Overcoming anxiety, OCD and melancholy as a working writer and creative.
It’s 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon and I’ve convinced myself I have bone cancer.
It begins with me noticing a small bump on the inside of my ring finger. It’s red and a bit puffy.
To the ordinary eye it would be shrugged off as a mosquito bite or a nick or just simply a peculiar bump that should garner no attention.
But, I don’t have ordinary eyes.
I have eyes plagued by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder… and in a minute a small mosquito bite becomes something much much more.
I run over the bump with the pad of my thumb.
Then I do it again.
And, then, I don’t stop.
With each passing brush of thumb to bump I feel my heart pound harder, faster, more out of control.
I hear my therapist’s voice behind the chaos in my skull…
Don’t give into the compulsion, sit with the discomfort and it will eventually get better.
But, it’s too late.
I’m already spiraling.
I look at the clock. It’s now 3 p.m.
For sixty minutes, I have sat in an uncomfortable chair, staring at the blinking cursor on my laptop screen, silently panicking in my own mind as I continue to graze that small red bump on my ring finger.
To the outside world, I look normal. Perhaps, even charmingly introspective.
But, they can’t hear the demons in my ears.
Eventually, I do the one thing my therapist tells me not to do…
I place my hands on the keys of my laptop, I transport myself to WebMD and for the remainder of the afternoon, I become lost in a never-ending library of symptoms and diseases.
For years, this experience coupled with nasty bouts of anxiety and deep feelings of melancholy made up much of my existence.
I decided it was time to get help after seeing the long list of writers who decided to off themselves after their mental illnesses had gotten out of their control.
Hemingway pressed a sawed-off shotgun to his head. Sylvia Platt stuck her head in an oven. Virginia Woolf filled her pockets full of rocks and took a stroll into a lake.
There have been endless occurrences, just like these. And, while I’ve never been suicidal, I think I realized with the countless hours I spend alone each day writing, stuck in my own head, I could have gotten there.
My therapist helped me immensely. That word shouldn’t be singular. I’ve had many, throughout the years. But, as I’ve continued to battle my own mind, I’ve realized getting better must be a constant thoughtful journey you embark on on your own…
After all, it’s really just us and our minds, at the end of the day.
Here’s how I’m slowly overcoming anxiety, OCD and deep feelings of melancholy.
If you haven’t yet gathered, there isn’t any aspect of me that is mentally or emotionally stable.
While I run a thriving writing agency, have written a book … my life as a writer and creative is constantly tormented by deep feelings of melancholy, anxiety and OCD — they’re demons that hunt me daily.
They kick my teeth in most of the time.
But, in the times they haven’t and I’ve won, here is what I’ve learned… discover their opposites, and lean in.
The opposite of melancholy is love, if you can love others wildly and often it’s extraordinarily difficult to feel melancholy.
The opposite of anxiety is presence, if you can be present during most of life’s moments it’s far easier to worry less.
The opposite of OCD is gratitude, if you can be deeply thankful that you’re still living and breathing above the Earth, it’s challenging to obsess over the things you can’t control.
And, lastly, I often find myself reflecting on the line…
“I don’t think all writers are sad, I think all sad people write.”
While I would never say writing has saved my life… it has brought me back to life.
So, what I would tell everyone to do is write and write often.
There is a great chance you will never make a living doing it (but, that’s not why you write).
You write to tell people you love them.
You write to be present.
You write to be grateful.
You write to make sense of the sadness, the anxiety, the OCD and the other nasty demons that plague you.
You write to sweep up the broken pieces and you write to be thankful for the pieces that are unbroken.
All of us, should invest in a journal.
One with a leather cover and good paper, one heavy enough to weather our scribbling.
By Cole Schafer.
P.S. You can keep up with me on Sticky Notes.