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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.