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Teaser Thursday- I Should Tell You

This novel is due out March 4 from Loose Id, and I just finished edits on it. I’m sharing this scene because it goes along with Monday’s post about mental illness. TRIGGER WARNING. 

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Again…TRIGGER WARNING.

 

 

Mitch’s hands shook as he opened the door. His heart raced. He didn’t want to go. Inside the apartment, he was safe. Outside, anything might happen.

He took a deep breath. He had no reason to be afraid of walking to the grocery store. He’d done it plenty of times, though usually Solara went with him. The neighborhood was safe, especially in daylight, and the route was straight down the street and straight back up.

But still dealing with his withdrawal, he was on edge enough to be scared of everything, whether logical or not. He’d learned early and often that he couldn’t reason himself out of anxiety and panic attacks. The only thing he could do was try to push himself beyond them.

He reached the store without incident and picked up the items on Solara’s list. Checking out was no problem either. As usual, Solara, as usual, had given him more than enough money.

He left the store and headed home, carrying three bags of groceries. They weren’t too heavy, but he had to use both hands, which bothered him. He preferred having a hand free in case he needed to defend himself. He probably wouldn’t need to defend himself here, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

And then it happened.

Ordinarily the old brown station wagon coming toward him would barely have registered on his mental radar. Ordinarily it would have driven past him, and he might have thought, Huh, that looks familiar. Or he might not have thought anything about it at all.

Ordinarily he wouldn’t have been dealing with a migraine and upset stomach and the near-desperate craving for another pill, and he wouldn’t have been only a couple of hours past thinking about his so-called parents.

The car was identical to the one his father had bought new when Mitch was ten. The one he’d forced Mitch to take a ride in the night he’d brought it home. The trip “around the block” had lasted two hours, and the car hadn’t moved during most of it, unless Mitch counted the rocking caused by his father’s movements. That had been the only time his father had assaulted him in the car, though he’d hinted a few times afterward that the back of the wagon was the perfect location. After that night, Mitch had refused to ride in the thing without his mother along. Of all the bad times with his father, this was one of the worst. He Mitch couldn’t have forgotten if he’d tried.

The car came closer, and the driver resembled his father.

Mitch dropped to his knees, hyperventilating. His heart raced, and his stomach churned. The bags fell from his hands. He barely noticed their contents spilling onto the sidewalk. He closed his eyes, willing the car to go away. To keep on moving until he was safe.

He wanted to scream, but kept it in. Even in the thick of a full-blown panic attack he knew better than to make a sound. Someone would hear him, and would think he’d gone crazy. No one other than Solara could ever find out what went on in his head.

Not So Alone

Last Monday, I was struggling with a huge, massive black blob of depression and suckitude. (That’s a word. I say so.)

The problem started with a few very innocuous comments from a few people about how and why I should self-publish, either original stuff or backlist books once I have rights reverted to me. Self-publishing is one of those things that sounds a lot easier than it is. In addition to being able to write a good story, you have to have some editing skills and/or the money to hire an editor (preferably the latter; no matter how good you are at self-editing, you will miss things); graphics skills or the money to hire a cover designer; formatting skills or money to hire a formatter. Notice the money?

And then you have to have promotions and marketing skills.

That was where it all started going downhill for me. “I don’t have the money to hire an editor or cover designer” became “I don’t earn enough from my writing because I SUCK.” And “Promoting my books is my weak point” became “I don’t know how to promo and market because I SUCK.”

I have depression and anxiety disorder. For me, the “I suck” is the depression-monster digging its claws into my brain and sucking out all the light and positives. “I suck” is also an echo of all the negative people in my childhood and much of my adulthood who TOLD me I suck.

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I posted a vent on a romance authors’ forum I belong to. Sometimes getting the darkness out of my head and into the open helps.

And I found something amazing. People responded to my vent telling me they felt the same way about their sales, their promo, their fear of self-publishing. People told me they, too, had depression or anxiety or other mental illnesses.

From posting a cry for help, or at least for someone to tell me I didn’t suck, that thread went to being almost a support group. And the best part of it is that none of us is ALONE. Fears that our writing isn’t good enough, or that we don’t know how to promote effectively, are often kept to ourselves because as authors, we’re also afraid to admit we’re afraid.

And despite statistics saying one in six adults has some form of mental illness, there is still a huge stigma. When someone says they’re depressed, they’re far more likely to hear “You have a good life, just cheer up” than to hear “I’m sorry you’re struggling, how can I help?” The impression many people–even those who themselves have mental illnesses–have is that mental illness is a weakness.

It isn’t. It’s a frigging ILLNESS, hence the name! Those of us with depression can no more help the dark times than someone with diabetes can help their blood sugar being out of whack. There are ways to *manage* the symptoms, but “just cheering up” is as hard as “just thinking my blood sugar back to normal.”

So I’m being open right now. I have depression. I have anxiety disorder. And I have post-traumatic stress disorder because of traumas I’ve experienced throughout my life. (We hear the most about PTSD in relation to returning soldiers, but it is NOT exclusively a combat disorder. Or, as my husband–a veteran–put it, “Some people with PTSD lived through war zones in their own homes.”)

If you have a mental illness, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be ashamed, because you are not weak. Hell, if you’re alive, you’re strong, end of story. You deserve to have as healthy a life as you can, and you deserve support and acceptance.

You are not alone.