Hi. First, I’d like to apologize for disappearing and not releasing BLAZE on the (many) release dates I had set. I thought long and hard over whether or not to write this blog post, explaining what happened and why. On the one hand, I know there are lots of readers who just want to get books and other content from authors, without getting too much of their personal lives – which is completely valid. On the other hand, I genuinely wanted to let you guys know what’s up. But on the other other hand (stick with me, apparently I’ve got three hands in this scenario) I didn’t want it to come across like one of those dramatic tales that always pop up in the book community either.
Ultimately the desire to be honest and upfront about the situation won out. For those of you uninterested in reading the tale – just know that I had several physical & mental health issues, got overwhelmed and needed to step back. BLAZE is now slated for release on September 6th. For those of you who would like to know what happened, read on past the cut.
Okay, you want to read more. Here we go. I’m fairly open with the fact that like a lot of people, I have problems with depression and anxiety. And recently, without me realizing it, those issues blew up beyond my meager coping methods. I kept having anxiety attacks. Some of them were small, and I could power through them. (This was a mistake and a clear warning sign that I ignored) But then I had a big one out of the blue, just as I got in the shower. I got super dizzy, slipped and hit my head on the shower wall. Then I had another big one. In the middle of the night. After I was already asleep. I didn’t even know that was possible, until I woke up, hyperventilating, with that tight throat - I want to cry but can’t thing happening.
And then the for real for real BIG ONE hit. I was sitting at my desk, trying to work. And suddenly I was so tired I couldn’t sit up, move my arms, or hold my head up. I needed to lay down, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it downstairs to my bed. So, I got down on the floor, pulled my backpack over for a pillow and just laid there - crying, shaking, and 100% sure I was about to die.
It was nearly an hour before I remembered my phone was in my pocket and called my mom. She stayed on the phone with me until I’d calmed enough to sit up. Then it took me another twenty minutes before I could actually get up off the floor. After that, I was done. I let my pre-order deadline sail by without finishing BLAZE and uploading, stopped posting on Facebook and Instagram, and popped in and out of Twitter without any mention of why BLAZE was M.I.A.
How did it get to that point, you ask? Well, as I mentioned, depression and anxiety are always there. And I have several personal issues that are exacerbating them. I’m unhappy with both my current living space and my car. And man, it sounds so freaking ungrateful to say because I have a safe home, and I don’t have food insecurity, and I have a car – which is more than many less fortunate people have.
But depression isn't rational like that. It doesn't rationalize the frustrations I have with all the noise I can’t tune out so I can write. Or the nervousness of having to walk a highly reactive dog near lots of other dogs and small running children every day. Or the tension of facing my phobia (fear of birds – vultures and owls are out around here in the early hours) if I choose instead to get up early enough before the kids and other dogs are out there. Which means no matter which way I go, I’m basically starting every day anxious af. (Then I have to calm down and go write. Lolz)
As far as the car, I finally know what I’m doing driving stick but after 25 years in an automatic it doesn’t come natural, and to already easily frustrated me, makes driving super stressful.
I’ve isolated myself to the point that I have practically zero contact with my friends. I can count on one hand the number of social interactions I’ve had in the past three years. But I just don’t have the energy to get up and go out. Plus, what am I going to talk about?
Friend: “Hey, Shocker. How are things with you?”
Me: “I’m crumpling under the weight of depression and bunch of other health issues.” *cough* perimenopause *cough* “How are you?”
The same goes for phone calls with family. And visits home are unreachable because I can’t afford to travel.
Unfortunately, when you have depression, isolation makes matters worse. Because now it’s just me, alone in my apartment, in my head listening to spiraling negative thoughts which get worse… and worse… and worse.
A few other things I stressed over that blew up bigger than they would have if I wasn’t already spiraling: my dog Mindy had bladder stones, couldn’t urinate and needed surgery and I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. I broke my toe/foot. I couldn’t decide whether to move back to St. Louis or stay in Houston and it was constantly on my mind. Oh, and I can’t leave my fun, new friend Perimenopause out.
Perimenopause. Uh, yeah. Over the last couple of years, my cycle started changing. First came the fatigue. Then the brain fog. Then the joint pain. I didn’t really get what was happening – I’d never even heard of perimenopause. It was aggravating for sure, until about April or May when the symptoms went from inconvenient to debilitating.
Dizziness, nausea, mood swings, insomnia, irritability, headaches, hot flashes, joint pain so bad I couldn’t walk up the stairs to my office without hanging on to the hand rail and stopping several times. Brain fog so thick I would sit down at my computer to work, stare at the screen like “What am I looking at?” then get up and walk away in frustration because I couldn’t think. And fatigue, which is probably the worst because I have so little energy that I can’t get anything done, no matter how badly I want to.
And of course, all that personal stress bleeds into the work side. I have faith in Blaze’s story. I love the characters, idea, and series. But. BUT. My anxiety brain kept telling me that the book launch needed to be perfect. The perfect release date. Everything lined up. Every T crossed. Every i dotted. Because if the launch didn’t go well, then the series wouldn’t take off and get attention and I wouldn’t make enough money to improve my personal circumstances: new home, new car, finally getting health insurance.
I got overwhelmed with decisions and planning. And I put so much pressure on myself and this one book that I froze up in a textbook case of self-sabotage. I couldn’t actually finish the post-writing parts because what if I finished and released it and it flopped and oh god now my life is over I’ve been out of the workforce for years no one will hire me why do I even exist if my life is gonna be such crap? *breathes into paper bag*
A person either without my mental health issues or a better coping and support system might have been able to handle those problems. They might have struggled, but they would have tackled them one at a time. For me it was more like this on repeat:
until finally my brain/body went:
I shut down. I knew my disappearance and failure to release was unprofessional and I might anger and/or lose readers. And I was capital E embarrassed about the whole situation, but it didn’t matter. Body said shut down so that’s what I did.
What am I doing to keep that from happening again? I made the decision to move back home so I’d be closer to family connections and cleared that indecision out of my head. I started journaling. I (sorta kinda) made peace with the fact that I can’t control how the book is received but I do have the ability to pivot to something else career-wise if it doesn’t do as well as I’d like.
I also did a lot of research on perimenopause so I could understand what was happening to my body. That took away a lot of the angry confusion, gave me some to tips to try and alleviate the symptoms, and helped me accept that for the time being I might be mostly out of commission for a week every month. It’s not my fault, and trying to “fight through it” just makes the situation worse. So, I’m plugging a week of low productivity into my monthly schedule to make any deadlines I set more obtainable.
Most importantly, I got some help from family*. As I mentioned, my mom helped me through that attack and found a number for me to call so I can get some mental health care. (When you’re depressed and anxious, taking those initial steps to get help feels like standing at the bottom of one of the Great Pyramids and wondering how you’re going to get to the top.)
My niece stepped up and paid the deposit for Mindy’s surgery. My sister keeps sending me these loving texts and is helping me out with the new, more expensive dog food the girls require. My nephew called and got me all pumped up to get BLAZE and the rest of the Heartthrob Heroes finished and published. And I switched to decaf. All of that combined is helping my brain and whatever gland sends out doses of stress hormones to calm the eff down. I'm not cured and life isn't suddenly peaches and rainbows. But I'm at least at a point where I can baby step the shit out of this until I get to where I need to be.
Yay, you made it to the end of this long tale! Or maybe you scanned. That’s okay too. I’d like to once more apologize for my unprofessional behavior and for disappointing you. I hope you’ll understand. And if you’ve decided to move on, I understand that and thank you for the support you’ve shown me up until this point.
I also hope this post helps other creatives in similar situation see that they are not the only ones dealing with depression, anxiety and perimenopause (if you’re of age with a uterus). And I hope that you’re able to start working your way out of the low cycle. It’s okay to take a break and get help. Listen to your body. It is not playing around when it’s giving you signals to stop and chill for a minute.
Thank you for reading!
Christa. Or Christine since I got so personal in this post.
*People in the thick of a low depression cycle are unlikely to ask for help – we’re embarrassed and tired. Luckily my family offered. If you notice a friend or family member suddenly withdrawing, always saying they’re tired, letting their appearance go, reach out and offer to help – even if it’s something small. A friend bought me a coffee once and I was so touched it snapped me out of one of my low cycles.
My rambling and not at all edited thoughts on romance novels, writing, and pop culture.