I've gone back and forth about what, if anything, I want to share about the health issue I've been dealing with this last year or so. I've hinted at it, but I walk a fine line between maintaining my privacy and maintaining my sense of connection with my community of friends, family, colleagues and fans. It feels like a two-edged sword -- being more open could actually be helpful in my recovery because I'm certain others in my community are wrestling with the same stuff...and it could possibly even help others struggling with the same illness by seeing that it's not such a bugbear that it can't be talked about and faced down. But I've also seen that when other friends have shared their health issues, they've found themselves suddenly missing out on opportunities due to well-meaning people not wanting to bother them with everything else they have going on.
So I've decided to talk about it. Briefly. But I want two things from you. First: Please don't assume I've got too much going on for whatever you might want me to participate in, whether it's an event or a writing opportunity or whatever. Keep asking. If I can't, I'll say so. And second: I really appreciate the well-wishes, thoughts, good vibrations, prayers, etc you all may offer up but I much prefer to receive those as private messages or emails rather than public comments to this note. If I knew how, I'd turn off the 'comment' feature for this one. With those two requests in mind....
I've talked a bit elsewhere about my Trailer Boy Days and some of the darkness that came with those funny stories about building sheds so we could stack the car batteries against them or loading porches onto trucks to help the family move. And in other interviews, I've talked about my Mom's pervasive mental illnesses and the chaos it caused everyone in her wake. Sadly, one of the bits I inherited from my Unfortunate Childhood is a complex form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you're not familiar with it, you can read about it at http://www.psychotherapy.net/article/complex-ptsd.
I was initially diagnosed with PTSD in 1994 but it's largely been asymptomatic over the last decade and the major presenting symptom back then was depression. I spent about seven years treating it with medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Good self management -- maintaining balance, getting enough rest, limiting the amount of time I spend in large groups (which my introversion also requires), etc -- has been very effective until recently.
But I was hit with a pretty big tsunami of stress this last three years -- my Mom's death followed closely by my Dad's death followed closely by the overwhelming experience of becoming a parent to twins...along with the pressure of working two jobs. Self-management was no longer enough. I went on book tour to promote Canticle and attend the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose last year and, instead of spending a week or so resting up and getting back to it, I never really recovered. Instead, I found myself miring more and more in depression and my new pal, anxiety. I started experiencing night terrors, night sweats and what Walker refers to in the article above as Emotional Flashbacks. For those of you who have it or know someone who does, you know what I'm talking about. Having an overactive amygdylla is tough to live with and it gets in the way of Everything including my ability to write.
So what am I doing about it? I'm using a combination of medication and therapy to include EMDR and mindfulness techniques. I'm reading up on it and figuring out what tricks work for me. I'm talking about it with my closer friends and family (all have been very supportive, especially Jen). And every day, I'm getting up and putting one foot as far forward as I can. I've seen some progress particularly in the last few months and it's felt like my writing muscle, which has sputtered on and off over the last year, is getting more and more twitchy to get back to work. When my head starts to fill up with story that tells me that I'm making headway.
There you have it. That is what I've been up to. This is why Requiem is running behind schedule (though I assure you it WILL get finished and folks who've read the book so far tell me it will be worth the wait.) It's also why you're not seeing me out at many gatherings or conventions and may not for a bit. It's been a hard road but one full of self discovery and grace. I've faced down a lot of things as a result of where I come from and over the years, I've learned that adversity can bring us great gifts if we are willing to look for them. I've learned that turning over the rocks of our inner landscape can show us a lot about ourselves. And even in the midst of all this gunk, I've had the joy of watching my Flesh and Bone Children learn and grow...and the joy of watching my Paper Children go out into the world to do well.
Life is a bag of mixed nuts. One of the greatest truths I've learned is that if we can accept that, those mixed nuts become easier to deal with.
Okay. To quote my pal Gump: "That's all I have to say about that." Thanks for listening.
My thoughts and sympathies go out to Ken Scholes - Ken, we'll wait until you're ready to publish the next book!
Edit: changed the previous blog title because it inferred a completely different type of news.