The first draft of this blog article took me about 8 paragraphs to get to point because I was clearly avoiding it, so I’ve gritted my teeth and moved it to the top!
In 2018, my 2nd novel The Pursuit of Ordinary was published, dealing with two people dealing with differing mental health struggles.
It was another year before I realised I was burnt out and struggling myself.
Looking back, I think I’d decided to write about mental health in The Pursuit of Ordinary because my subconscious knew what was coming.
Because it’s not always obvious, I don’t think.
We all normalise things we shouldn’t normalise.
I wrote The Pursuit of Ordinary in 3 months flat, barely sleeping or stopping. Most of it was written between 10pm and 2am every night, before getting up and looking after my two young children, whilst also running a business.
Back then, after many years in business, I was so used to running on stress and anxiety all the time anyway, I didn’t really notice that I wasn’t okay until, in Autumn 2019, I couldn’t really think straight anymore.
That’s how it manifested at first. An inability to think anymore. Even simple things seemed difficult, my brain was foggy and I felt trapped in my life, caged and unable to move or function.
I wasn’t trapped, of course, but when you’re in the dark place, you can’t see a way out.
I was lucky. I recognised I wasn’t okay, I had support, I found a therapist, took 6 weeks out of the business and when I came back, I came back slowly.
The world didn’t end.
I now live a life that 2019 me didn’t think would ever be possible – I’ve made incremental changes, lots of them.
I spent 2 years writing my 3rd novel Life, Slightly – not 3 months – and I’m only on the early stages of the 4th book now, despite final edits for Life, Slightly being handed in over a year ago. Pre-2019 me would have been filled with anxiety at those timeframes!
But pre-2019 me had built a life that was totally unsustainable if I also wanted to be mentally – and physically – healthy.
Now, I look at my 2019 burnout as the point where the next stage of my life began.
It might sound strange, but I’m grateful for it.
Today, I still write novels and I am a director of not 1, but 2 businesses – I can do more, not less, by being mindful and rigid about when and how I work – I factor in the other important areas of my life (family, fitness, relaxation) and don’t treat them as secondary or ‘nice to haves’ anymore.
This post is probably more open than I’d intended it to be – but I think the point of #worldmentalhealthday is to be open – because mostly, we’re not.
Hope it helps somehow.