Sunday, October 20, 2013

Emerging from the silence - depression and life

I've written this blog 50 times over in my head, yet it's been nearly impossible for me to sit at a keyboard and type out the words.

Then again, it's been equally difficult for me to sit at a computer and write anything for some time now.

I have a few fans who have contacted me, a Street Team who has helped spread the word about my work, several websites and blogs that have published reviews for my novels, LETHAL OBSESSION, and its sequel, HELPLESS, and some friends and colleagues who have offered me advice and help with marketing.

Yet I've not been able to respond to any of them for weeks now, to tell anyone about any of it, to even log onto Facebook or Twitter or my email account.

Until today.

I cannot describe to you how awful I feel, as if I've let people down, turned my back on them for no apparent reason. The longer I went in silence, the worse I felt, and the worse I felt, the harder it's become to break that silence.

Let me try to explain. I'm not making excuses, not asking for sympathy or help, just for understanding.

I suffer from depression. Long-term clinical depression is what the counselor calls it. That's not a surprise – I've mentioned that before during a few interviews bloggers have done with me over the past year. I've known for years I've had it, was first diagnosed, officially, as suffering from the condition six years ago, though I knew, on some level, that was my problem long before then.

I'm not all that well-educated, at least formally, but I'm well-read and reasonably intelligent. I knew, years ago while working the carnival circuit down South, that something was wrong, and I was pretty certain what it was. A couple of years later, when it got really bad and I was having some dark, bad thoughts, a few coworkers all but dragged me into counseling.

I don't think I would have done anything drastic, but we'll never know. For that I'm eternally thankful to those people who cared enough to see that I got the help I desperately needed at that time.

I don't know if you understand what depression is. I'm not talking about the times when someone feels a little down, when problems in life make the going a little rough for a while.

Clinical depression, to use that term, is a disease. While I don't like to use the term mental illness because of the stigma attached to that phrase, in truth clinical depression is a mental illness. It results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. If you have a broken arm, you can't just snap out of it, decide your arm's going to be okay and go on your merry way. Depression is a lot like that – it's a real, honest-to-God physical ailment, something is wrong and you can't just snap out of it or get over it.

Years ago I went to a few sessions with a counselor named Judy. They were good for me. She taught me some coping techniques, a few ways to recognize when depression is sneaking up on me, what triggers to watch out for.

I also was a little too full of myself and my own cleverness. After a few sessions I realized she was drawing things out of me, having me talk about things I already understood on some deep level – often when I'd say something to her I'd think "I already know this stuff, why am I bothering coming here?" so I quit going. I thought I was smart enough to figure it out on my own.

While I've struggled with depression off and on since then, I've mostly kept it under control.

This year too many things have happened, though. I lost my job earlier this year, through no fault of my own. My father, a man I hadn't seen in many, many years and someone I never thought I'd care about again, died. At first I thought that was no big deal, but learning of his passing, going back home for the first time in so many years – it all affected me more deeply than I wanted to admit. I've moved across two states to a new home in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, a beautiful place but that also meant I left behind some good friends where I once lived.

And then the writing. For any of you who know me, or have been following my writing and blogging, you know my childhood and teen years weren't the greatest. But writing – that was always my solace, my escape from the world, the way I kept sane and pretended I had some measure of control over my life.

This year that changed, too. I published a novel, LETHAL OBSESSION, which got me a few readers, some fans, and my world began to change. Mostly of my own doing, putting some pressure on myself that perhaps wasn't really there. I don't know.

What I do know is that suddenly writing wasn't an escape any more. It was something that demanded part of me, part of my energy, my time, my focus, in ways I had not experienced before.

Again, I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me, and I don't want to overstate what happened. It's not like the book was a best seller, or even a middle-of-the-road seller. But a few people were paying money for it, writing me (which was great) and asking for more.

Somewhere along the way, I let my focus shift from writing because I loved it to writing because I felt like it was a job. And that's okay.

But then I started falling back into depression, to depths of that condition I hadn't felt in years. And the one thing I had always relied on, my ability to write, was no longer an option. I suppose in reality it was – all I had to do was sit down and start, even if it was gibberish meant for no one but me.

It's not always that easy, though. Sometimes when a person is depressed she doesn't think straight – basic reasoning ability can be compromised. So, I quit writing. Quit doing much with people. Quit taking walks. I went to work, came home and slept. I gained weight. I hated myself for that all, and that self-hatred just fed the depression. I fought through it some, continued doing some posting and blog stops when HELPLESS was first out, but eventually I just stopped. I don't think I've been online now for somewhere around six or eight weeks.

Then when I'd think about trying to change,  trying to start writing again, I just didn't have the energy to even try. I began to think I couldn't write any more, and then that I couldn't face those I knew through my writing.

The good news in all of this is I'm getting some help again. And this time I think I'm smarter – smart enough to know I'm not nearly smart enough to do this alone.

I'm writing again, too, though not the promised third part in the Lethal Obsession Trilogy. I am going to write that, finish and publish it before the end of the year. But for now, I'm just writing to escape, to follow whatever fancy my spirit feels needs to be followed. It's slow – this whole thing is a slow process, trying to deal with depression and see if I can escape from it – but the writing is returning.

Even now, as I'm posting this on my blog, I haven't yet checked my email, my Facebook or Twitter accounts. I may not have any FB friends or Twitter followers, I may have emails from people wanting to know why I haven't done this or done that.

Please know this. If I've left you hanging, if you feel I've turned my back on you, or haven't been as supportive or helpful to some of you as I should be, I'm truly sorry. I feel like crying at the thought of that. Please forgive me.

I'm coming out of this. I am. And I'm going to be stronger, and better, and a better friend/supporter to all of you as I do. But it's going to take some time.


  1. We are here for you Shandra, blessings sent to you as well as huge hugs!!

  2. I'm glad you've emerged to let us know what's been going on with you. And I'm glad to hear you are sort of back on track or at least getting there. (((hugs)))

  3. These words are pulled directly out of where I've been living this year, directly from the little bleeding wound in my soul that I've been quietly licking, hiding by myself in a corner.

    Thank you for writing them.

    1. Brandi,

      I'm so sorry I didn't see your comments earlier,and I have no idea if you'll see my response. I've been going through a trying time over the past year, so I haven't been back into my blog since you posted your comment.

      Thank you for reading, and for commenting. I hope you've found some peace, some joy, and that you've moved from that corner. Please drop me a line, let me know how you're going. I've begun reblogging again, as of Sept. 24, so I'll periodically have updates on what's going on in my life. I hope to see you around ... :)