Depression and anxiety have been two companions of my adult life, and I’ve coped with them with varying degrees of ‘success’. I use the word ‘success’ carefully, though. Success stories in the media have, at times, made me question why I haven’t beaten them like other people seem to have, but I’ve come to accept now that they’re just something I live with, and coping, rather than beating, is okay. That said, I can’t help but worry that I’ve put myself in a situation, at least three times now, that exacerbates those negative feelings.
I struggled emotionally when I was finishing my first book in 2010. My beloved godmother — one of my biggest supporters and the person to whom I dedicated the book — had passed away earlier that year, and I was mourning for her and for the fact that she would never see the finished product of work in which took so much interest.
The final months before I submitted the manuscript of my second book three years later were a total disaster. Suffice to say, if it hadn’t been for someone who had been an informal academic mentor to me — you know who you are, and if you’re reading this, I’ll be forever grateful to you — I’d never have made it across the finish line. There was a lot going on, and I don’t want to go into the finer details here, other than to say that it felt like my life was crumbling around me.
And now, as I work on my third book, I find myself waking up in the mornings with the familiar tightness across my chest — the one that anxiety brings. My position in work changes in September (when I’ll have less time for research) and I’m keen to get my manuscript finished before then. I’ve tried to talk to a couple of people about it, but the standard response of ‘you put too much pressure on yourself’, ‘you have plenty of time’ and ‘it’ll all be fine’ doesn’t help. Those responses are statements, not helpful suggestions. Maybe I’m expecting too much.
There’s a definite pattern emerging in regards to my writing. In all three book-related instances, there has been something else going on in my life — though this time round, the change that’s coming is definitely a positive. But maybe they’re all just contributing factors to my feelings? Perhaps — and this is the the thing that worries me — every time I start a new, major project, I’ll experience these feelings as I bring it to a conclusion. I hoped I’d handle it better this time round. I think I probably have, but that doesn’t really lessen the anxiety.