My Unintentional 10 Month Writing Break: When Life Didn’t Go As Planned

the unintentional 10 month break from writing

This is the short version of how I lost my memory for the majority of 2018. (Yes, you read that right.)

I’ve taken fewer than half a dozen breaks from my writing during my (almost) nine-year career, primarily because they annoyed me. I’m the kind of person who can’t sit still through a TV show without my laptop, much less setting aside my stories for days. Writing is therapeutic for me, especially during the last few years when I struggled with increased anxiety and depression. Leaving it for an extended period of time was the last thing I wanted to do.

I think I’ve mentioned this, but three years ago I dropped out of college because the anxiety hit me out of nowhere. I’m a worrier by nature, but the anxiety crippled me. I wrote about my experiences in this post from 2017 if you’re curious, and it explains most of what I went through so I won’t repeat myself here (and it’s actually by far my most popular post to date).

I also have another post I’ll probably put out next month (and will link here) detailing my journey and the crap I went through with inept doctors, but the long story short is I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Disease in February or March 2018. It’s essentially hypothyroidism and was the cause of my increased anxiety. The depression wasn’t caused by it (and is another long story for another day about the “happy hormones”).

That diagnosis changed things for the rest of my life.

I’ll never again get to eat junk food without my thyroid acting out and making inflammation take over my body. I’ll take meds for a long time (maybe forever). I watch what I do, my hormones, weight, and a list that feels longer than my arm. I always feel tired.

I’m not trying to complain. I could have had something much worse.

You’re probably asking, but what about the memory issues?

If you’ve ever taken strong medication for a hormonal imbalance or disorder, you might be familiar with the side effect of temporary memory loss or at the least brain fog. My thyroid was so underactive that the medication caused it to become like a rollercoaster bouncing wherever it pleased.

And boy, did I have some unexpected (and embarrassing) side effects from that!

Anyway, words flew out of my head faster than you can lose your car keys. I forget appointments, names, even short-term memories. I’m the kind of person who used to never even use outlines for her stories, so memory wasn’t a big problem for me. If anything, I remembered too much because of my anxiety. I went from serious and always on top of things to a bit of an airhead. Best I can tell, I had a case of Temporary Dementia brought on my all the changes my body dealt with.

When all my characters names became “BLANK,” my pacing and scenes fell apart, plot disappeared and my energy disappeared, I realized I had to step away. It was unexpected, so I didn’t give my readers a heads up about my absence (Sorry, loyal blog readers! I didn’t abandon you on purpose!).

A few times this year I had good weeks and tried to catch up. I posted back in May and August, but in September regressed because I negatively reacted to new meds.

I pray I improve with each passing day. It’s a struggle, but I hope I can return to entertaining you lovely readers with my sarcastic and wordy posts soon.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll cut me a little slack because I still misspell words or use the wrong words because of hiccups in my memory. Many common writing rules I used to know aren’t in my head anymore and I have to relearn as well as brush off my rusty writing skills after all these months. In this post alone my editor caught three simple mistakes I should never have missed!

Thank you for your understanding during all of this, and I hope to make 2019 one of my best writing years to date if prayers and life work out!

So, now that I’m coming back to this blog, is there anything you’d like to see me write about on here? What writing (or reading) problems are you facing that you’d like me to talk about?

Alexa M.

Advertisements

What Anxiety Taught Me About Myself

 

what-1

Thank God 2016 is over.

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t published a post in 8 months.  I was supposed to publish a book, City of Deception, in July, but it never came out.  I planned to go to university and study history, my second favorite subject only surpassed by writing.  I planned to get my own apartment within the next eighteen months.

But life is a tricky thing, and the last year and a half have been some of the most difficult and stressful months for my family and me.  If something could go wrong, it did or tried to.

I learned how crippling anxiety can be, and spent most of the summer holed up at home recovering from a year that kept getting worse.  It taught me I’m not as strong and invincible as I think.

So, here’s what happened:

I’m nineteen and finished my freshman year at University.  Last fall, about the time I started this blog, I packed up my belongings and moved ten minutes from home into the dorm with one of my best friends as my roommate.  For the first few months, I adjusted to college life, learning that eating pancakes at midnight is normal and studying your butt off ten minutes before your final exam is protocol.  Despite a few mishaps and arguments on my hall, I succeded at being on the Deans list.

But then about January, something happened.

I started getting more than a few butterflies in my stomach when I had to go to social functions (I’m an introvert at heart, but this was extreme).  I struggled to maintain eye contact with people during conversations and trivial things like phone calls to meeting people in the cafeteria for dinner sent me off to my room trembling.

By March, I pretty much spent most of my time in my room with Netflix, chocolate, and impending due dates.  I couldn’t write, something that calmed me down, because my characters reflected my anxiety making me more worried.  It sucked.

Then in April, the panic attacks came.  I’d go to class, do my assignments (because I’m a perfectionist and hate when things try to stop me or slow me down) and spend a lot of time sitting on my bed reading crappy vampire novels just to escape the moment.  Just having to pass people in the hall would all but send me into panic mode.  The anxiety never stopped.

I chose to take a gap year after meeting with a professor one day and all but crying in his office because I physically couldn’t make myself do a presentation for their class.  I would have vomited had I tried to do the presentation.

The point of this post is if you feel I’ve been ignoring you all, I haven’t.  I’ve been struggling, but now am back.  Thank you to everyone supporting me (which, frankly, is few people because most don’t know.)  To those suffering from anxiety: I know what it feels like, and I swear you’ll get through it.  There will be a lot of tears and arguments and ice cream runs, but you will persevere.  I had to choose to change my life by taking a year off against the wishes and advice of almost everyone who knows me.  Do whatever YOU need to deal with anxiety.  Don’t make the mistake of letting others dictate life for you.  Only you really know what you need.

The best way to explain what this is like is how one feels after a long sickness.  Your muscles are sore and you can’t just jump back into your usual routine.  You have to slowly go back to your normal schedules and activities slowly, and that’s what I’m attempting to do.  (I realize that is a lacking example.)

I have people doubting me, especially for taking some time from college.  I might not ever go back.  I don’t know.  Every time I get on Facebook and see how much all my friends have done in one year while I’ve been struggling just to live normally frustrates and depresses me.  Sometimes I cry for no reason.

The last months have taught me the true meaning of one of my favorite Robert Burns quotes:

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Robert Burns

I thought I could plan everything and be strong, but it turns out I can’t get everything right all the time and I am far, far from perfect.  I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.  I don’t know what God has in store or why I have to go through this.

Don’t ask me what I’m going to do because I don’t know.  Every bone in my body screams in terror over the decisions I’m making.  Most days I feel immobile, but I’m doing my best.

All I know is I’m going to get back on my feet and live my life.  I still have anxiety, but I’m learning how to deal with it.  I hope others with anxiety also learn to embrace it and live a meaningful life.