What I talk about when I talk about love

I'm sick of flowery metaphors of butterflies trapped in a stomach, and fuzzy feelings in the brain. I hate the idea of feelings of anxiety and attraction competing for attention. The idea of love being a struggle -- being a constant uphill battle -- is not only exhausting, it's frustrating.

Love doesn't have to be hard. (I'd argue it shouldn't be, but more on that later.) Love should be coming home and feeling at peace. It should be like taking a really deep breath of cool, crisp air. Attraction and affection shouldn't have to be laced with nerves or stress; let's start romanticizing the ease of being with another instead of the challenges we face when we choose to stay with someone else.

To be clear, I'm not here touting some bullshit that relationships don't take work. They do, obviously. But if it becomes a daily thing, a thing that hangs above your head or weighs down your shoulder -- if it becomes more work or brings more turmoil than it does peace or happiness -- then let's reconsider. Is that love? Or is it something else: staying together with someone because a) it's easier to be together than to put an end to things and move on, b) you're in love with the idea of being in love, and even if that means settling for this Sisyphus-esque romance so be it, or c) you're afraid to be alone.

In all honesty, I think one of my greatest fears is being alone. Not necessarily with regard to relationships, but just in general. On nights when I'm up so late that it's ridiculous to call it "night" anymore, I'm worrying about being completely alone. Forever. If my family were gone, if my friends had left, if I had no one but myself, what then? I'm working on that fear, and every day I'm more okay with it. I'm great at being alone, but I still have days where I struggle with loneliness.

But you know what scares me even more than being alone? Seeing those I care for settle for something or someone that is draining them, wearing them down until they become someone I don't recognize anymore. That whole "we accept the love we think we deserve" thing from Perks of Being a Wallflower rings especially true in those moments, and I never know what to do. I hold myself back from overstepping my bounds to shake them out of that stupor of going through their life, day in and day out, thinking they're happy because they're ignoring the little thorns of upset. But those thorns, when you're not paying attention, start to collect. It turns into a bramble and though there may still be a rose in there somewhere...is it worth it?

Love isn't:
  • Emotionally exhausting
  • Dramatic or selfish
  • Isolating
  • Compromising yourself for them
Love is:
  • Warm comfort and sudden peace
  • Support and sacrifice
  • Acceptance
  • Mutual compromise

I'm done with listening to those poems where fluttery nerves and a nauseated stomach is a sign of love. When you're with the right person, it should feel different. What I talk about when I talk about love is this...

Standing in front of an ocean on an empty beach. The wind is high and the clouds skitter quickly across the sky. The sand is cold under your feet, and as you stare out across the water toward the horizon, the overcast sky starts to appear as if it's a part of the ocean itself. The blues and grays all blur together until the sky is the water and the water is the sky. You feel so small and so big all at once -- important and utterly insignificant. 

Your breath comes easy in the salty air, and when there's someone next to you (to lean on, to take your hand), all of the weight you carry on your shoulder lifts. The buzzing in your head silences. The nerves in your stomach subside. There may be rough waters, but the waves pass, and through it all there's still that undercurrent of peace. You are at home, no matter where you are, and there's so much ahead, but you're not the least bit scared.

What do you talk about when you talk about love?

Photo credit: skyrim

Don't stand still

It's been a while since I've written a new blog post, but I've been incredibly busy and -- in all honesty -- I've also felt a bit uninspired. The stress of life was taking away my energy to think of anything worth saying or doing outside of the whole "surviving" bits of life. It's why I haven't read/finished a book since October. (I know, I know, I'm remedying this problem.) It's also why I haven't truly written anything of substance since the middle of November. It's frustrating to say the least.

But all this pent up creativity has led to some pretty interesting thoughts. I guess you get to observe more when you're just standing by watching life unfold in front of you. So let's not allow my... "time off" ... to go to waste.

One of the most important insights I was slapped in the face with in the past month is this: Don't continue to do something simply because it is easier than to stop doing it. Fear of not having something sometimes stops us from letting go of what is toxic. Or not even necessarily toxic, but just negative. If it's not making you happy, if it's not something that is improving your life, then let it go. And in its place, pull tighter that which makes you smile. Friends, family, books, whatever it is in your life that makes you feel at peace. Hold on to that.

It's something I've seen play out before me. People stay in a relationship that they are unsatisfied or unhappy with because it is easier to continue dating said person instead of letting them go. Letting someone go is hard. I get it -- it's scary to take that chance that by dropping someone, you might not have anyone's hand to hold. But there will always be someone there, even if it's not right away. No one is ever as alone as they believe themselves to be. All we have to do is reach out. Let go of what's behind you so you can move on to what lies ahead.

This realization spreads beyond relationships, of course. I associate it closely to my own anxiety. For the longest time, I was coping with anxiety in the same way. I'd do the same thing over and over again (mainly, removing myself from situations that made me the slightest bit anxious, which led to me isolating myself in damaging ways) and be upset that I wasn't getting better. That, if anything, my anxiety was getting worse instead of better. Well, of fucking course it was. You have to do things that may be uncomfortable to grow. You have to change your habits to become better, change your routine to be happier.

Don't stand still in your life, because that's as good as giving up. Say yes to more things, and focus on the light. You'll notice the darkness fades significantly when you surround yourself with lovely positive people. Hug them close to you and let go of everything else. Make the changes that scare you so you can become the amazing person you are meant to be. I believe in you, and I love you with all of my heart for being so brave.

Everything's happening so much

It's November 6th, and I am thoroughly overwhelmed. November, in case you haven't heard, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), wherein writers -- who might have gotten hit in the head one too many times -- decide to take on the momentous task of writing a novel-ish in one month. The ultimate goal of the month is to write a whopping 50,000 words in 31 days. (November has 31 days, right? Right. I think that's right.) That breaks down to 1,667 words every day, which at first blush doesn't necessarily seem like a lot. I mean, I write by the chapter, and my chapters typically run between 2-4,000 words. So I got 1,667 words easy!

Except not really. Writing is a task that gets easier* with habit. *Easier as in, the act of writing comes more naturally. Not the words, necessarily. See Surviving First Drafts for more on that.

I've been a bad writer over the last few months. I did just about everything except for sit down and write. Really, I did want to start getting back into my full-time-writing-routine, but I couldn't find the motivation to sit down. Part of that was depression/anxiety induced procrastination, and part of it was just don't feel like it procrastination.

I love writing. I always forget this, but really, I love writing. But I've spent so much time away from it that every time I sit down to get something written, it feels a little like I'm forcing myself. If I'm being completely honest, I'll tell you that I almost decided to not do NaNoWriMo this year. I have a new (exhausting) job. I've been having longer periods of increased anxiety -- it feels like I'm constantly living in this elevated anxious mode every minute of every day. I have WordNerds, and next Wednesday, I'll be traveling to Charleston for the week to go to YALLFest. All of the things are happening.

The list of reasons why I shouldn't do NaNoWriMo was long and growing longer the more stress that popped into my life. (My ceiling had a leak. My ceiling had a hole. Two holes. Another leak. I needed to find a way to deal with the anxiety my job had stirred up. And so on and so forth.) The only bullet point in my reasons that I should do NaNoWriMo is that I wanted to write this book. The project I chose to work on this November is Lovely Dark & Deep, which according to my notebook I started writing in July. Yuuuuuuup. Bad writer Erica. The first draft of LD&D should really have been finished by now. In fact, it should have been published by now, but... Well, see reasons above for why that didn't happen. And I was starting to feel really shitty about the fact that I wasn't publishing a book yet. It was beginning to feel like it's been too long since my last book came out. Which, for the record, was September 29th, so I need to chill -- but that was a nonfiction book. My last fiction book to come out was Infinite, the final installment in the Ignite series, and that came out mid-June.

So I'm writing. Every day. Because NaNoWriMo. It's going well, and I'm starting to fall back into step with the story. I was able to pick up where I left the story off without too much difficulty, thanks to the copious notes I've made myself. So many of these notes are of little use to the plot of the piece, but they help inform on character, world building, and the magic of the story that made me fall in love with the concept.

In case you haven't heard of Lovely Dark & Deep, it's a new adult dark fantasy romance that takes the concept of sirens and puts them in the woods -- so instead of luring sailors to their death, these sirens (or silvirn) lure hunters to their death, thus restoring the balance of nature and offering payment to the woods that protect them. That's my elevator pitch. Read more about it on GoodReads. As of tonight, the stats for LD&D are: 2,131 words written today; 16,804 counted toward NaNoWriMo and 36,867 total. Here are a few excerpts...

“Men go to war over many stupid things.”
These streets will run with their blood before they spill a drop of ours.
No one who lives in Valmead is innocent.
“What do you want to hear? I’ll tell you anything.” “That’s the problem, solider. I don’t want to hear just anything.” 
“Do you enjoy the taste of their bones?” [...] “It’s more pleasurable than the finest wine anyone could ever bottle."

November is a lot already with just NaNoWriMo to consider, but on top of that, the WordNerds are partnering with NaNoWriMo to help produce content, and (as I mentioned above), I'm going to Charleston next weel for YALLFest! I'm very, very excited about the trip -- I'll finally get to meet all the WordNerds in person -- but I'm also hella, crazy nervous. Because flying. Because new place. Because we're sharing a house while we're down there and I'm a weirdo who gets anxious about that kind of thing. Oddly enough, there's also a small part of myself that worries that I won't live up to who I am online when they meet me in person because I am a lot more lowkey (i.e., less SUPER MEGA HAPPY AND EXCITED ALL THE TIME) than I am online. And even though all of this makes my anxiety cry, I'm doing it anyway because I want to. And I won't let anxiety hold me back from doing anything because it's my life, goddammit, and I'll do what I want!

Let me know in the comments if you're going to YALLFest or if you are also working on a project for NaNoWriMo! I'd love to hear from more people who are as busy/stressed/excited as I am!

When you have no idea what you're doing

For the past week or so (okay, more than a week), I've been stuck in this really odd funk. It was a pinch of melancholy and depression over a heap of anxiety, and it combined into something fierce and ugly. It's taken me days, and many sleepless nights, to try to unravel why I've been feeling so...off lately. And I think I finally am able to put a pin in the problem... I have no idea what I'm doing with my life.

A question that keeps getting lobbed in my direction is: "What would you do if you weren't a writer?" I tend to laugh this question off and say that I would do a little bit of everything. Even when I was in college, it was obvious that I liked to hop from subject to subject to subject. I mean, I changed my major about four or five times before I settled on English and Creative Writing (fiction). But this question has been snagging at my brain again, because even though I love writing with all of my dark, dark heart, I'm starting to come to the sad realization that it might not be feasible to call my career as an author as my main source of income. 

So... now what? Now that I'm staring down the barrel of my life and having to make some fiscally savvy and "safe" decisions about my career, what do I actually see myself doing? It's finally time to answer that question people keep asking me, I guess. The thing is, I don't think I will ever not be a writer. Obviously. I want to keep writing and publishing books until the day I drop dead in front of my computer, hopefully many, many years from now. But what else do I want to do?

To answer that question, I dove back through my college notes and curriculum. What classes sparked my interest and enthusiasm, and are also feasible careers. (Also known as "traditional jobs." Which sounds horrible, but really isn't, if it's a job you are passionate about.) You know what kept popping up? Journalism. Marketing. Public relations. New media jobs. And then it started to click. I could take the passion I have of helping artists and other creative-types like myself get their name out there and turn that into a career! I already have a number of years under my belt studying (and even working in) public relations/social media marketing. I just need to refine it, and maybe study a little more.

For now, I think I have a plan. My new goal is to go back to school for my Masters in Communication with a concentration in marketing and new media. In the meantime, I'll explore options working in an entry level position for a company where I can do exactly what I'll be studying, and then, down the road, there's a prize waiting for me. Well, maybe not prize. Goal? Sure. It's another goal. 

I want to open my own boutique digital marketing and public relations consulting firm that will leverage new media to help clients reach a broad range of consumers. I want to help artists on the publicity side of things so they can spend their time focusing on the creative side of what they do. I want to take all I've learned as an author myself, working in publishing, to help market others' and their passions. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I've already started to build toward this dream, and even have a practically-empty website (see it here) where I will eventually launch these services. By this time next year, maybe my dream will be a reality! I'll tell you one thing... it's giving me hope and driving me forward!

What's driving you forward nowadays?

Apathy is hella lame

I have a quick question that's been nagging me for, well, forever: When did it become cool not to care? Look, I understand that on some level, the whole aloof thing can seem interesting at first. It adds a dash of mystery to your persona where people wonder what you're actually interested in because you seem indifferent. Maybe that then makes people believe you're moody, a dark and brooding artist who has such dispassion in the world because you were hurt. 

Okay, let's not get overly dramatic here. Surely that gets old to play up, because that behavior definitely is tiresome for me to put up with. There's only so long I can deal with someone who's apathetic about everything before I feel the violent urge to shake them out of their stupor of half-shrugs. Do you care about anything?! Or is "meh" the sum of your personality, because if that's the case, yawn. Really though...like...why is that attractive? Why is a lack of enthusiasm something people are into?

In my opinion, there is nothing more admirable or attractive than passion. I love seeing someone talk about something they are enthusiastic about, no matter what that is. The fire in their eyes and the conviction in their voice when they speak on a topic that they care about, that really means something to them, is contagious, and I quickly find myself getting caught up in their fervor. God I love that!

When I meet people who don't care about anything and seem universally unimpressed, I'm always struck with a certain kind of sadness. Do they know what they are missing out on by being actively indifferent to the world? It's a self-imposed depression of sorts -- when you chose this muted version of life where you keep everything at an arm's length. Why? Because it's fun to not care? HOW IS THAT FUN? Again, it is a completely different thing to be in a mental space where you are unable to engage with the world in the way that you want to; depression (or other mental illnesses along those lines) is not a choice, and it is not fun. Not being able to have enthusiasm is a horse of a different color. But when you chose to be apathetic toward things because you're, what, trying to be cool? Not cool, brother. That's hella lame.

I'm a loud, passionate person about things I care about. "Outspoken" is a very appropriate word when it comes to describing the way I interact with my interests. I'm excitable, I gesticulate wildly, and I try to pull people into conversation because this is something that means a lot to me! And that "something" could be anything from books to politics, from gender issues to dogs. Seriously. I am passionate about many, many things, and I speak with he same vigor across the board. When I care, I care hard. Real hard.

Often, this apathetic approach to life is stereotypical of teenage/20-something behavior, but I've seen adults act in the very same manner. There's not much I can say to adults who chose to be this way; they've made their choice, and I don't get it, but whatever. Live your life and do you. But for teenagers and 20-somethings (like myself), let me make something very clear:


I know it may not always seem that way, especially when you're around that kind of person, but it's important to care anyway! Have principles. Stand up for things you believe in or love, even if it won't win you the popular vote. So what? If you care about it, then it is important, and that's all that matters. Maybe, if you're lucky, your enthusiasm will rub off on those around you.

In this day and age, it's especially important to care about things and have strong convictions. Look at the elections we're going into. Americans always talk about what a privilege voting is, yet we have abysmal voter turn out. Some people, if you try to strike up a conversation about politics, have nothing to contribute. They say something about how the country is going to shit, there's nothing they can do anyway, it's depressing to watch the news, so they don't get involved. NO! SHUT UP! GET INVOLVED! Literally, every vote counts, even if it doesn't feel that way. And our generation can make a difference, if we aren't sitting back apathetically watching the world go by. We have to get engaged in the world for it to change. We have to care.

Next time you find yourself starting to slip into apathy, shake it off. Refocus and ask yourself why this is your natural reaction? Is it something you are genuinely not interested in, or is it just that it is sometimes easier not to engage? Because I won't lie: having strong convictions and passions isn't the easiest thing in the world. It can be exhausting. And there will be those people who shake their head at you for caring so much. I've had it happen to me. People have said, point blank, that the enthusiasm with which I speak about some topics is a turn off. Okay. I'm not here to make you comfortable or happy. I live my life for me, and I want to make a difference, so I'm loud and opinionated. If you have a problem with that, I'm sure you're someone I'd rather not associate with anyway, so let's just go our separate ways. 

Your opinions are important, and nothing that you care about is stupid -- no matter how trivial it seems. I don't care if you're really passionate about the color purple. Shout it from the roof tops! PURPLE ROCKS AND SO DO YOU! Find what you care about, what you think is important and what sets fire to your life (in a good way!) and follow that. Don't let others shake you because they don't feel the same. This is especially important to keep in mind going into the presidential primaries. I know it seems like a circus. I know it's a lot to stay informed about. But try. You won't regret you did, I promise. And there is nothing negative I can ever say about someone who is engaged and informed on the issues that are important to this country. That is an attractive quality.

Passion is fucking awesome. Apathy is hella lame. But hey, that's just my opinion.

Take up as much space as you want

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man[...] We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.”
-- Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

You may recognize the above quote -- possibly from the background of a BeyoncĂ© song, maybe you've read it online, or even heard it quoted in the context of feminism (which it has been more and more as the conversation about gendered social conditioning has come to the forefront of our social commentary which is beyond awesome). I'm from the BeyoncĂ© camp; I'm sure I've come across this quote before in my literature classes at some point, but it was never given the proper attention it deserved until I heard it booming over a screaming crowd at the VMAs. It struck a chord with me. A booming chord.

We teach girls to shrink themselves. It wasn't until fairly recently that I realized just how true this is, and I was immediately able to come up with multiple scenarios in my own experiences in which this was true. For the entirety of my life, I've been concerning myself with taking up as little space as possible. I apologize when I haven't done anything wrong. It's a knee-jerk instinct that I'm quietly trying to work on. I use conciliatory language like "just" (see above) or language that undermines my own ideas like "I think..." or "In my opinion..." I step out of the way on a sidewalk when someone else is approaching me, even if they see me coming too -- I'm always the first to move.

This pattern of thinking and behaving reminds me still of a poem I heard waaaay back in 2013 from Lily Myers called -- get this! -- "Shrinking Woman." In the poem, which was first presented (to my knowledge) at a slam poetry event, Myers excavates the idea that women are socialized to grow inward while men are encouraged to grow outward. We shrink while they bloom.

Since then, dozens of studies have been published backing up this notion. There was one study I recall about the frequency with which women apologize. Turns out women apologize more than men, mostly because they feel they have something to apologize for more often than men do. In negotiations over salaries or promotions, women tend to underscore their achievements while men have a tendency to overstate theirs (The Atlantic, "The Confidence Gap"). Another study was focused on an even smaller detail that may go unnoticed: the fact that women tend to take up less room/sit compressed on public transportation while men tend to sprawl. Think about how many girls you've seen sitting cross-legged on the subway compared to men sitting with legs wide open, often taking up more than one seat.
It’s fairly typical for women to fold into themselves making room for others in public spaces, while many men seem comfortable splaying themselves out. Where did this behavior come from, asks Soraya Chemaly? (x)
Women have literally been conditioned to become small and unobtrusive. We don't want to be seen as a burden. Always, we are conscious of the space we displace and those we may inconvenience.

A while ago, I had half-jokingly changed all of my social media profile descriptions to two words: "A handful." It felt like my anxiety was halving me, and that I was bothering everyone around me because I was going through a rough time. I don't often ask for help, and the rare time that I did, I felt like I had immediately become the most burdensome, selfish person in the world. Which, at first, seems overdramatic and is truly ridiculous, but in this case, there had been some negative reinforcements of this fear and the doubting, terrified voice in my head was validated by people who didn't want to take the time to understand. I was, as my social media accounts could verify for that week and a half, actually "a handful." Fuck that.

I've since taken that half-joke/half-not-joke description down. My life is a mess, but I'm not a handful. I'm a human being (or a human bean, as my sister says) and I deserve consideration, even on my off days. Everyone does. Never forget that.

Every day, I impress myself simply by getting out of bed. And then I do more. I survive some days, while other days -- good days -- I get to really live. I challenge myself to grow outside of my comfort zone and do new things, even when I don't necessarily feel up to doing those things. I do them anyway. In my daily planner and my journals, I've written down mantras like "Your feelings are valid" and "You are allowed to take up space." Because I need those reminders, and I need them often, especially when the clouds are rolling in overhead or a storm is threatening just over the horizon. 

Apologies are handed out too often when there is nothing to actually apologize for. I'm guilty of this, and my anxiety makes it worse. Once, I was out with friends and began to have a panic attack and immediately started to apologize, and when I said this, my friends just stared at me and said (as if this should be obvious) that I had nothing to be sorry for. They were right. I didn't. This was a moment I was going through, and I wasn't doing it to be rude or try and ruin their night -- though I did feel as though a was stopping the fun, despite their protests. I'm lucky I have such amazing friends. Those are the kinds of people you should keep in your life -- people who understand and don't place blame or stigma over your experience.

So yes, I apologize too often, and for things I either 1) am not sorry for or 2) do not need to be sorry for. I am trying to be more aware of that. I also want to be more mindful of when I say "it's okay" (when it's so not okay) after receiving an apology myself. You know, when someone goes, "Hey sorry for being a total dick," and you respond, without thinking, "It's okay." Nope, you don't have to say that their behavior was okay, or fine, or however you are minimizing its affect on you. A simple "thank you" is enough to acknowledge their apology. Accept the apology and let it rest at that.

Now, that's not to say that there aren't times to apologize. Obviously there are! But things that definitely do not warrant an apology:
  • My anxiety or depression. If you cannot understand what I'm going through, it is not my responsibility to explain myself to you. And to be honest, I am probably not in the right place to explain what I'm going through at the moment anyway. This is not me being rude or inconsiderate; if you feel it is, I'd recommend you taking a less self centric look at the situation.
  • The fact that I'm not as (whatever) as someone else. (As independent, as stable, as fun, as "normal", etc.) We all have our set backs in life, and if I'm constantly comparing my growth to the growth of someone next to me, I will always feel like a failure. I'd rather focus on how far I've come than how far I've left to go.
  • Putting myself first sometimes. I'm a caring person, and I will go well out of my way to be polite. I've told my dad once that I try to be considerate with my breakdowns (which about sums up my life). There are days when I have to look out for myself before I can consider anything else. This is not a slight. When I am in crisis or panic mode, I am focusing wholly on staying okay. Often during a panic attack, I'll become nearly immobile and completely silent. Let me come back to myself without putting the pressure of your expectations on my shoulders, on top of whatever else I am dealing with.
  • For cutting negative, toxic people out of my life. This doesn't need much explanation but I'll give one anyway. I don't have space for people in my life who are unwilling to understand what I am going through, or that every day I am trying to be better. I don't have the time to try to educate them because I am, well, trying to be better. Such toxic people I will cut out of my life. That is my propagative and I owe you no explanation. If I choose to give you one, great; if not, deal. It's my life and not yours, and I am looking after my own mental health at this point. That comes first. See previous bullet point.
The list could go on, but those four points are a pretty solid start. You should never feel the need to apologize for who you are or what you're going through. Take care of yourself however you can, surround yourself with a support system of positive and understanding friends, and remember to be gentle with yourself. Life is hard, and when you're managing something like anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness, there are days when just making it through the day (or night) feels impossible. But you can do it.

You're okay, even if you aren't right at this moment. You are allowed to take up space and ask for help. That does not make you selfish and that does not make you weak. Everyone needs a life boat now and then, so reach for one. Allow yourself to be saved when you cannot manage it on your own. Anyone who sees you or what you are going through as a burden is not worth your time and obviously has a warped view of the world. Let them go, and feel sorry for their lack of empathy. And know, beyond a doubt, that you deserve so much better than that. No more shrinking yourself; it's time to grow. I give you permission to take up as much space as you want.

Do the thing that terrifies you

Anxiety is my arch-nemesis. Every time I think I’ve finally wrangled it under control, I’ll have a difficult string of days in which all of my progress seems to have slipped backward. All the way backward, to where I started. Anxiety is not something that’ll go away -- over night, over years, whatever. It’ll take time to manage it, but even then, it’ll be just that: managing itIt can be hard to stay positive when you know you’re fighting an uphill battle, but I’m the stubborn sort. I don’t like failing, and I don’t like letting outside influences boss me around. Or inside influences, I guess, like my anxiety. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with saying Yes more often. It's really difficult, but it's working.

Here’s the thing with anxiety… The more you say No, the more anxiety is winning. When you create lists of all the things that could go wrong in your mind and then refuse to do something, you are then validating that list of negativity. Trust me, I’ve been there, staring at 3AM ceilings and circling the drain of panic. You know how you fix that? DO THE THING ANYWAY. I know it’s scary. Seriously, I do. When I was 17, I was so anxious that I’d have panic attacks when going on short walks, a block from my home. Not a good sign. But the more I did things that made me anxious -- the more I waded into those deep waters of possible-panic-scenarios -- the easier they became. After a while, that is. Things didn’t change over night. Nothing ever changes over night, so be patient with yourself. You're trying.

Nowadays, even when I’m knee deep in anxiety, I try to say Yes to more. I do things -- things I want to do -- and I survive them. I more than survive them on some days. It gets better, then it gets worse, then it gets better again. Sometimes I don’t experience any anxiety, and I try to ride that thrilling feeling for as long as possible! Other times, it’s harder, and I have to keep lying to myself about not being nervous, about feeling fine and having fun (“it’s all goooooOoOOOOoood” is my mantra) until, eventually, those nerves dissipate.

Say Yes to things. Reclaim your life and don’t let anxiety win, ever. If you suffer from anxiety (or really any sort of mental illness), know that recovery is not a perfectly up-trending trajectory -- there will be good days, there will be bad days, there will be worse days, and there will be amazing days. Keep progressing and fighting for yourself. Also know it’s totally okay to cry for no reason sometimes. It can help, but look out for those post-hysteria headaches.

Find coping mechanisms that work for you during times of stress. When I have a plan to circumvent the worst of it, I feel more in control of my life. And since all of my anxiety stems from fear of losing control…yeah, it helps. For me, cold water (drinking it, running my hands under it) helps. So does listening to good music (on pre-made playlists), and -- when it’s really rough -- using sea bands on my wrists (seriously they do wonder if you feel sick to your stomach, which anxiety tends to cause because SURE WHY NOT) helps settle me down.

What's one thing you’d love to do that anxiety’s been holding you back from? Go do the thing!

This post was originally published on erica.patchwork-press.com.

Starting fresh and staying organized

Well hello new blog, it's nice to meet you! Today when I sat down at my computer, I had no inclinations to start (another) blog. It sort of happened. Honestly, it was a bit of an accident. A happy, happy accident driven by my obsessive need to organize things based on their relevancy. A few hours ago, I was attempting to organize my other blog and was beginning to get a headache because there was such a mishmash of things cluttering the pages. My posts had no coherency; they jumped around from release day or blog tour posts, to posts about my anxiety, or lists of my favorite things. Sure, they were tagged into categories that were easy to sort through, but seriously. There was no order.

This blog is my fresh start. I'll probably still dip into posts where I talk about writing, but I want my other blog to be my "publishing only" blog, where I'll post official news about the books I'm putting out into the world. This place will be "all the rest." Posts about my anxiety, about my new job, about my upstairs neighbor's Techno Tuesday's, and my weird habit of wanting to throw everything out and start from scratch. (More on that later.)

I'm hoping that having a separate blog will help me draw a clean line between my work life and my personal life. It should help me stay organized, and god knows I need to stay organized. Of course, those who follow me that don't care about all of the things happening my personal life and only care about what/when/why I'm publishing won't have to read content they don't want anything to do with, while those who are interested in my day-to-day life can still follow along. It's a win-win for all involved, don't you think?

So, welcome to my new blog. I'll be trying to produce new (and, ideally, interesting) content often, so stay tuned. And if you are here by mistake and are looking for lists of my books, head on over to http://author.ericacrouch.com/ and you'll find what you're looking for there. Thanks for stopping by and being patient while I get this blog up and running. :)

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