I don't think it is a huge secret that I have suffered from depression for a long time now, on and off. I try to be open about it, because I know it has helped me to know that other people are sufferers. One thing I didn't think about when I first started to put my words out onto the Internet - or, indeed, when I took the job at Strange Chemistry - was how my depression would affect my blogging and my work in the industry.
Depression often leaves me with a feeling of worthlessness, that everything I say means nothing and people are fed up with hearing my words. It can make blogging a real trial, for sure. I post articles and reviews with my heart in my mouth, waiting for people to say 'what do you know?' or 'why do you think we want to hear your views?' It sometimes makes it incredibly hard to send out edits to authors, or wait to hear their response about edits - were my points really valid? What right did I have to tell an author - a creative - how to better their novel?
It takes a lot of work to get through this. To sit and try and think about the nice words people have given me. To know that authors agreed with my edit suggestions.
But in the hard times, I lie on my bed and wonder what I am doing.
Being an editor means you really should feel cool about talking on the phone to agents and authors, that you should feel happy about face to face meetings, that conventions are your bread and butter in terms of making new contacts. But depression often keeps me feeling incredibly nervous. I hate arriving at a convention on my own, and often sit in the hotel room until I know that someone who is familiar with me is in the bar and waiting for me to arrive. Approaching new people feels almost impossible. Talking on panels - especially moderating - leaves my palms sweating and me feeling like a complete fraud. Arranging meetings at book fairs with agents and authors was something I had to have someone else do so that I actually made and kept those meetings. Being invited to writing conferences made me wonder if people had the right person, or if they meant to contact someone else.
3. Loss of Interest
One of the worst parts of depression is when you go through periods of listlessness and not feeling interested in anything. Publishing is such an all-encompassing job, where you have to remain passionate about reading and finding new voices, that depression can be utterly crippling. There were times when I had absolute piles of submissions to wade through and edits piling up, and I couldn't find any interest in the work. Not because I didn't love my job, and feel like the luckiest person alive, and adore the books I was working with, but because depression was forcing me into a black place.
4. Difficult to make decisions
Being an editor means making vital decisions about which novels to take to acquisitions. It means making decisions about how to frame edits and communicate to authors. When you are paralysed by indecision, it can stop all your work while you wonder whether you are making the right decisions for your imprint, your authors. It's so much easier to make no decisions than have to step up.
5. No enjoyment in life
I love blogging. I adore reading. For a time, I had the very best job in the world. But there were times when I couldn't get my brain on the same page. It would leave me lying in bed, tucked under my duvet and thinking that I just hated everything - mostly myself. I hated the stress of the job. I hated the review copies piling up and giving me pressure. I didn't want to pick up ANY book. And then I would descend in a cycle where I loathed myself for not constantly loving such an amazing job or people sending me free books. I had the best job, so why didn't I jump out of bed every single day, happy at the idea of going into work?
You know something? I'm sat here wondering why anyone would even want to read this post! My rational brain understands that this blog is my own space and therefore I am entitled to write whatever I like, and never mind whether anyone reads it or not. My depressed brain nags at me about wasting other people's time.
How to handle depression while blogging and publishing?
There are never any crystal-clear answers that will work for people, nothing you can pinpoint as a cure.
One that works for me is trying to be kind to myself when depression hits. Not forcing myself into anything that will make me worse. Trying to set myself little targets, so that I feel I have achieved at least something each day. Not piling up massive to-do lists that create massive amounts of pressure. Light exercise to generate the serotonin that makes me happier.
Taking on board the nice things that people have said about Floor to Ceiling and Strange Chemistry. Listing my achievements. Looking at photos of the novels I published on shelves and book review blogs.
Knowing that other people suffer from depression, that I'm not alone, also helps. Depression can feel like the loneliest place on earth.
At the moment the black dog is with me. He is bounding around me in a gleeful manner, because he knows that I am feeling at my most worthless. I am redundant for the first time in my adult life. I am finding it very hard to become gainfully employed. Every rejection, especially those after face to face interviews, feels like a personal rejection. The days feel very long and empty, even though I do have freelance work to keep me going. Nine Worlds was on at the weekend. I originally was supposed to be attending, but cancelled for various reasons. On reflection I am glad that I didn't go, because I am in such a dark place that I would have found it incredibly hard to be sociable and 'on'.
This is one of those posts that I read back and realise there is no real structure or direction to the piece, and that is, I guess, because there can be no magic resolution to depression. "Ta-da! I was depressed and now I'm not!" Instead, it's going to be a daily slog, a fight for meaning, an attempt to find joy in the small things.
And one of the small things today is re-reading this post, which articulates depression far better than I ever can. I hope I find my piece of corn soon.
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