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Tag: mental health

October 13th, Unlucky No More

 

Every October 13th has been a rough day for me since the year 2000. That year, October 13th fell on a Friday, and my life changed forever.

Traveling back to Payson, Arizona where I lived at the time from a friends house in Wilhoit, I came around a corner near the final stretch into town. A Toyota truck was turning left into an outlying neighborhood. I still swear to this day that the driver saw me, because I was watching. I swear she hesitated, and went anyway.

I applied both brakes and steered left, but I could not stop in time. I hit the side of her truck at about 45 miles per hour.

Even a year ago, I would not have been able to type those words without sweating. However, due to some great counseling over the last year, that trigger has gotten way better. It used to be that every year, I would get on a motorcycle and ride on that day, a spit in the face of fate.

I’m lucky I did not die that day. I let the bike go, and flipped through the air, landing on my right side. My shoulder was dislocated, stuck in place. For hours they thought my collarbone was broken. Around midnight, after x-rays of everything, I woke with a splint on my right thumb and was told I would be having surgery on Monday to reconstruct my thumb. It would be the first of several.

thumbI still carry the scar on my hand, and it reminds me of the accident whenever the weather changes, often in October.

But I don’t have to be scared of this day any more. It’s not a trigger like it used to be. Yeah, I still have scars. If I don’t work it out regularly, my shoulder is painful, and my thumb hurts pretty often, since I write for a living and type all the time.

My mind is better, though. I don’t have a motorcycle at the moment, but I will probably take a long ride on my bicycle later.

Just a small spit in the eye of fate.

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GUEST POST: 3 Signs Self-Doubt is Trying to Destroy Your Creative World

I’ve followed Colleen for a while now, and love her blog and all of her posts. They have become a highlight of my monday and #MondayBlogs. Today, she guest posts on my site. Enjoy! I know you will learn something. I did.

I’ve interviewed over 100 authors over the past two years, and I’ve learned one thing we all have in common:

Self-doubt.

From short-story writers to novelists, thriller escapers to romance weavers to fantasy spinners to literary thinkers, self-published to traditionally published, newbies to old hats, it doesn’t matter.

Just about every writer had a story to tell about how the self-doubt demon had threatened to open its giant mouth and swallow her whole.

“I become plagued with self-doubt,” says women’s fiction writer Linda K. Sienkiewicz. “I fear I’m wasting my time, kidding myself when I say I’m a writer, flogging a dead horse. Oh, those horrible negative voices in my head!”

“I wage a constant battle with self-doubt,” says USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Bernard. “I often think of it as an iron ball chained to my leg, slowing me down. It makes everything more difficult. Promotion is harder, bouncing back from rejection is harder. I wonder what the writing life would be like without it?”

Jennifer admits she may never know, and I imagine the same could be said for most writers (and other creative artists). Though we can beat it back, self-doubt is like a mosquito in the middle of the night. No matter how many times you swat at it, it just keeps buzzing in your ear and biting your skin.

And it’s got teeth, very sharp, dangerous teeth. If we allow it to get too close, it can shred our confidence, sap our motivation, and gradually tear down our desire to create at all.

“And if I’ve learned one thing,” said animated movie Frozen director and screenwriter Jennifer Lee during a University of New Hampshire commencement speech in 2014, “it’s that self-doubt is one of the most destructive forces….Self-doubt is consuming and cruel and my hope is today that we can all collectively agree to ban it.”

Unfortunately, if we think we can somehow live life without it, we’re going to be disappointed. I’ve learned through lots of interviews with creative people that it’s a common companion, no matter how successful you get.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to let it mess with us. Below are three signs that self-doubt is trying to destroy your creative world—and what you can do to stop it.

1. Your work isn’t fun anymore.

You’re dreading, or worse, avoiding your writing time. You slog through the pages like you’re walking through a four-foot drift. When people ask you how it’s going, you change the subject, roll your eyes, or shrug your shoulders.

“Okay,” you say, and let it go at that.

Something’s wrong, but you’re not sure what. Could be that you’re tired—not enough sleep or too much stress in your life. Maybe you’ve been eating a lousy diet or you’ve avoided your exercise.

But beware, because this could be the work of the self-doubt demon. It lurks around at the edges of your subconscious mind, feeding you destructive messages about how your work is going nowhere, and is a complete waste of time.

In other words, it’s a huge killjoy.

Action Step

If you’ve noticed that you just can’t get excited about your work these days, take a moment to think back. Maybe some event preceded how you feel. A rejection, critical review, or even an offhand comment from a friend. Maybe someone said something about how much money you make (or don’t) as a writer, or you came to the realization that your book just hasn’t sold well.

Maybe it was your own thought that started it all. “I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s been five years and I haven’t gotten as far as I hoped.”

Somewhere along the way, a seed was planted, and self-doubt grew.

Once you discover what started it all, write it down. (If you can’t remember, just write down your main doubting thought.) Seeing the cause or even just the thought in black-and-white can help it feel less powerful.

Next, ask yourself if you’ve been here before. Has this type of statement or event (like a rejection) triggered this feeling in you in the past? Do you remember attaching a lot of significance to a similar opinion or event in your life? If so, did you overcome it?

If you’re still writing, the answer is “yes.”

Realize that self-doubt is habitual. Finding evidence of similar feelings in the past can help you realize that this is just a pattern, and that you don’t have to give it so much power or significance. The more you see evidence of that, the less pressure and heaviness you’ll feel, which will help you more quickly get back to the fun of creating.

2. You’re not showing anyone your work.

You say that it’s not ready yet, but when you go to work on your manuscript, you know you’re tinkering. It’s time, but you keep finding reasons to wait.

Reasons to hide.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my writing career was failing to submit often enough. It was only when I finally got ticked off at my lack of progress that I splurged on submissions. Shortly after that, I got my first novel publishing contract.

Looking back, I know that I feared rejection. I kept thinking if I could make the submission perfect, maybe I could avoid the pain, but that’s not how it works.

I know now that it’s better for your overall career to keep writing—move on to the next project, and the next—while getting your old work out there. Even if you don’t get it published, you’ll learn something, either through editor/agent comments or just by gaining some space from your work, and moving onto the next project.

Most likely, if you’re not sharing your work, self-doubt has a hold on you.

Action Step

Create a submission schedule. Send your story or poem or novel out to five places at a time (journals, magazines, editors, agents, your choice). If and when they come back, send them out to five more. Then move on to your next project.

Ignore the doubt. Just do the work. Gradually, the doubt will fade on its own, or it won’t, but you won’t be allowing it to slow your progress.

3. You’re comfortable where you are.

On the surface, everything looks good.

You’re writing. You’re producing material. Maybe you’re publishing and selling your stuff. You’re blogging and interacting with other writers. You’re content.

Sounds good, right? So what does this have to do with self-doubt?

Content means comfortable. And comfortable means stagnation.

“My personal research,” says life coach Ibukunolu, “revealed that unsuccessful people are often stagnant; they hate change, in fact majority of them vehemently fight change because of fear of the unknown. On the other hand, the same research revealed that successful people are constantly evolving, constantly creating, constantly exploring, constantly improving, and constantly moving forward; they love change, in fact they thrive on risks and uncertainties.”

Have you gotten too comfortable? Do you have a hard time remembering the last time you were nervous, or worried about your work? That spells “SAFE” in big red letters, and safe likely means you doubt your ability to go any further.

There’s nothing wrong with resting for awhile at a certain level of achievement, but if you stop there for too long, you’ll soon start to go backwards.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying,” Albert Einstein said.

Action Step

Get bored.

That’s right. Make some space in your life.

Give yourself at least thirty minutes a day for at least a week when you have NOTHING on your calendar.

Why?

Boredom has been shown in studies to encourage creativity, and you need new, creative ideas to challenge yourself. In one 2014 study, for instance, the group of participants that were most bored scored the highest on tests of creativity.

During that 30 minutes, jot down ideas for your next project—something that’s beyond anything you’ve done so far. Maybe a novel if you’ve written mostly short stories. Maybe a self-published book if you’re traditionally published. Maybe a speaking event, online workshop, or new video feature on your blog.

There are two benefits to this approach. One, you’ll have a week’s worth of new ideas by the time you’re done. Surely one of these will excite you enough to get you to take action.

Two, that excitement will help shadow any self-doubt you feel about being able to stretch yourself. Finding a project you can sink your teeth into—and that you feel, instinctively, is the next step you need to take—can motivate you to move beyond any doubts you have to give it a try.

Don’t Believe What Self-Doubt Tells You

These are just a few of the ways that self-doubt shows its ugly head in our lives. There are many others.

Your best bet is to stay alert. When you catch those destructive thoughts sneaking in, try to step back from them. Realize that they come up for a number of reasons, but the least likely one is that they’re true.

Instead, it could be an ingrained thinking pattern, stress, exhaustion, how you were raised, or just the fact that you’re a sensitive, creative person.

Whatever self-doubt is telling you, don’t bother arguing with it. Take meaningful action that will help you get excited about your work again, because when you’re working and actually involved in (instead of just thinking about) the creative process, that’s usually when you feel most confident.

Have you struggled with self-doubt? How did you get past it? Please share your thoughts.

Source

Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, “Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative?” Creativity Research Journal, May 8, 2014; 26(2): 165-173, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2014.901073.

C Story

Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a health writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. She is the founder of Writing and Wellness, a motivational site for writers and other creatives. Her latest novel, Loreena’s Gift, was released with Dzanc Books April 12, 2016. Her fantasy novel, Rise of the Sidenah, is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). Find more at her website, or follow her on Twitter.

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GUEST POST: Cool Story, Bro

This last week, a friend and humor hero of mine Kimmy Dee released her book of personal essays (and a couple of short stories thrown in for good measure) titled most appropriately Pussy Planet. Much like her blog, Turd Mountain, it is filled with irreverent toilet humor, dick jokes, and straight talk about her lady bits.

Not only is it a great book, but Kimmy is a great person. So I decided to let her take over my blog for a day. She shares with us a Cool Story, Bro.

Cool Story, Bro

My brain is a dick. Not literally, obviously, but much like those rascally male appendages my mind likes to fuck with me pretty much nonstop. It overwhelms me with anxiety one moment, only to drown me in depression the next. So when I set out to write a book of essays two years ago, I knew I was in for one hell of an uphill battle against a phallical foe. But of all the negative brain bytes force fed to me by my cockeyed mind during the conception of Pussy Planet and Other Endearing Tales, one recurring thought plagued me more than anything else: Who fucking cares?

You see, I’m no one special. I’m basically the girl next door, assuming that your neighbor is a reclusive cat lady with a plethora of mental health issues and a penchant for drunken outbursts, not to mention an unhealthy obsession with her own crotch. I haven’t seen the world and I’ve never done anything profound – so who the fuck would want to read about my stupid life? Even my therapist tends to nod off half way through each session, but that probably has more to do with my bargain basement insurance’s covered provider screening than my life’s lack of excitement. Still, I wrestled the entire two years with this question, and I think I can finally answer: no one. No one fucking cares.

No one gives two shits about my phobias, my family, or the misadventures of my unruly uterus. But everyone loves a well-told story. And that’s what I went for in Pussy Planet– tales from ordinary life told in a unique (and maybe even a kinda sorta extraordinary?) way.

This revelation came about during an online conversation with a good friend, in which I was chronicling in detail my failed attempt at masturbation. (Why, what do you and your friends talk about?)

“This needs to be in your book,” he said, after I finished laying out the sordid details of self-love gone awry. “Exactly as you just told it to me.”

You see, more power lies in the storytelling than in the story itself. My story could have been told much faster with, “I tried to get myself off, but it didn’t work. Bummer.” But where’s the fun in that? By going into humiliating detail I not only entertained the shit out of my friend, I also virgin-birthed the last essay in my collection, Anti-Climax. And it wasn’t a virgin birth for lack of trying, if you know what I mean.

Obviously, very few readers are emotionally invested in whether or not I can pleasure myself. If they are, well, I would gladly recommend them to my crappy shrink– he accepts scratch-off lotto tickets and Camel Cash in exchange for a mediocre mind fuck. But that doesn’t mean the average reader can’t cringe and chuckle a bit at my masturbatory ineptitude.

Since writing nonfiction for purely entertainment purposes isn’t as easy as it sounds (try it if you don’t believe me), I’ve decided to throw together a few pointers for those readers who yearn to reveal their own vaginal hijinks to the world. I’ve sold a few books now, so I’m basically an expert. If only I could say the same for my self-pleasuring prowess. Anyway, here’s how to tell stories good, by Kimmy:

-Don’t skimp on the dialogue. Reading an active conversation is way more enjoyable than a boring summary of what went down. Make the reader feel like they’re within bitch-slapping reach of your stupid ass.

-Give every character a unique voice. This one is especially important if you’re telling your story aloud, as no one wants to listen to the same mimicked “angry stroke survivor” inflection for all parties represented. We all know someone that adds a chromosome or two to their voice whenever mimicking someone else – if you don’t, then it’s you. Knock that shit off. It’s offensive and ungodly annoying. Every character deserves to be developed, especially in nonfiction. You know, because they are real fucking people.

-Be honest. You don’t have to be the hero in all of your stories. In fact, you’re probably much more relatable to readers when you fall on your stupid face. Or fail to locate, let alone stimulate, your clitoris. Nothing makes readers feel more connected to a story than realizing the writer is a bumbling dunderhead.

-Remember you are creating art. Whether you’re lamenting a tragic loss or reminiscing about the vibrator that got away, choose your words carefully. If you don’t love them, choose new ones. If you don’t know how to spell them and you’re so far off that even spellcheck can’t save you, scrap that sentence completely. You don’t need that kind of shit. It’s art, not rocket science. Get over yourself.

 -Mention your genitals whenever possible. Trust me on this; I’m an author.

So, there you have it… you’ve now been schooled in nonfiction creative writing by Kimmy Dee. Use this knowledge wisely and sparingly; with great storytelling power comes great accountability, especially on the internet.

Oh, and please buy my book.

xoxo

Thanks Kimmy. If you are so inclined to buy her book, here is the link. I got my copy, and so far I could not put it down. Maybe that is because of how sticky my Kindle is, but check it out for yourself. https://www.amazon.com/Pussy-Planet-Other-Endearing-Tales-ebook/dp/B01I1Y61J0

pussy planet cover_KDP

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Should Authors Try To Heal?

“As all great art is made from suffering
So are we
Good in nature, but evil by our own free will
Incestuously created by the will to kill”

-Dimmu Borgir “Blood Hunger Doctrine”

A good book does not just share a story. It drags the reader, sometimes kicking and screaming, from the world in which they live and instead immerses them in a whole new place and time. It makes them care about characters they’ve never met, and never will.

It does not do this through well-written prose, vivid description, and sharp dialogue. Rather the author makes an empathetic connection with the reader, and the reader cannot help but follow every twist and turn of the story until the very end.

Read the whole story about whether authors should try to heal at Huffington Post and find the rest of my Huffington Post articles on my Troy Lambert author page.

Artists_Suffer

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The Best of Hard Times

Of late you could say that things have been hard. But before you take some kind of pity on me, let me say that these have also been some of the best times of my life. It’s a paradox hard to come to terms with, and one that has left me deep in thought. If you have been following my blog, you know the story, or at least parts of it.

So let me enlighten you a little, and see if in doing so I may also be able to help you when you are going through tough, but awesome days as well.

Love and Marriage

Finding the woman I love and getting married has been the most wonderful thing on the planet. I mean, Abby is the light of my life, and I have never loved anyone as much as I love her, and never had as much fun with anyone either.

At the same time, she has an incurable and unpredictable disease. One week she is fine, the next not so much. It is a much tougher position for her of course: she has to go through the pain, the lack of energy, and the frustration.

I knew early on the role of caregiver would fall heavily on my shoulders, and because of the love I have for her, I don’t object at all. But that does not mean it is not hard sometimes. The unpredictability is the hardest: it is really tough to plan anything other than tentative events.

Still, we’re growing together and we are having some really fantastic times together, and I would not trade being by her side for anything. Times are good, and times are hard at the same time.

Career Shifting

In the last year I have gone from being 100% freelance to part freelance, part day job. Things I thought would be long term parts of my career have taken a back seat or disappeared altogether, and it looks like I am headed a whole different direction.

Fiction writing has been slow. The unpredictable thing mentioned above, along with balancing the interests of a really cool and really involved teenager and all of us coming together as a new family, have combined to make setting aside consistent time to write difficult.

I’ve come to a crossroads where I need to make more money, so I really need to decide what direction I am going: am I going to get a Bachelor’s and head for a Masters? Am I getting my real estate license and doing that on the side, while continuing with my writing and hoping to make some investments in property? Or do I stay where I am and get on a career track balancing them and freelance work?

You see the dilemma I am sure. Where do I go to school, and how do I find the time? What happens if Abby gets sick? Do I have jobs I can keep working, classes I can attend online? How do I balance all of this and still have time for a life?

What About Friends?

I used to be heavy into writers groups and out with my friends all the time. But with the new job, the new family (where I actually like staying home and spending time with them) I have been doing the typical newlywed isolation thing, even when Abby is well.

So I have not been getting out as much. I have been a pretty shitty friend, and I miss large parts of my friend group I have not seen in a while. There are times when I just feel overwhelmed with it all. I miss that one aspect of my life, while other parts are going really well.

It’s hard, and it is good. I almost feel depressed sometimes at how much I want to get back into the social and writing group swing of things, and yet euphoric at how our son is blossoming and how wonderful spending time with my new bride is.

So how do I handle these things? Well, I do not always handle them well. But thanks to counseling and many things I have learned over the last few years about self-care, most of the time I try to use the RAIN method something taught by Tara Brach.

Recognize: Check in on yourself and see how you are feeling. This is something that takes some getting used to.

A few times I check in and find that in a positive situation, I am actually feeling a little down, as if I am missing something. Others, I am feeling frustrated and angry due to some event from my past similar to the situation I am in. The emotion is triggered in the present by those past events, and I need to recognize what the emotion is, and if possible what is causing it.

Allow: What we resist, persists. So it is important to give space to the emotion, and allow it to exists. It is okay to have negative feelings about a situation.

What is more important is how you react to them, and what place you allow them to have in your life. However, simply pushing down or denying an emotion seldom works long term. You need to simply allow the emotion to be.

Investigate: Determine where you feel the emotion? Is it in your head, your gut, your heart? As you deal with or process through the emotion, does it move? Does it hurt less?

Nurture: Realize in a non-judgmental way that the emotion exists, but that it is simply a passing cloud, and does not need to define you.

Last, have a safe space in your mind that you can go to. A place that is peaceful and calms and soothes your spirit.

Is this a perfect way to make the best of hard but good times? Maybe not. Is it hard? Yes. Does it work for everyone? No, probably not.

But taking the time to follow RAIN has helped me deal with these issues better, at least mentally. As for the rest, all I can try to do is be the best husband, worker, and friend I can be. And if I fail, forgive me. After all, it is the best of hard times.

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Forget About It

I’ve known for a while even though I seldom have contact with my mother and that side of the family, but from our phone conversations, especially over the last six months, it’s been obvious. At least to me. To be fair, I do have a wife who works in geriatric care, and I am exposed more than others. And her stories, ah her stories. Every one is as sad as the one before, some even sadder. Finally, in a late Sunday night conversation, it was confirmed.

My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. She’s always been forgetful, but lately it has been more than that. At her age, it can’t be called early onset. It just is what it is.

When I mentioned my suspicions to other members of my family, they were downplayed, attributed to mild strokes she has endured over the last few years. But memory loss following strokes does not decline. It stays steady, and sometimes even gets better over time. It’s not always accompanied by confusion and a clear lapse of extreme short term memory.

How do I know? My wife deals with it every day as a nurse, and has seen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in dozens of patients, if not hundreds. We know what to look for in a care facility, and to an extent when a patient can no longer be cared for at home. Of members of the immediate family, we’re probably the most qualified to help manage her care, ask the doctor appropriate questions, and assist in the selection of facilities when the time comes. We know what needs to be done now, and what can wait.

So are we going to move to Arizona to care for her? Not likely. Why not? Because as you know if you read my writing, I’m the black sheep of the family, and my opinion is less than welcome most of the time. My mom has never spent the night at my house, not even once time since I moved out at eighteen.  Not that it matters all that much, I’m simply used to not being close to my family.

So what’s going to happen? I have no idea. There are decisions that should be made sooner rather than later, actions that should be taken, but when I mention them, they’re dismissed. The most logical solution? She should move close to one of her sons, likely my brother who she is closer to emotionally, sooner rather than later, so she can adjust before she is no longer able to adjust. Or one of us should move closer to her.

From what my brother tells me, he has no desire, plans, or ability to move. We have the ability, but not the desire, and wonder if our help would even be welcome. Moving her closer to us is an option, but also involves moving her husband, also not in the best of health, although little about his condition has been shared with me either. So what is the estranged son to do?

I’ve strived, over the last few years, to practice kindness, regardless of how the person has treated me. So what is the kind thing to do here? Is mom capable, even at this early stage, of making good decisions and expressing her wishes coherently? I have no idea, but I plan to find out, and at least offer our assistance, our love, and our support whatever decisions are made.

Logic would dictate I just forget about it. I’ve been dismissed for years, but that golden rule/karma stuff kicks in, and I know, just know deep down that I have to be better than all of this, and rise above the situation, even lend assistance where I can, with hope it will be accepted.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. My mom may never be the same, and there are many daily things she will no longer remember how to do, things that happened moments ago she will not recall. But for those of us who surround her, and watch with infinite sympathy and pain as things progress, whether slowly or quickly, however the disease plays out in her life, we will remember.

We can’t simply forget about it.

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