Tag Archives: anxiety

An 8.5

Today, I had an awesome day. Today, I worked at the Career Carnival at one of the universities I teach at, representing the creative writing side of our English program and as an author. I loved every minute of talking to students about something we both love. What surprised me were how many non-English majors came to me and said that they love to write and are interested in taking a creative writing class. Writing helps them decompress, especially since most of the majors were STEM related. I completely understood, coming from a biology background initially.

Today, I had an anxiety attack that had nothing to do with my old fear of public speaking and crowds. The Career Carnival went great and I even got to chat with one of my favorite professors afterwards, but everything went to hell at home over something really stupid.

My dog had loose poop.

Yup, that’s it. That’s the thing that sent me careening over the edge into a 8.5 out of 10 panic attack.

From the moment I realized I would have to hose him down and that his could happen again, my body has been on high alert. My heartbeat is so obvious that I’m trying hard not to fixate on it which only causes more palpitations and more panic because it feels like it could stop at any moment. I’ve been still the whole evening, but no one seems to notice. I have my laptop open next to me with Scrivener open to the story I’m working on and Facebook, but I can’t bear to put it in my lap.

What if he has to go outside and in the time it takes to set it aside, he has an accident?

So I sit there playing on my phone when I could be reading The House of Many Ways, which I want to finish by tomorrow night. I text my boyfriend about my anxiety level. Somehow seeing it in numbers and words makes it easier to set aside for a moment.

8.5

An hour and a half later, it’s a 7.5. At least it’s an improvement.

It’s finally settling in at a solid 6 where it now sits like a lump in my throat. Even as I write, I can feel it ebbing and flowing like breath, a heavy helter skelter shroud engulfing me until I fear I will suffocate. As I sit staring at my phone, I picture myself hiccup sobbing. That’s where I’d be if it hit a 10/10, and I’m scared of sliding past the point of reason.

Mostly, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that dog shit is what has sent me over the edge after a really good day. I’m frustrated that I will be on the edge of sleep all night for fear that he will need to go out. I’m frustrated that people in my house tell me not to obsess or fixate as if I can shut it off or that I voluntarily surrender myself to sudden panic.

More than anything, I want to feel like this evening wasn’t a total waste, so I’m writing this post in hopes that someone might read it and understand that all-consuming visceral panic. Or maybe someone who has been in the grips of it will feel a little less alone.

Writing about panic and anxiety can be cathartic in my fiction, but not today, not in this. Today it just feels like I’m trying to swim to the surface on a dwindling breath.

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Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy

ms frizzle quote

I have found my motto for when I teach college freshmen in the fall and it comes from one of my childhood inspirations, Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.

One of the points we’re supposed to stress to the freshman is that writing should be done in multiple drafts and not in one giant Red Bull-fueled writing binge the night before it’s due. Why? Why does it matter that they hand in drafts instead of one “complete” paper?

A) That writing binge paper is probably shitty. I mean, have you ever read something you wrote at 2 AM?

B) Freshman need to be broken of bad habits they are taught in high school, like papers that focus on form over originality of thought

C) Drafts are a place to experiment, to find what you really want to say, and work on their craft. If they were playing baseball instead of writing, would you tell them that learning to catch the night before a game was adequate?

What I want my students to understand is that drafts in my class will be place for them to experiment with their writing and evolve. Those drafts will only be graded on their completion, but they’ll still be able to get feedback that will help them. The funny thing is, I found myself stumbling into the same trap as my future students.

I was working on a tough scene in Dead Magic and found that I was staring at my Word doc instead of actually writing. I knew what I wanted to have happen in that scene, but I was scared to write it. Putting it into a Word doc seemed so permanent. What if it was bad? What if it needed major rewrites? Fixing it on my Word doc would be such a hassle.

In my head, I knew it was a draft. I know that this version of Dead Magic is going to be overhauled several times before it ever hits Amazon, yet I still found myself staring at my computer as if it could never be changed. Luckily, I’m a stationary addict and already had a notebook I had hoped to use while at work or school to jot down ideas. Putting the laptop aside, I scribbled out the scene over the course of about two hours. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t neat or even that detailed, but it was written.

Step one: Write your stuff in a low-stakes place. Just get it out and try to keep going without too many stops.

Step two: Type it up and edit as you go.

For me, step two is par for the course. I’m not just going to slap up my shitty draft into the Word doc I was so paranoid about ruining. As I type up the new material, I add the detail that was missing in my handwritten draft and clean up any oddities. The low-stakes writing gets you out of the rut and can easily be translated into high-stakes writing. One of the unexpected perks was that I ended up writing more by hand and the word count grew even higher when I added detail while transcribing it.

If you’re getting performance anxiety working on your draft, try a change switching your medium. Writing in a designated notebook instead of Word may help take the edge of your perfectionism and help you get past your “writer’s block.”

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February 2016 in Review

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

February has not been a great month for me. My mom spent part of the month in the hospital, which completely derailed anything I planned to do, but the good thing is that my mom is better now and home. March will be better.

What I accomplished in February:

  1. Read 3 books, 2 of which were for class, and dealt with my schoolwork (Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Curious Tale of Gabrielle by Zachary Chopchinski, and The Story of My Life by Helen Keller)
  2. Worked on the university’s English Department newsletter (it’s about 60% done and is one of my major tasks for the semester)
  3. Scheduled a promo for later in the month
  4. Wrote a bit of Dead Magic (IMD #4)
  5. Started offering editing services

What I hope to achieve in March:

  1. Write more of Dead Magic
  2. Find the balance between work and writing
  3. Read at least 3 books
  4. Blog more
  5. Begin offering formatting services in edition to editing
February Book Haul

February book haul.

February was a strange month for me. I began working on one project only to abandon it for book 4 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices, which will be titled Dead Magic. I’m going to refer to February as a transitional month. It’s been a lot of getting accustomed to grad school starting again, which totally throws off my groove, and at the same time, I’ve been switching projects (twice technically since I went from book 3 to random project to book 4). Later in the month, my mom was sick and in the hospital for nearly a week. Luckily she got there in time, and they were able to properly treat the issue. Now, she’s home and back to work. My mom is my best friend, so having her in the hospital meant being in a constant state of anxiety until her procedures were done. All is well now, and March will be a better month.

As you can see at the top of the page, I am now offering editing services. I’ve done developmental editing for the whole of my time as an MFA student, and through my own work and working with other authors, I’ve done some editing for them as well (I will make a post about this later). This month, I plan to look into offering ebook and paperback formatting services. I do it for my own books, so I could easily do layouts for others.

So Dead Magic is coming along slowly. I haven’t written much yet because I’m still figuring out the path the story will take, but as I figure that out, I’ll post more about it. At this point, I’m not making any writing goals for March because I’m still in the planning stage. I don’t know how long that will take, but trying to crank out 10,000 words that won’t work isn’t worth the effort at the moment. I am looking forward to writing Dead Magic, especially since some of my fav characters are back.

Well, that’s probably all I have to say about February and March, but onward to better things! What are your plans for March?

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The Nervous Nelly

So I realized I haven’t written a blog post in over a week. I’m not sure how I managed that, but… sorry. I’ve been feeling mildly overwhelmed this past week. Our house has been torn apart by construction workers, which means my dogs have not shut up every time they come to work. Honestly, it’s been fraying my nerves a little.

This has been manifesting itself as anxiety at school. I try to keep my anxiety under wraps, but it’s like a bag filled with water. If you squeeze it down in one spot, it just pops up somewhere else.

During my thesis seminar class, I have been having a very hard time reading my work aloud. Part of the class is that we bring in a chapter/section of our project, read it aloud, and then our classmates give their feedback. My classmates and professor are great, so they aren’t the issues there. It’s just built-up anxiety.

I have been battling stage-fright for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I performed in the talent show and realized I was terrified by being on stage. In middle school and high school, I dreaded being called on to read aloud and being the center of attention was a nightmare. Unfortunately, this has stuck with me through college and graduate school. If I signed up for an MFA reading or to speak at a conference, I’m okay because I chose to speak and have prepared (probably over-prepared) for it. When randomly called upon, I feel my anxiety level jump about three notches.

Last Tuesday after dealing with strange people in our house, dogs barking all day, and trying to scarf down a late lunch at my job, my nerves were frayed by the time I got to my thesis class. I sat there with my classmates’ papers in front of me barely saying more than a few words. It seems as the anxiety level rises, so does my muteness. Everyone seemed ten times as chatty as they normally are and speaking seemed absolutely impossible, so I didn’t bother.

I sat for over an hour listening to everyone else read their work and get their feedback, my chest tightening as I watched the pool of potential readers dwindle until there was only me. In an instant, my spit dried up and no matter how much water I drank, it didn’t get any better.

“Your turn,” my professor said with a smile as she flipped to my chapter.

I drew in a tight breath, opened my mouth to speak, and faltered.

“Dear, you can have someone else read for you.”

“No, I’m fine. I’m just a nervous nelly, I’m fine.”

And so I droned on for five minutes, stumbling over words and apologizing for every screw-up. The one week I got out of reading my work aloud, I was so thankful, but this week, it was impossible. Yes, I could have said, “Please let someone else read my work,” but I can’t. It’s my story, and if I’m in the class, I will do whatever everyone else does even if it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I try to not let my anxiety run my life when it gets bad. Sometimes I fail at it, which of course causes another anxiety spike.

Some of you may be wondering why I bothered telling this story of a young woman who gets heart palpitations when she has to do a task as simple as reading aloud. The thing is, I want people who don’t have anxiety to understand how it all builds up. Yes, the task at hand may be simple, but you don’t know what has happened earlier that day or even earlier that week. Instead of telling the person to suck it up or not to worry (totally useless platitude, by the way), try to be supportive. Give them a moment to collect themselves or try to accommodate things that help lessen their anxiety. For example, I do better when I do my reading earlier because it doesn’t allow the anxiety to build over the course of an hour or two.

I also wrote this to remind those who have anxiety that you aren’t alone. Most of us put on a brave face, and while we’re melting into a puddle of anxiety, we barely show our panic on the outside. Just know, it can be managed and it feels worse than it looks most of the time.

If anyone has any tips for managing anxiety that have worked for you, please pass them on! I’m always looking for new ways to deal with stage fright and all of my other anxieties.

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Fear, Self-Doubt, and an Update

This post would have been written earlier, but I woke up with the worst headache I have had in a while. The kind of migraine that makes your face hot, your eyes sore, and your neck stiff. Oh well.

Anyway, this post isn’t about migraines, it’s about The Earl and the Artificer and writing. I’m hitting that “I’m nearly done, so now I’m getting really self-conscious about my story because I don’t know if it’s good or not.” Part of the problem I think comes from the fact that I really liked The Winter Garden, and this book is nothing like it. There isn’t that darkness or intimacy that I enjoyed writing in that book, and because I know that will be in book four, I feel myself being pulled toward that book while forcing myself to finish this one.

The odd thing is, I like this book. I like the softer tone, the different focus on intimacy, the role Hadley plays in this book, and the new character, Nadir Talbot. I keep reminding myself that I feel this way every time I hit the 2/3 mark of my manuscript. Typically, I’m a fairly confident person, so feeling down about my work is a bit soul-sucking. This book has done this to me more than either of the others, and I have to think I’m doing something right. I’m trying some new things, expanding the cast of characters and delving into history. Probably when I begin editing it, I will feel better about it, especially after I tighten things up and smooth over some early draft hiccups.

Thus far, I am at 68,000 words (not including what I’ll write tonight). Something else that’s bothering me is that I wrote so much in August that September feels meager. I know, grad school started, so I need to consider that I have new sources of stress and that I’m adjusting to the new schedule and balancing act. I’m set to hit my minimum monthly goal of 10,000 words in a few days, and I should finish in October. That scares me. I’m nearly done. Oh my god, I will be DONE soon. I’ll finish it and it will be out in the world before I know it.

Writing makes you vulnerable, and at the moment, that terrifies me. After two times, you would think I would be over it, but you’re laying yourself out for judgment each time you publish, letting the reader get an intimate glimpse of your inner world. Sometimes it’s just harder than others.

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Burn Out and the Grad School Grind

Grad school has begun again. Well, technically it began last week, but today marks my second week of classes. As much as I love my MFA program and the people in it, I hate the stress that comes with going to school. It sets me on edge and raises my anxiety, which means more headaches, stomach problems, and overall fatigue.

Back to school time can be very trying for people with anxiety. New people, new schedules, homework, deadlines, readings. It’s a difficult balancing act without having to add psyching yourself up to deal with people. Usually, I end up listening to music that pumps me up on my way to the university. It helps immensely, especially if you have another playlist that calms you that you can listen to on the way home. That transition time can allow you to decompress and not lash out at relatives when you arrive home. I still do it once in a while when a class has been particularly stressful, but it’s a lot less frequent than when I just went through the motions.

During this time of year, it’s very easy to get lost in the muddle of assignments and readings, but you need to remember to take time out for you. Your body is a reservoir that needs refilling, and if you get too low from stress and work, you will have a meltdown that will take time to recover from. It’s like a car battery. If you run a car for a while, then turn it off, and come back a few hours or a day later, the battery automatically refills itself, but if you leave a car on for three days straight, the battery will die, and it will take multiple jolts from another car to restart it. That’s what happens after a meltdown or if you let it get to low and you burn out.

Take time for you. Finish your assignments, get your readings done, create a schedule, but take time to do the things you enjoy. Don’t get buried in your work, or you will be burnt out by midterms. I know the reaction, I was there as an undergrad, “Take time for me? Are you crazy? Do you see the pile of crap I have to do? When am I supposed to fit that in?”

You can, trust me. When you have a lot of classes and assignments, you would be amazed how much a whiteboard calendar can help in terms of organization. Make lists of what you have to get done for the day or week. As you do them, cross them off, but leave time for you at least a few days a week. Go for a cup of coffee with a friend or take a trip to the mall. Get out of your normal space and do something you love. If you don’t like going out, read something you want to read, watch a few episodes (few- not a whole night’s worth unless you finished your work) of a show you enjoy. Do something that will make you happy and decompress.

It’s much easier to refill a half-full bucket than an empty one. Know your limits, know what you need to accomplish, and know that you matter. You aren’t a machine, despite what others may think.

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The Anxieties of the Awkward Authoress

Fears…

Most of us probably have a list of fears that we keep tucked close, hidden where they cannot be seen, where others cannot seek to infiltrate and destroy us.  I’m pretty open with a lot of my fears.  In the past I have wondered if there was anyone else who felt the same way I did, so by sharing my experiences, I hope I can spare someone that feeling.  This weekend, I confronted one of my main fears– social anxiety.

I feel I am getting better about dealing with a lot of people in one area.  It’s odd, I can go around New York City, moving shoulder to shoulder with the crowd, but when the crowd is vying for my attention and wants to talk (and go off script), it’s hard to deal with.  At my university, I worked two events, one Saturday and one Sunday. Sunday’s event was an open-house, which I’ve done several times already, but Saturday was my first writer’s conference.  Luckily, I was only manning the sign-in desk along with the other graduate assistant. Unfortunately, I forgot the signs I printed earlier in the week, which threw me off, but thank god, there was a script I repeated about eighty times that day.

For the rest of the day, it was smooth sailing, but when I got home, I threw myself down and took a two and a half hour nap to recharge. I should really say surrendered to the nap. I don’t think I could have stopped it.  That’s what happens quite often with social anxiety. Dealing with other people is stressful. They’re unpredictable, sometimes rude, pushy. More than often, they’re none of the aforementioned things, but one never knows when they’ll surprise you.

In May, I’m doing a reading and small seminar at the Steampunk World’s Fair, and of course, I’m worried about it. I worry about not making a good impression or that I’ll be dreadfully boring. Will I stutter or will they hate my books?  If more than a handful of people show up, will I freak out? Of course I will. I’ll bring water and coffee and possibly a bag to hyperventilate into, but I won’t stop myself from doing my reading.  Probably a dozen times I’ve asked myself why I signed-up to do a reading. I’m a nobody author with a tiny following.  I know at least two people will show up, and if more than that comes, I’ll be eternally grateful.  As a writer, my biggest fear is that they’ll hate my books. As a person, my biggest fear is I’ll make an ass of myself. Honestly, they aren’t too far from each other.

No matter how many times I read aloud or do group events, the fear is still there. I’m hoping that practicing every few days for about three weeks leading up to the reading will help to lessen my fears. Pretending not to be an anxiety-ridden introvert takes a lot of energy, and I’m beginning to wonder how long I’ll sleep after the Steampunk World’s Fair.

On the topic of the Steampunk World’s Fair, I’m supposed to have a short story in a you pay what you want bundle along with several other artists and musicians.  When I get more information about the bundle or what day I’ll be giving my reading, I will let you know, but for now, if you want to get a ticket, which is good for Friday to Sunday, please go here.


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Chapter 23: In Which the Author has an Existencial Crisis

love-yourself-quotes-To-love-oneself-is-the-beginning-of-a-lifelong-romance..I am never sure how many people know I have anxiety.  I am a class A worrier, dweller, and moment-reliver.  Last week was my first full week of graduate classes, and midway through the week, I sat and cried when I got home.  Sometimes I wonder what has happened to me.  I wasn’t always such an emotional person, but honestly, sitting down and having a good cry is better than bottling up until you explode or internalizing your misery.

I am not like most of my family.  The idea of working in an office for the rest of my life is repellant even if I do not mind the place I currently work and enjoy the company of the people who work there.  I just want more than that.  For my entire life, school has been a factor that validated who I was.  I was a (mostly) diligent student who got good grades.  School has been there to give me a ruler to measure myself against and prove my worth, and this is probably what pulls me toward the world of academia. My family went through the motions of school and seemed to enjoy the social aspects more than anything they actually learned, but because I typically had few friends, my focus was on homework and my classes.  In my family, I was first one to go to college for four years and actually earn a degree, and I did it because I loved my classes for the most part and my professors.  I had a drive and my mentor nurtured that by giving me the confidence to write more and actually participate in literary conferences when most undergrads didn’t.  Toward the end of my time in college, I realized I wanted to be an English professor, but my family has not exactly been supportive of my endeavors. Continue reading

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The Jane Austen Protest

Marriage, marriage, marriage.  It’s enough to make your head explode.  Being an English major, I have been subjected to reading literature from the Regency period to the Victorian era, on my own and while under duress, and all I can say is, what is so bad about not getting married?!  I do understand that it was a product of the time period, and women needed to be monetarily provided for by either a husband or male relative.  It just aggravates me that even today women believe that a husband is the be all and end all of their lives.  Before I get accused of being a bitter single woman, I have a long term boyfriend that I love dearly…who feels we should get married one day.

I truthfully don’t understand the need.  Maybe it’s because I have Asperger’s Syndrome and somehow don’t grasp the norm, but the idea of getting married has always bothered me.  It’s a piece of paper that says I can now file taxes with you and the state has a record of us being a couple in case we decide to call it quits.  Then, I wonder if I just tell myself this to legitimize my insecurities.  I despise the thought of standing in front of everyone and being dragged to a party while being dressed in formal wear just to appease other people’s desire for normalcy.  Is my bitterness about this subject due to a fear of not enjoying this whole process and ruining it for my partner?  Probably.  I know when I get stressed, I am unpleasant to say the least, and this ugliness and is usually directed full-force at my unassuming boyfriend because subconsciously I know that he may get mad at me, but he’ll still love me unconditionally and won’t keep bringing up that I had a nasty moment.

I am scared that I will look ugly, that I will pick things because I am under duress and want to get out as quickly as possible but hate my choices later.  I fear losing myself in the process or becoming a monster because I am a stressed-out control-freak that cannot let go and trust others or herself to make the correct choices.  I am indecisive, to the point that I can’t even decide how I feel about my life in general.  I immerse myself in school work and getting ready for graduate school and a possible doctorate in the future.  If I stay in school, I will never have to grow up and face life, or at least that is the not-so-subconscious mentality.  I can stave off engagement and marriage if I don’t have a job and live with my parents.

I’m torn between ruining things for my significant other and possibly making myself incredibly miserable for a certain amount of time.  The thought of this makes me hyperventilate and pace inside my head (I’ve gotten really good at masking anxiety and stimming).  I don’t think marriage would change anything in our relationship, besides him wanting to get our own place, but that scares me because change is a scary uncertainty.

I hate the idea of unwanted attention. People asking me questions, looking a hundred times happier than I am about the whole thing.  I’m not a person that gets excited about anything or looks happier than content most of the time.  I fear not looking happy enough and having people assume that I am not happy in my relationship or have cold feet.  In the past, my lack of excitement has caused me to appear as an ingrate or unhappy when I really was content, so now I’m paranoid about not exuding happiness.

I try to convince myself I don’t want things, but I’m not sure if I don’t want them or I just don’t want the attention associated with them.  Do I let other people ruin things for me?  Sometimes I wish I could live by myself with just me and my dog and my writing because it would be so much simpler albeit lonelier.

I try to rationalize that everyone gets cold feet, but this isn’t cold feet.  I don’t want to abandon my relationship, I just have an incredible amount of anxiety about dealing with this sort of thing.  A part of me wonders if my flip-flopping between fantasizing about a possible wedding and damning all things white and traditional comes from some Asperger’s traits.  People often talk about aspies as only seeing things as black or white, and often I feel I see a wedding as love or hate.  I don’t know how to formulate a middle ground in this case, and to me, that is a horrible feeling like a lack of mental control.

For now, I still am not sure how I feel, but through this little self-“talking cure”, I have at least reasoned out some things about myself and what affects my thinking.  Sorry about this rant, any advice is appreciated… except the suggestion of eloping.

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