Recovering Quitter Recovering

The force is powerful in this one.

By this one, I mean me.

By force, I mean anxiety and depression.

By is powerful, I mean can lead to panic, bouts of doubt, bullheaded refusal to exist in limbo, and – at worst – conversion disorder.

So, um, that first sentence should read: The anxiety and depression can lead to panic, bouts of doubt, bullheaded refusal to exist in limbo, and – at worst – conversion disorder in me.

I have been a wreck for as long as I can remember. I wish that were an overstatement. There are many turns of phrase that could be employed – high strung, nervous, anxious, a worrier, and on and on and on. I don’t remember it being called conversion disorder, but it first became a medical issue when I was in the third grade. Over the years of school, and there were many of those, my anxiety and depression would manifest in new and unpleasant forms. I wasn’t honest enough with myself to believe my thoughts had that kind of power, and I felt desperate to prove that the physical things were causing the emotional things, for that was the only way I could avoid the shame I piled upon myself.

There were low points. There were lower points. There were points so low they fell off the graph.

And the guilt. The regret. The hatred of the cycle, with or without a name.

One time I decided to stop stopping. I decided to reach for opportunities. I took on the moniker Recovering Quitter. I mean, I had finished stuff. I finished grad school. I completed an engagement in marriage. I gave birth. I started jobs and started books and saw some of both through to the end. But my baseline, the go-to procedure when things got thick was to quit. Recovering Quitter was a way for me to admit my flaw and hold myself accountable for finishing.

So, a couple of weeks ago I quit. This time, I quit big and publicly, at least so far as my immediates were concerned. I told my husband that I could not keep going like I was and I had to make a huge change. I either had to throw everything to my creative life or I had to cut it off. Completely. It just hurt too badly too often to be utterly mediocre at everything.

I told my family, the other adults in this ShyJot boat with me, that I was quitting writing, quitting illustrating. I described it as a death and I mourned. For three days, I cried more than I didn’t. Not because I couldn’t decide but because I had decided.

Here’s the thing. I figured out the only way I would ever stop crying would be to start writing.

Roll your eyes if you must, but it’s my epiphany, so I don’t really care if you think that’s corny or inevitable or obvious or something. It was startling enough to stall my tears.

Anyway, without too much gore, I wrote my family another email and unquit.

As I see it, if I keep unquitting, eventually I will be done quitting. I will have finished.

I can see now, from this minimum safe distance, how things got to this point. My day job was in transition. My kids’ schooling was winding down. My husband had begun traveling often for training. My picture book was released and I attended my first school visit, my first author event, and my first time back in my childhood hometown as a professional anything. Tornado sirens were being pumped directly into my veins. There were, allegedly, TIGERS ALOFT IN THE STORMS. [Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but let’s just say by the time we got to the tigers that Oklahoma night, I was more than done. I was super done.]

Pressures outpaced my ability to cope. To those closest to me, this is just another notch, another example. And it hurts. It’s frustrating beyond words to be less than completely capable.

I can’t promise to write for an audience forever any more than I can promise never to write again. Writing – in its every rippling form – is a constant in a life with very few such luxuries. My people are my anchors, and that’s a slippery business because my people can leave or be taken. But without them, I would be a scary, unshaven, recluse who jumps at small noises and squints mightily in the sunlight. I mean, more than I already am. They dull that edge, making me a bit less scary, a bit more shaven (I have some standards), a little less reclusive and more adaptable to light or senses in general.

So. That’s were I’ve been the last month. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds.

You don’t need to care about this, about me or my incompetencies. You may be just a figment of my imagination; after all, I can’t guarantee anyone is even reading this.

I just want to say – am saying – it’s okay to be recovering from whatever. It’s okay to start over again until you’re finally done. Or, if not okay, it’s at least not singular to you. Or to me. We’re recovering together. I have a feeling we will be for some time.

Wishing you the luxury of a constant and some hearty anchors,

Amanda

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