I’ve always felt the need for self-reflection. It’s the reason I’ve kept a relatively steady journal since I was 14, and the reason I originally started blogging via Tumblr back in 2010. Living with un-medicated depression means I have to be vigilant with myself—nobody else is going to do it for me.
While I’m generally a goal-oriented person, I have a habit of setting the bar impossibly high and beating myself up when I inevitably fall to the ground empty-handed. When you’re depressed, it’s so easy to notice the seemingly endless ways you’ve fallen short, but it’s a lot harder to recognize the ways you’ve succeeded. Hence, I decided to start this feature on my hodgepodge of a blog as a way to force myself to reflect more positively on the month.
in my reading life
February’s challenge for Diverse Reads 2017 was to read books with protagonists of color. This was a fun challenge that I tried to implement throughout the month, reading only books about people of color across the spectrum. (Note: I slipped up when I hit a huge reading slump last week and started re-reading Harry Potter.)
from the TBR shelf
(This year, I’m challenging myself to read 2 books from my TBR shelf for every new book I purchased. Partly, it’s because I desperately need to get through some of these books I’ve owned for so long I forgot buying them in the first place. Mostly it’s a money-saving mechanism.)
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
spotlight: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Hands down my favorite book I read in February. I received an e-ARC of this YA about a Chinese bi girl who cross-dresses to get into an exclusive all-male a cappella group. I loved the organic diversity as well as the fun, not-romance-heavy plot. It’s out May 2017.
in my writing life
Remember how I said I have a tendency to set impossible goals for myself? This month, I challenged myself to write 30,000 words (or 7,500 words a week). It seemed reasonable at the end of January: I had a new-old novel idea starting to take shape, and I’ve hit 30K easily in other months (read: spring/summer). As it happens, I struggled my way to just shy of 20K, including an attempt at a short story.
Speaking of short stories, I also challenged myself to draft two short stories this month (in keeping with my yearly goal of writing 12 stories total). While I started two different stories, I finished neither of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve written short fiction (try about five years). I don’t know how to end a story without dragging it out for at least 60K words.
On the bright side: I did write 20K, much of that on days when I mentally felt like shit and eeking out those words took everything I had. In that sense, I succeeded. In other good news, a few days ago I had what I’m dubbing an epiphany about the novel I’d been working on. Instead of having it take place in the protagonist’s 20s, post-college, I decided to try my hand a Young Adult again. Whether or not anything comes of it, I’m brainstorming again. I have a higher purpose: to write about living with depression in a way that makes sense to “neurotypicals” that will also maybe, one day, help another young girl who’s sad for seemingly no reason at all.
in my personal life
Speaking of Depression—I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this month. The beginning of a new month generally fills me with hope for the future, even in dark days. I like making monthly goals and starting over. Following Yoga With Adriene’s 31 Days of Yoga Revolution, I set out to build my own daily practice, accessing some of her other videos and crafting a weekly workout routine that works for my body and my mind. I’ve had fun testing my limits and deciding what I need every day, what will feel good at that point. It’s helped me get in touch with my mental state, as I’m consciously asking myself, How am I doing today?
About halfway through February, I hit a kind of emotional brick wall. I was working so hard to keep my depression hidden from the outside world, which of course meant that I ended up exploding all those emotions everywhere. I was working so hard to pretend that I wasn’t irritable, exhausted, and swamped with negative thoughts that it ended up biting me in the ass.
So, halfway through February, I put myself on a strict mental diet: every morning, after I do yoga, I force myself to sit down and write about how I feel. Then I take it a step further, admitting to any cognitive distortions (repetitive and untrue negative thought patterns that tend to plague a depressed person without them even realizing it) and debunking them.
I ended up learning a lot about the things that are holding me back in life. For instance, I convinced myself that talking about my mental illness would make me a burden on those who care about me, that my loved ones had more important things to worry about. I realized that, as grateful as I am for my life here in the middle of nowhere, I’ve been incredibly isolated the past few months and it’s contributing to my depression.
I recognized that I’m the one who makes me feel that nothing I do is enough; no one is telling me that I need to try harder, but there’s this internal voice that says I’m not working hard enough, no matter what I do. The hardest part of self-care, I realized, is not doing good things for yourself, but believing that you deserve to take care of yourself. We live in a society that values few things: money, the idea of “hard work,” status, visibility. It’s incredibly hard for me to measure myself to the world: I’m purposefully unemployed but with little to show for my work, and I’m relatively invisible both physically and digitally. And I realized that I’m the only one who can turn this around and make myself feel worthy of the good things in life again. I’m the only one who can give myself that sense of peace and love that I’m craving. I’m the only one who needs to believe in me.
on the blog
I am really trying to be more consistent with my blog this year, despite the fact that I somewhat defy categorization. However, here are some highlights from February:
- I started doing my own little #WIPWednesday feature, where I post an excerpt from my current writing project. If you’re a writer and you want to join in, please let me know!
- The Top 10 Books I’m Saving for My Niece – in which I break down my favorite books that influenced my childhood/adolescence
- and, ICYMI, I wrote about my first month of doing yoga and how it changed my perspective
awesome posts from around the blogosphere
- Leah from While Reading And Walking did a guest post on The Bookavid (one of my favorite blogs, btw) about why we need to stop romanticizing mental illness in books
- Puput @ Sparkling Letters started a new feature called the Diversity Corner – this month’s topic was Muslim Representation
- I stumbled across “How to Keep Writing When No One Gives a Shit” by Jennifer Garam – aka the post I’m going to read once a day until I die.
If you’re still reading this, you’re my new best friend. Thanks for hanging in there, and Happy March everybody!