what happens when your fierceness fades

World Horror Con was great. I got to spend time with my friends, get out of my own head for a bit, and I even got to sit a panel with Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures. The Women in Horror panel was particularly amazing. I wish we could have had two hours, or a whole day devoted to talking about what it’s like taking on horror in heels. The words from my fellow panelists were inspiring:

Surround yourself with positive people. Be bold. Go after what you want. Be courageous.

Be bold, be bold, be bold.

We only had time for one question: “What do you do when your fierceness fades?”

I answered. The Friday before World Horror Con, I received some disappointing news. I was upset, I was disheartened. I reached out to my friends and asked them to help me up. They did. I shook off my bruises and went to WHC ready to be re-enlivened. I love conventions because as introverted as I am, I thrive off crowd energy. I love being around people who share my passions. I wanted to go and come back ready to fight.

I said that your fierceness will fade. Our moderator, Linda Addison, added that we’re only human. Of course our fight will fade. I said the best gift you can give yourself is a group of friends who understand, who support you, who will help you back on your feet when you fall to your knees.

And when I came home from convention, I felt worse. I realized that yes, I’d dusted myself off, but the fight had gone out of me. I reached out again and came up with comforting words I couldn’t feel. The bad news couldn’t hurt me. It couldn’t kill me, or threaten my family. I thought I would be fine. Take the sting, move forward.

I didn’t expect to be laid so low. I questioned my strength, if I had what it took to push forward.

maybe i’m not as strong as i thought i was

If you’ve kept up with me over the years, you know I struggle with depression and anxiety. Like everyone, I have my good days and my bad days. The last two years have been mostly bad days rolled into each other. During that time, when my world fell apart in the worst ways possible, I threw myself into writing. Every subsequent explosion I subverted with art. In order to keep myself together, I took up my sword and slashed my way through a new draft, a rewrite, short stories; I blogged for myself, for my freelance job. I didn’t stop writing, and I waded deeper as things grew worse.

I make a habit of avoidance. I don’t let myself feel because I don’t like appearing weak. I don’t like feeling weak. I won’t cry. I won’t scream. I keep everything like a hurricane brewing in my chest. I used that pain to put strength into my strike. I fought. I was bold.

I stood on top of the rubble and grinned because I’d made it. Things were looking up at last.

I thought I’d finally crawled out, but that’s the tricky thing about depression: it just slithers up next to you and holds you down. And no, one disappointing email doesn’t undo my hard work; I still have things in the wind. I’m not finished. But I broke my sword against that invisible wall. I hammered at it until my fists were bruised and I broke my nails against the bricks. This last time, when I fell, I couldn’t pick myself up. I asked for help, but my friends couldn’t get me off the ground.

I poured so much of myself into my work that I have nothing left to give. And with the nothing came all the harsh words and self-doubt and fear.

This is a difficult industry, and it’s easy to feel low when all you see are people putting their best selves out there. It’s hard to be happy for those with happy news when you don’t remember a time when breathing was easy. It’s isolating. You want to be happy, but you can’t remember how.

I don’t have the will to fight right now. It was suggested to me that I stop writing. I said I didn’t want to stop because I knew I wouldn’t go back. A friend told me she was afraid that if I didn’t stop, I’d burn out.

At this point, I think I need to finally honor how I feel. If I want to repair my sword, if I want to get to my feet, if I want to push myself up again, I need to acknowledge what’s happened. My fight is gone. I’m exhausted. In two years, I have taken little time for myself. I know this; my subconscious knows it.

I made myself scarce on Twitter. I barely responded to texts.

I stopped writing.

It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The uncertainty of it is more frightening than thought of putting my pen down. Occasionally, Henry sits beside me in companionable silence. He knows why I can’t fight for him right now. He understands. He knows anything he says won’t heal me, but he wishes me well. He hopes that sooner (rather than later), I can fashion a dagger (a scalpel?) to cut my way out.

For now I’m going to stay down. To wait and heal. To get my strength back.

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