A dear friend recently reached out to me for advice that I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified to give. They were feeling overwhelmed with the world, distraught, and finding it difficult to focus on art through their medical struggles and wanted some wisdom on how to push through it.
Every response I can think of honestly feels rather trite.
But perhaps that’s okay. Perhaps things are overused for a reason, but we overlook them because it seems so commonplace and useless. We’re all familiar with “tried and true” but perhaps there is value in the idea of “trite, but true.”
And that’s all I can really offer you during these times of artistic constipation. A small piece of trite but true advice.
Sit down and just do it. Just vomit it out, as if it were no different than doing a dish or tying your shoe. It doesn’t have to be clever or pretty, it doesn’t have to be anything worth anything–you just need to do it. Just put your fingers to the keys or pen to paper and write. It doesn’t have to be relevant, it can literally be just a string of words that aren’t even relevant to your current project–or even ones that don’t make sense!
It’s a bit like jumpstarting a car. When you’ve left it alone for a while, sometimes you need to give it a jolt simply to get it back on track.
And sometimes the best way to do this, I’ve found, is to bleed everything into ink. I had a bad day? I write about it. I have a moment of elation? I jot it down. Sometimes they’re useless little notes in my phone, recently I’ve taken to carrying around a Field Notes journal because it’s small and fits even in my useless girl pockets (truly, why is it the pockets in pants made for women can’t seem to hold anything? What is the point of a purely aesthetic pocket? Yes, the detailing helps keep the garment from looking too plain, but one does want for some utilitarian purpose.)
The point is, if you want to push past the fog, I’ve found the best way is to literally write about everything. The mundane things, the excruciating things, the “wow no one will ever believe me this happened” things, and once you’ve gotten back in that habit–and it is, I’m afraid, a habit–the rest will be much easier. Not easy, mind you, I’m fairly certain anyone who says writing is ‘easy’ is an absolute liar but… easier.
Because you’re training your brain. You’re starting an almost Pavlovian experiment. You have a thought, your impulse is to write it down. You hear a joke? You write it down, without thinking. You are struck with a heart-wrenching, absolute soul hollowing feeling?
You. Write. It. Down.
It may feel crass at first, you’re likely not going to feel very good at any of it, that’s for certain for quite some time. Hell, at this point I’ve been writing for years, have put up a live performance of my work, published works through self-determination and traditional press…
And I’m still not sure if I’m very good at it.
But it’s become a habit I can’t break. It’s become a compulsion that I feel uncomfortable if I don’t follow through with it.
Perhaps that’s all a bit trite and cliche. But it just so happens that I know it to be true.
Now for a while now, I’ve had a few people individually reach out and ask if I’d consider making a Curiosity Forum, thus creating a central location for Curiosities to gather and chat about whatever they please other than the Twitch chat when I’m streaming.
You have asked and I have answered! Now it’s not the PRETTIEST forum because it’s a relatively simple WordPress integration, but I think it will serve the purposes we need. You can find them in the top bar. Right now we have a community forum and if anyone wants to discuss The Terra Mirum series, I have made one of those as well.
Partially because I’m fairly certain my publisher would have shamed me if I didn’t make a forum for it, and partially because I want to create a space for discussing the books where someone who hasn’t read them won’t accidentally stumble on a spoiler.
My only rules are fairly simple. Be kind. Don’t harass anyone, don’t spew hate, etc etc. This is a place for support and anyone being a jerkface will be dealt with by a swift boot to the pantalones.
How to Register:
Beneath the “Party Members” section on the right panel, you’ll see a “Login” section. Below there are options to register or recover your password. Click Register.
Editing your Profile:
This is a little stranger than it should be because there’s a slight disconnect between the forum plugin and wordpress itself.
To edit your avatar, you’ll need to click your name in the top black bar that appears when you have logged in. It will take you to link a gravatar account.
To edit visible info to the forum, you need to click your name on the right side panel (where the login info was). For some reason, this info doesn’t seem to populate itself when you fill it in with wordpress.
Post any further questions you may have about the forum in the comments and I will be sure to update this blog post with the relevant information.
Everyone has their own post breakup rules.
Some people remove all trace of the relationship, some people need to be surrounded by friends, others have to binge on chocolate alone while watching terribly written sappy movies to give them hope that this is not the end of…whatever it is they’re scared of it being the end of.
Mine is simple.
Stop telling me I’ll find someone.
I know this sentiment is made with the best of intentions, but I find it an incredibly toxic response. First, you don’t know the exact circumstances in which someone ended their relationship–but most importantly, you’re projecting something onto a scenario that can only cause problems.
“You’ll find someone” tells the recipient of this sentiment that they’ve lost something. That they are now “without”.
I feel like we put too much pressure on the concept of soulmates. Of finding “that one person”.
To even remotely buy into this idea, I would have to accept that “true love” is something only afforded once to a person, and in my experience, love is a delightfully common thing.
Why can we only celebrate or truly value something because it’s rare?
I have been in love at least twice in my life–three times, quite possibly. And those romantic entanglements are vastly overshadowed by the great love I have and receive from my friends and family.
It’s overwhelming and wonderful and far too understated.
Look, it’s possible there will be another romantic what not in my future–it’s also possible there won’t be, and the best part about this question is it truly does not matter either way.
I’m complete on my own. It took me a while to find all the pieces as they weren’t neatly packaged together from birth–but I have them. And I’m fine. I’m awesome. I’ll have days of sadness, I’ll be hurt, I’ll be angry or even maybe a little bitter. I can even toss and turn over things that were or weren’t said or done in that relationship.
But that’s being real. That’s being human. You have those moments regardless what kind of role that someone played in your life.
Another person cannot complete you, and they are not a necessary part of your story. You haven’t failed because you had a break up, and you won’t be failing if you don’t find another person you want to share that kind of relationship with.
I think we perpetuate a dangerous mindset when we sing so many songs about not being able to go on without another person.
I’ve lost people to far more terrible things than break ups. I’ve said goodbye for the last time in this life to so so many loved ones–a pain, frankly, that far outweighs the realization that someone doesn’t love you how you thought.
And yet, I’m here. I’m still breathing. My heart’s still beating. I’m still able to keep going.
I want to still keep going.
This line of thinking, I suppose, is also completely separate from the actual context of the break up.
I left an emotionally abusive relationship that had been draining my life bit by bit for nearly three years. Yes, there were happy moments, yes there were times where I had a plan for the future…
But it wasn’t healthy.
And telling me not to worry because one day “I’ll find someone” when I’m “ready” completely negates the really remarkable point of all of this.
I did find someone.
I found me.
Today I felt myself again. Today I wandered through unfamiliar streets with no real purpose or direction. Today I held my head up and smiled at strangers.
Today I noticed the little things. An unexplained purple-paint hand print on an otherwise bare concrete wall, the way my shoes sounded a little bit like horse hooves when I click them on the pavement just right, and that particular smell of fresh cut wood and burning metal indicative of construction sites.
Today I didn’t feel drained or scared. Today I felt curious and hopeful.
Today I felt like stardust.
I talk a lot about mental health. Depression is something that has plagued people I love for as long as I can remember. My father, my sister, and my brother, who we lost to suicide in 2013. It has been a hard and painful road, watching them struggle with their own versions of a unrelenting disease. On some level, I was grateful for this intimate insight, because it meant I would be a strong ally to my friends who dealt with similar struggles.
What I did not expect is that understanding and experience could be used against me.
There is a fine line between aiding and enabling. And it’s never easy to see when you’ve crossed it. Usually when you do realize, you find yourself miles away from it.
A few days ago I realized I had spent nearly two years nurturing an unhealthy relationship because I was still trying to save my brother. There were so many red flags. At more than one point this person had threatened me with self-harm, and I had ignored it. There was a continued pattern of disrespect, and I ignored it. I had become a financial and emotional crutch with no effort to ever relieve me of this burden, even after over a year. I ignored this.
And my reasoning behind this was maybe, just maybe, if I tried hard enough, if I sacrificed just a little bit more of myself… I could save someone. I could save someone where I had failed to save my brother, and at the time it didn’t matter if that meant killing myself in the process.
The mental health we don’t often talk about is you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, and if you try, it will destroy you piece by piece. Because that person wants to control you. Because that person has been controlling you.
So I finally left. It hurt, and my mind screamed against me that I was cruel and making a mistake. I felt guilty for days. I felt like I had gone back on everything I’d promised in being an ally for mental health.
My friends were kind and supportive. They let me talk and talked me through what happened. I admitted to things I’d been too ashamed to talk about in regards to this toxic relationship. And then I no longer felt guilty, I felt incredibly foolish.
Then a dear friend offered to take me with her to Chicago on a work trip. And I spent time alone, and in doing so, I found someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Today, I truly let go.
Today, I forgave myself for loving me.
You might belong in Hufflepuff where they are just and loyal, those patient Hufflepuffs are true and unafraid of toil!
If you didn’t know by now, I’m a Hufflepuff. To the very bone. I bleed black and gold, so to speak. I’ve never liked exclusivity, or cliques, and I’ve pushed my fair share of bullies. It’s not hard to be my friend, so long as your intentions are good, and once you’re in, it’s hard to lose that friendship. Since I began my presence online I’ve done what I can to be open and honest, share what I could about my own experiences and not try to be anything I’m not.
So It’s probably only natural that some of you felt safe to reach out to me through email for help. And that trust in me has meant all the world. And it got me thinking. Perhaps I could open that door up a bit more, and let you know, before you even have to reach out blindly, that it’s okay to ask.
I’ve set up an email specifically for these kinds of questions and inquiries:
While my answers will be in public video form, I promise your questions/concerns will remain completely anonymous. I’d like to make video responses in the style of My Dear Stephanie videos because I feel like being able to hear someone’s voice in times of struggle is incredibly helpful in itself. Sometimes I just need to hear, “It’s going to be okay,” from someone I trust, and I figure, at the very least, that’s what I can offer to you.
I have tried to make it a standard practice to always answer a friend’s troubles with one simple question, “How can I help?”
So even if you think your question is small, or you simply just want to write me an email. I’m here, and I’ll listen.
I have been a close observer of depression and its effects on the people I love since before I could remember. Despite that I’m not personally struggling with it, it’s been a prevalent antagonist in my life. It has terrorized my father, my sister, my partner, and some of my dearest friends. It took my brother’s life. It’s the monster I have never found a strong enough epithet to properly describe.
The most accurate comparison I have found is that depression is a lot like the Dementors from Harry Potter. Depression doesn’t just make you feel unhappy; you feel like you’ll never be happy ever again, and despite that it might have been just yesterday, you can’t remember the last time you were happy.
Depression lies to you. And it’s the best liar you will ever encounter. It will tell you that you were just faking it yesterday until you are convinced you weren’t actually happy. And what they really don’t tell you, is that the people who fight that battle at your side will start to feel it too.
And so I overshare on social media. I take selfies, or pictures of my food, or where I am, or something that made us laugh. I vlog, I make ridiculous videos, I write tweets of conversations we had, or things we heard. It’s why I spend so much time making sure to record those moments.
I do this so the next time someone I love can’t remember the last time they felt like themselves, I have something to remind them depression is a liar. Some kind of dated proof that, “No, you will be happy again, you were really happy and feeling like yourself just the other day. We will get through this moment together and soon those days where you don’t feel like yourself will lessen. Soon you won’t have to be reminded quite so much.”
And maybe when we get there, I won’t feel the need to capture every moment on film. Maybe I’ll be able to just “live in the moment”, though the idea that recording that moment means I’m somehow ruining it seems rather ridiculous to me.
But until then, I’m going to keep filming or taking pictures, or even bragging about how blessed I am to have those people in my life.
It’s how I keep both of us grounded in reality, even when the Nightmares feel like they’re creeping in.