I am used to things being out of my control. I teach teenagers who have helped me cultivate a level of patience that even I find impressive at times. So while I’m (still) waiting on my revision letter from my editor, it’s not impatience that’s stoking my anxiety. It’s the need to know what comes next so I can plan for how to handle it.
But, the rub is, there is no getting rid of the unknown. I can “pretend problem-solve” all day long with hypothetical scenarios I think are coming but that doesn’t actually alleviate any of my stress. In fact, it just creates more, to the point that even positive things, even things I’m genuinely excited about, are causing me anxiety.
For seven years I have blogged and written about having anxiety. I’ve written about trying to treat it, live with it, and trick it into submission. I’ve written about how it affects my creative process, how it keeps me up at night, how it haunts me in my dreams. But my anxiety is absolutely at its worst when I am in transition, moving from one phase of my life to the next. When I am shedding old skin. When I am becoming something new.
I used to think that was my intuition telling me that I was on the wrong track, that I needed to turn around, to run. And sometimes my fear is instinctual, warning me of real danger. But mostly, it’s misinformed; well-meaning but bad at communicating. The truth it wants to tell me is that these fears I’m having, the pricks of worry deep in my gut, are signs. Signaling that I’m actually getting closer to the things I want, which only feels scary because it feels good.
And…my brain can’t process good. It takes my new book deal and turns it into an opportunity to fail, to disappoint, to derail my entire career. It takes the advance money and turns it into a chance to make horrible decisions, to destroy my financial future, to become destitute. It takes my WIP and turns it into quicksand. It takes relationships and turns them into booby traps. It takes my ability to tell stories and turns them into lies, into snares that trap me in endless cycles of what ifs?
Doing this work, doing any kind of work when you have a scared child clinging to your neck and whispering terrible things in your ear is not easy. But the tighter anxiety’s hold on me, the more I cling to the hope that even if I never find balance, or a cure, or even some semblance of consistency when it comes to my mental health, I can still keep doing the work. Day by day. Pen to page. One word at a time.
This is what I can control. Not when my contract finally comes or when that first advance check hits my bank account or whether or not my editor will even like book two or if I’ll have to go on sub again or if anyone will ever buy another thing I’ve written. I can’t control most of what may come next.
Luckily, that small piece of the equation that I can control–the writing–is the most important part. That’s what I’ll keep reminding myself. In the midst of the insomnia and the nerve pain and the tension headaches. I am still in a body that can hold a pen. I am still connected to a mind that can make things up that make people smile, that make me smile. I am still telling stories from the deepest truest parts of myself. And if that’s all there is, if that’s all there will ever be, I will choose to make it enough.