Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Depression and Anxiety in the Digital Age

I haven't been very good about keeping up my blog.  Life has a way of getting in the way.  I've been revising a manuscript I absolutely love that I have high hopes for; I went to DragonCon over Labor Day weekend, where the ever-awesome Delilah Dawson got me onto a panel discussing romance in YA (which veered heavily into non-heterosexual romance in YA...and a great member of the audience questioned the lack of inclusion of asexual characters in YA and books in general) and allowed me to do a short reading from The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley; I found out I'll be attending the Texas Library Association's Young Adult Round Table in April (which is AWESOME!); and I've been working on another project that's still under wraps but about which I can't wait to discuss.

So, lots of stuff.  Lots of amazing stuff.  

And yet, I've fallen into a funk.  I've talked about my history with depression but I don't often talk about how depression affects my present.  Usually, I can tell when depression is coming on.  It feels like the beginning of the flu.  Lethargy, malaise, a general sense of hopelessness.  And when that happens, I tend to hibernate.  I eat poorly, watch bad TV and movies, and ride it out.  A therapist gave me that advice when I was...oh 19 or so.  He told me to just accept that I was going to go through phases of depression, acknowledge them, know that they would pass, and ride them out.  For the most part, it works (for me...I qualify that because while I go through depressive episodes, I haven't gone through a major depressive episode in a long time...those are much different), but I've been wondering lately (as depression crouches in my brain) if my digital life isn't exacerbating the situation.

Take Five Stages for instance.  The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes out at the end of January.  I've gotten absolutely mind-boggling blurbs from Bruce Coville, Brent Hartinger, and Trish Doller.  The love they've shown my book is just beyond my comprehension.  The earliest Goodreads reviews have also been brilliant.  And yet, I refresh Goodreads 10, 20, 50 times daily, looking for more reviews.  Wondering why more people aren't talking about it.  I Google my name and the title an absurd amount of times.  Even though I warn other writers not to do these things, I do them anyway!  I know there's nothing I can do about it.  I've written the best book I could, I've got the best editorial staff, marketing, sales, and publicity team behind it, rooting hard for it to win.  The rest is up to readers.  And aside from physically shoving it into the hands of readers (which I did until I ran out of ARCs), what happens next is beyond my control.

Facebook allows me to connect with people and writers who live outside of my area...people I probably wouldn't get the opportunity to talk to otherwise.  But it also shoves their accomplishments in my face, reminding me of everything I haven't achieved.  I am genuinely happy for them—they're my friends, how could I not be?—and yet every starred review, every movie deal, every award is an irrational knife twisting in my gut.  

And it goes beyond the sort of professional jealousy we all feel but rarely admit.  Last week, I got involved in a heartbreaking conversation on Reddit about an LGBTQ float being excluded from a St. Patrick's day parade.  I don't even know why I got into the discussion, but I was assailed on all sides by people who believed that all members of the gay community are sexual deviants, hedonists who can't help whipping out their dicks and masturbating in public whenever they get together as a group.  By people who told me that homosexuality was equated with pedophilia. I was told I was a selfish human being for standing up for the LGBTQ community's right for self-expression.  I know those things aren't true.  It shouldn't have bothered me that somewhere, someone on the internet hated me.  

But it did.

The more time I spend on the Internet, the more I feel a kind of soulless disconnect from my actual life.  I begin to wonder if I'm really me or if I'm a collection of Likes and retweets and down-voted comments.  I begin to lose the joy of each and every minute as I obsessively reload my AT&T order page to see if my new iPhone has shipped yet.  

The more I connect with people on-line, the less connected I feel to the people in my own life.  The less I feel connected to myself.  

And I wonder, as the frequency of my depressive episodes increase, as doubt and anxiety become the houseguests who refuse to leave, whether these feelings are merely symptoms of my existing disease or whether they're partly the cause.  

If I had an answer, I wouldn't be writing this blog.  I've thought about cutting myself off from the Internet—blocking reddit and facebook and twitter and all those other dark digital caves in which we gather to watch shadows on the walls—but I'd miss my friends, the ones I only get to see on-line.  I'd miss connecting with readers, which is probably the very best part of the internet for me.  

I could become a hermit—block my internet and hide away from the world—but the internet isn't a passing fad.  It's not going to go away.  If anything, we're going to become more connected. Our world will become both bigger and more insular.  People will know more about us and yet they will know us less well.  

Like I said, if I had an answer, I wouldn't be writing this blog.  I suppose, at the end of it all, the best I can do is ride it out.  Wait for the next Twitter high, the next Goodreads fix.  

Or maybe I'll go for a run instead.  


  1. I don't suffer from depression, my disorder is Panic Attacks with Agoraphobia. The idea of becoming a hermit is always at the back of my mind. Good luck with your struggles. I honestly hope you can claw your way out of your funk.

    1. Every time I joke with my partner that I want to buy a house in the mountains of Colorado and hide out up there, I think we both know there's a fairly large part of me that isn't joking. I don't have agoraphobia and I can't imagine what it must be like to suffer from that, but I work from home and can go days without leaving the house, and sometimes I worry that I'm okay with that.

      Two thing have helped me pull out this time around: Playing Civilization 5 (I'm not a big computer game person, but there's something addictive about that game that sort of distracts my brain and gives me some peace) and reading Joss Whedon's biography.

      Good luck to you as well :) And thank you for taking the time to comment. It helps knowing I'm not alone and that we all struggle—even though our struggles are different.

  2. Here's one answer: stay the fuck off Reddit.

    But seriously? You should be proud of yourself. I know you've come a long way, and I know it's difficult, but you've worked really hard to earn what you have and where you are. Give yourself some credit.

    1. Ha! That's come advice I can get behind. Seriously...Reddit is mostly a cesspool where people feel free to show off their very worst traits. But I keep going back because I sometimes find some amazing stuff there. Like the subreddit dedicated to transition photos of transgendered individuals. Just reading through them was so amazing. Seeing how they began to smile and grow happier as they transitioned into the person they'd always felt they were on the inside.

      That's what makes depression such a bitch. It's like wearing glasses that only show you the shitty things in your life.

    2. Let me revise: I read Reddit. It's the best and worst of the internet. I just never EVER reply or post there. I don't have the energy for that shit.

  3. I just realized that sounds kind of unsympathetic. I didn't mean it that way. I get it. Both the depression and the desire to be a hermit. I have all the same feelings, they just manifest themselves in different ways for me.


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