing away EVERYONE. Creating and developing friendships is a huge step forward for me, and I’m not mad at it.

So I am finding “a new me” because that’s all I can do. I have to take the things I want to do and prioritize them. But self-care has to come first. Things that keep me from spiraling down into the dark abyss come first. I can’t miss therapy. I have to be physically active. I need to keep writing.

I know I have a lot of privilege to be able to structure my life this way. A small perk of being a War Veteran, I guess. Maybe I’ll write a blog post regarding my attempt at working fulltime last year, but no promises. But I do urge you, if you struggle with mental health, to get help. Or at the very least, try to find things that help you cope and make them a priority as best you can.

Till next time.
– Bree

 

An Update on Life, Writing, and What’s Next

Hey all,

So it’s been a couple months since I last checked in, and quite a bit has happened. I finished the latest version of GUARDED (book 1 in my YA series), went to NerdCon: Stories, and I was cast in a musical.

But here’s the thing about suddenly doing all the things after months of simply surviving: constantly attempting to be a “real person” exhausts you to the point that there’s very little energy to overcome those pesky PTSD symptoms. Which is why I fell off the blog bandwagon… again.

Recovery. It’s a slow process.

There is good news in all this though. I’m really, truly, only a round of revision plus polish away from sending queries out into the universe. It’s terrifying and exciting to finally be at this point. Especially after not being able to even look at the manuscript for so much of this year.

I promise I’ll do a whole post unpacking the phenomenal awesomeness that was NerdCon: Stories. I’m still recovering from all the socializing that was involved. Despite how exhausting it was, I’m beyond happy that I went. All the panels and talks were brilliant, I really hope they’ll do another one in 2017.

As for the future, I go to Chicago this week to meet up with a friend from Maryland for a Girls’ Weekend. I adore Chicago. It’s one of my two favorite cities. The other being Baltimore. Fantastic city plus fantastic friend. Should be a fantastic weekend. 🙂

Then there’s November right around the corner, which means National Novel Writing Month. Despite all the goings-on of this year, I am still planning on participating. And when I come back from Chicago, I’ll post what project I plan on tackling.

Hope everything is well with you all!

Bree

So it’s been a while…

 

Hey everyone. First off, I just wanna thank ya’ll for sticking with me this year. I know I kinda fell off for a while, and by while I mean several months. Second, this isn’t going to be so much of a writing post as it’s more of an explanation and apology for my disappearance this year. I wish that I had good news to share, that my absence was related to some awesome thing, but in truth, my mental health just took a huge dump at the beginning of the year and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to pick myself even slightly off the ground in order to “feel” like myself.

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms since my deployment to Iraq as a Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Army in 2011. The symptoms would come and go and shift and change, but for the most part, they were bearable.

Then 2016 happened and multiple things hit me in succession. My dog got poisoned by mothballs (she’s fine, no worries), a couple important relationships in my life rapidly and completely deteriorated, multiple PSTD triggers were hit, then I needed to find a new living situation (because of one of said relationship failings). So I moved back to Iowa at the end of January and attempted to pick up the pieces. Started weekly therapy sessions at the VA, started taking medication, and attempted to find a new job.

The longer trying to get a job took, the harder it was to sustain what little self-respect I had, which didn’t exactly help on the depression and anxiety end of things. Neither did the lack of compassion from certain people who just didn’t understand PTSD or didn’t want to understand it.

And of course, the worse my self-esteem became, the harder it was to face the things I loved or what I thought “defined” me. Writing was one of those things. Being a writer was everything I wanted since I was an itty-bit and because everything else that was important to me had failed, it seemed easier to put writing and everything attached to it inside a safe little lockbox in the back of my mind.

So I avoided it. All of it. The Manuscripts. Friends. Family. Twitter. The Blog. Critique Partners. TBR Books. Everything.

Next thing I knew, it was May and I didn’t recognize myself.

Now we’re at the tail end of August and I’ve lost most of 2016 to crappy mental health. Oy vey. The goals I’d set at the beginning of the year are near impossible to achieve. But I’m trying. It’s a daily struggle, but I finally have enough of a grasp on things that I can [somewhat] see a pale little light at the end of this very long, dark, narrow tunnel.

I’m happy to say that I am back to writing, more or less. Wrote a chapter last week that needs a crap ton of editing before it’s even remotely readable. But hey, one word at a time, right? And I’m reading again! Which is huge. Getting back to blogging three times a week is going to take some time, and I have no idea what these new posts are going to look like because I have a lot of catching up to do with the industry, not to mention my own work. But I have to [re]start somewhere, right?

Thanks again for sticking with me! It means more than I could even begin to say!

– Bree

Why you’re not writing: Critical Introspection

So a lot has happened in the last month for me, some good, some meh. On top of starting a new job, moving to the land of bugs and sunburns, and preparing for the Midwest Writers Workshop next month, I’ve been struggling – and I mean STRUGGLING – to put words to paper with this rewrite.

I’ve tried not to discuss my WIP here on the blog, but for the sake of what I’m attempting to say in this post, you’re going to learn a bit about my current book’s protagonist, Kjersten (pronounced like Kiersten, know as KJ to family and close friends).

Throughout KJ’s journey, she goes through a lot of growth as a person. She learns that she can’t take responsibility for everyone or everything, accepts that people have to be allowed to make their own mistakes, as well as learns to let people see her gooey center and learns to trust/rely on them.

These lessons don’t exactly come in delicious packages of delight. It’s a difficult journey paved with mistakes and irrevocable loss.

As is life.

I realized last night that I’m avoiding the upcoming chapters of the rewrite because I’m avoiding putting KJ (and myself) through that journey of growth again.

You see I spent the vast majority of 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a military photojournalist/graphic artist. Due to the nature of the MOS (military occupation specialty), I saw more of the country than many of my fellow service members. Along with that, I worked a lot closer to the flagpole than most 19-year-old female specialists should without a proper leadership buffer. Shit happened. It left scars. PTSD is a bitch.

Anyhoo, when Soldiers – specifically Guardsmen – return to the States, society expects you to just keep moving. Get a job. Find a place to live. Because these things are so god damn easy. You have no opportunity to address the fact that you just spent a year of your life in a war zone. The majority of the people around you can’t relate to what you went through and it fucks with your brain. It starts to feel like the deployment didn’t actually happen, like it was all a bad dream that has somehow rattled your psyche to the point where you have emotional/psychological scars and triggers that you can’t even begin to predict. Like I said before, PTSD is a bitch.

Over the last couple years, I’ve worked incredibly hard to overcome this feeling of a disjointed reality, but it’s a constant battle. I would never wish this kind of thing on anyone, let alone a character who I’ve spent so much time with getting to know and telling their story. So that’s why this rewrite is kicking my ass. Now that I know this, I can continue forward.

So here’s the thing [aka the purpose for this post], none of that growth would have happened without some serious introspection. I think it’s an important part of our growth as human beings to stop every once in a while and truly, critically introspect on our thoughts and actions. If we all did this, the world would probably be a more compassionate, understanding place.

Just some food for thought.