I stare at the screen, take in the whiteness, change the colour of the page to see if it’ll help.
Then I change the colour of the font. Not that I can tell, what with the lack of words and all. But it’s the thought that counts, and changing the font colour, or style, is helpful for writer’s block, so maybe, maybe it’ll work.
It doesn’t. This isn’t writer’s block. It’s depression and/or anxiety.
I know the things that work to stop these moments, though those things are often left abandoned on the sidewalk as I speed ahead to try and get it all done. Eight hours sleep. Proper workplace. Three meals, enough water. Fish oil tablets. Quiet, or at least a little bit of quiet time daily. Not feeling like I’m constantly on call to save the day.
Not feeling like the world is caving in around me would also be good, but the more anxious I get, the more I feel it, and the more I feel it, the more I try to outrun it and only make it worse.
The hard part is learning to stand, frozen in place when you feel like you’re going to die if you don’t run. Not literally- I know the world’s not actually caving in. But the panic is there, and the instinct to try and avoid that uncomfortable sense of futility is overwhelming.
On those days, if I have to write for work, I can generally force something into existence. But writing for me? I stare at the page.
Once upon a time, I used to verbally and emotionally eviscerate myself for that. Took it as a sign of laziness, rather than my mind screaming ‘stop’ and tearing itself apart until I obeyed, until I freeze and let the world crumble around me. This is what happens when I’m pushing myself too hard, too often, for too long.
It happens way, way too often.
Sometimes the only thing to do is stop. And sometimes stopping for even twenty minutes is enough of a reboot to get things started again. Maybe I’ll read for fun. Or take a shower. Or listen to music and sing along without caring about how I sound. I’ll take my tablets, eat and drink if I’ve forgotten it, maybe even go have a nap if I know I’m overtired.
Sometimes, the page stops being white, or whatever ridiculous colour it’s become in my quest to just do something, anything. And sometimes I’ll sip tea from a proper cup, snuggle under a blanket (I get cold when I’m upset, or stressed, like I’ve actually gone into shock. Because clearly, weirdness is my superpower here), and read something suitably trashy (no crime, no horror, nothing filled with angst or characters whose self-loathing too closely resembles my own). When I’m back in the real world, I’ll paint again, filling A5 journals with art that might not be fantastic, but is pretty damned therapeutic.
Sometimes it’s enough to get me back on my feet. Sometimes it takes a few days to set me to rights. But slowly, I’m learning that the kindest thing I can do is not try to write when this is my reality. I’ll hate what I write anyway- it’ll be harried and forced, and nothing will flow the way it needs to- and it’ll only be deleted.
They say you have to write every day, but honestly? The world doesn’t end if you don’t obey that rule.