Attempting NaNoWriMo

I started participating in National Novel Writing Month my freshman year of college and took part in it through my senior year. The goal of NaNo is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. It’s hard and challenging and a really great writing exercise for a perfectionist like me. I didn’t “win” (complete the challenge) my first year, but did the next three. 

Then came last year. I prepped to take part in NaNo for the fourth year. I wasn’t as excited as usual, which was weird. As you might remember from entries around that time, I was also severely depressed. In the end, I couldn’t finish the challenge and felt awful. 

So now it’s NaNo time again, and I feel frozen. Thanks to therapy and anti-depressants, I’m not as bad as I was last year. But I do have this fear that somehow, NaNo is now this Pandora’s Box of depression, that if I try to do it again, I’ll become just as depressed as I was then. This has led me to not plan out my novel and so now, two days before NaNo season begins, I have almost nothing. Usually this wouldn’t bother me- part of my joy over NaNo is jumping in like I never do with anything else. But not this time. I’m too afraid in too many other ways to be unprepared in this way.

I’m going to attempt NaNo this year, but I might drop off again, if only to save me from myself.

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A lot of things have been happening lately. First, I’ve been exhausted. I think it’s simply because it takes me hours to fall asleep every night and I’ve had to get up pretty early every morning. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and I’ve managed to get through my days. But I was so tired yesterday that, though I did sell the most I’ve ever done during a work shift, I wanted to cry from exhaustion. So on my way out of the store, I bought some melatonin tablets (a.k.a sleeping pills.) I had already put in a lot of research as to whether it would react with my anti-depressants (no) and if they were safe in general (yes.) Still, I was nervous about taking them; just like anti-depressants, it was a step I didn’t want to have to take. But didn’t want to have another day like the past few exhausting weeks. So last night, I nervously took a dose of melatonin. For once, I didn’t toss and turn for hours and I feel more refreshed and well-rested today than I have in weeks.

A few months ago, my former playwriting professor and thesis mentor asked me to meet him on campus. When I did, he said he had written a new script and was thinking of me to play one of the characters. I was really excited and flattered by the idea, but months passed with no word about the project. I e-mailed him and asked if I had missed the boat, and he assured me I had not. Fast forward and I am part of the reading happening this Tuesday! It’s really exciting, but also really nerve wracking, because there will be a few people in the room that I admire very much, and the script is hard in parts. But I’m looking forward to it!

I’m also looking forward to seeing my play in Ohio in a little over a week! I’ve been getting more and more excited as time goes by. My mom and I are driving up the day before, and I just can’t wait to see a full production of my play done by the actors they chose.

Speaking of plays, I submitted a short play of mine to another Ohio theatre company for a production of one-acts in April. The form e-mail notifying me that my submission had been received said that I wouldn’t hear anything until February, so I put it in the back of my mind. But then today I got an e-mail saying that my play is has been accepted as one of three short plays being presented in a development workshop! So things are happening for my writing, which is great. Apparently they really like me in Ohio.

Aside

How To Be A Grownup

I love this post.

The Belle Jar

It’s late afternoon on Thanksgiving Monday. I’m lying on a chaise longue on my mother’s back deck, a ratty old knitted blanket across my lap and a book that I am not reading in my hands. I am pretending to be a 19th-century invalid, recuperating from a non-specific ailment at a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. I am breathing deeply, imagining that I am taking something called the fresh air cure. The sun is warm, its light buttery and yellow. I can hear my son laughing in the distance as my husband chases him around my mother’s small garden, and I pretend that he is a small Swiss child who lives in a nearby thatched cottage. I tell myself that he is amused by the antics of the goats he is herding. This is, I assume, what small, 19th-century Swiss mountain children do: live in picturesque cottages and laugh heartily…

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I Don’t Like Surprises

It’s been a long day.

I’ve been working a lot, which is great, actually. I’ve made so much money in the past few weeks, compared to how much I used to make, that I feel like I’m swindling someone. But it’s not without its challenges, and today had a lot of them.

I got to work too late; I’ve been exhausted and kept hitting the snooze. Then I got to the store to see that I would have to go buy supplies after just one show, which wastes a lot of time, and ended up costing me over a hundred dollars (don’t worry, I get reimbursed, But still, seeing that number on the screen made me panic) and a lot of time due to a woman ahead of me in line who paid for each of her fifteen items separately.

Then I started my second show. The audience was not great: they wouldn’t answer my questions, and they just in general didn’t care. It was so bad that I almost stopped the show and told them to leave. Instead, I just got aggressive (or, aggressive for me.) I got very snarky and sarcastic, especially when they wouldn’t participate. “Who cooks here? No one? Wow, that’s unhelpful.” “What’s the worst thing to chop in the kitchen? Any ideas? No? Thanks, guys.” Et cetera. Sometimes this makes people laugh, sometimes it makes them look at me weird, but at least it gets their attention. But I noticed that one guy, in his twenties, was giving me a different kind of attention. When I would get super snarky, he’d laugh with everyone else, but in a sort of amazed, approving way. At one point, he leaned forward, snapped a picture of the box, and looked it up online, challenging me with the website price. It really annoyed me and I kind of snapped at him, throwing some sarcastic comments his way throughout the rest of the show to let him know that I didn’t want to hear anything more from him.

At the end of the show, I helped a lady with her purchase and the guy came over and asked if I could show him how to do a carrot on the shredder. I said of course, grabbed a carrot, and started to shred it. “You might want to use the safety handle,” he said. “I know,” I replied. He asked if I could show him on the machine, and as I grabbed for the clean one, he remarked, “You shouldn’t use the commercial one.” This made me stop. He held his hand out. “Hi, I’m Peter. I’m the New York manager.” “Yeah,” I sighed. “I figured.”

I usually would have panicked more, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe because I knew it was a bad show; if I had thought it was good and he said it wasn’t, that would have upset me more. So as he gave me notes, I nodded, tried hard not to make excuses. He was really constructive about it, so I didn’t feel reprimanded and everything was fine. The only thing I was worried about was his opinion on how I treated the audience (and, uh, him.) Thankfully, he said he really loved it. “I like a new agent who isn’t afraid to call people on their shit.”

He did a show for me and then asked me to practice part of my show for him. That was when I started to get frustrated, because when I don’t get something right the first time around, I feel like I have failed. I got to the point of tears, which was terrible and embarrassing and just all-around awful. He was nice about it, but that just made it worse. Eventually, though, I got past it, did more shows, got more notes, and then he left me to my work.

It’s weird because while my experience with Peter wasn’t bad, merely jolting, it made me feel awful for the rest of the day. When I got home, I exercised out my frustration (Insanity!), but then just laid on the couch feeling bad about myself. I recently recovered, due to my roommates asking me to help them in a pinch, but I’m still not feeling great.

Ugh

My day didn’t even stand a chance.

I actually was in kind of a good mood this morning. After what felt like years of rain, I got to sleep with my windows open last night and woke up (after sleeping in) to sun. The house I live in is being sold, so after I had breakfast, I immediately stared making the final preparations for the people who were looking at it. I had worked on my room last night, so it only needed a few touch ups, but I started getting stressed out when I got downstairs. Downstairs (the living room and kitchen) has been kind of messy since I arrived in this house, but since the only thing I keep down there is food, I don’t want to “clean up” only to have my roommates unable to find their things. After all, I know how much I hate it when people touch my stuff. But I knew I needed to at least tidy up, and thankfully, my roommates were not only okay with it when they got home tonight, but thrilled.

The prospective buyers and the realtor were scheduled to come to the house at 1:30 and stay until right before I had to go to work. At 1:10, I got into my work clothes, hurriedly ate lunch, and decided to oass the five minutes before they arrived reading my book. At 2:25, I was still reading uninterrupted. This would have annoyed me in any case because I hate when people are late, but I also had to work at three. Luckily I was working at a store within walking distance of my house, because the realtor and her clients showed up at 2:40.

I was really nervous about showing the house. I’m shy around people I don’t know and terrible with small talk, and now the people I would have to talk to were also going to be looking in the closets and under the beds. Also, I am the newest resident of the house, so I know the least about it. Basically, I was the WORST POSSIBLE PERSON to show it off.

So the realtor and her peeps come in, and the realtor apologizes and explains that they were “a little” late because there was a baby included in the trio she had brought. The baby, admittedly, was adorable and smiley, but I was still annoyed. They started tromping through the house and it immediately became obvious that the buyers did not speak English, but Japanese. The realtor also did, so communication wasn’t a problem, but it was extra awkward to be following them from room to room, unable to understand all of the comments they were making. Then, after making me wait for over an hour, they only spent about seven minutes in the house. Awesome.

I made it to work on time, amazingly, where I took my roommate’s place at the booth. Since the store was right across the street from our house, he would spend part of his free days at the store watching his trainees do shows, then give us some pointers to improve our presentation. I had expected him to stay, but it still threw me that he was watching, and I did an awful show, and that put me in a funk for my entire shift.

Usually, when I get notes for my shows, I am really good at applying them and I always sell more, usually double, than I did the last show, but today was just downhill in every way. Not only was I apparently unable to improve my show, but during my fourth one, I was harassed twice. First a man started yelling about all the great things the machine could do, which would be helpful if he hadn’t been drowning me out for longer than was acceptable. He left after I refused to acknowledge him. Then an old woman who had previously been enjoying the show asked how much the machine was. If this question is ever asked before we get to the price part of the script, we just jokingly say, “A million dollars,” which usually makes the person laugh and calm down. This woman just rolled her eyes and then answered a phone call.

I’m pretty good at blocking out distractions when I’m performing, whether it’s onstage or doing these work shows. So I was ignoring this woman’s loud phone call until she made it impossible by saying even louder, “I’m trying to get a free gift, but I guess this girl is going to MAKE ME WAIT THROUGH A DEMONSTRATION.” I gave her a bit of side-eye, but kept going, and eventually she hung up. But then she just got worse. After everything I’d slice, she’d sigh dramatically, wave her hand in the air impatiently, and say, “Uh huh… Uh huh…” After doing this for two minutes straight, she finally exploded with, “Can you just give me my gift? My friend’s waiting for me outside.”

I was completely thrown by this, and furious about it. Without looking at her, I shoved a gift into her hand. I wish I could say I kept going without missing a beat, but I completely lost my train of thought. And when the show was over, I called my roommate and tried not to cry and then cried and bought some M&Ms. The show ruined my whole day, and though I didn’t do as badly, numbers-wise, as I thought, I don’t wish to ever have one like it again.

Progress, I Think

Art work by Sarah @ http://catwaii.tumblr.com/

Art work by Sarah @ http://catwaii.tumblr.com/

I started taking anti-depressants at the very end of August. I was on Zoloft at first, and I was really afraid of side effects. I didn’t really have many at all- some dizziness the first week, a loss of appetite that I still haven’t regained, and headaches. Even though I think it was helping my depression, I was switched from Zoloft to Celexa earlier last week because the headaches I was getting were so intense that I was nauseated more often than not, and it was hard to function.

Since beginning Celexa, my headaches have mostly gone and I think my depression is continuing to dissipate. And while that’s really great, it’s also really strange. Once, when discussing medication with my therapist, she asked me if I was afraid to not be depressed. I kind of dismissed the idea; why on earth would I want to be depressed? But a few weeks later, I realized that I was a little scared. After all, depressed is what I’ve been for over a year now. It’s part of my life and my being. It’s not so much feeling or an experience as a habit. I was suffering in my depression, but that had become where I was comfortable.

Today confirmed all of that if I hadn’t been sure of it before. Before I was on medication, every day had at least a little black cloud over it, sometimes in the form of sadness or self-loathing, or feeling the overwhelming urge to sleep all day. After I started taking the anti-depressants, I wasn’t always tired and things weren’t always at least a little tinged with sadness. And that was nice. Every once in awhile, I’d stop and appreciate how not sad I was. My therapist thought my anti-depressant should be doing more for me than that, which is another reason why I was switched, but in general, I felt more “okay” than I had in over a year.

But today I woke up and it was raining. I’m not one whose mood is particularly influenced by the weather, depressed or no, but yesterday, I had had a terrible day at work- not selling well during a longer-than-usual shift, and fighting an awful headache the whole time- and the weather meant that my forty-five minute drive to the gym would be spent on pins and needles because I am terrified of driving when the roads are wet. And then there was the sadness. Before I started anti-depressants, and even the first couple weeks I was on them, before they started kicking in, I would have days where I could do nothing but be depressed. I cried a lot. I hated myself a lot. I couldn’t sleep. I just wanted to run away from myself and everything I was. Today, I could feel that sadness, but really distantly. I knew it was there, but no matter how far I reached out, I couldn’t touch it. This was good in that it meant my meds are doing their job, but it’s also really disconcerting. It was my biggest fear about medication that I wouldn’t be able to feel anything, and while it’s not terrifying, like I thought, it’s still really disconcerting. It’s like my vanished appetite: my body knows it’s hungry. My stomach growls and burns when I’ve gone too long without food. But there’s some disconnect between my body needing food and my brain giving me the urgency to eat. And while I certainly prefer distant sadness to wanting to curl up in a corner and die, I’m used to feeling emotions the whole way, and it’s weird not to.

The nice thing is that the distance from the sadness gave me the ability to do  what my therapist has wanted me to do for almost a year now: acknowledge thoughts and feelings as just that, not things that need to rule what I am. I feel things so strongly that usually once an emotion hits, I’m too deep into it to pull myself out until it’s passed on its own. But now, I can sort of feel the sadness while still being able to go, “That is sadness, and I am feeling it right now, but I don’t always feel it.” In a strange way, it’s like I’m relearning how to cope with things, and it feels almost like a literal baby step: shaky and foreign, but hopefully leading to a life that’s more fulfilling.