[trigger warning: mental health]
I am as close to a complete breakdown as I think I’ve ever been.
Part of it is just the usual. I have a chemically imbalanced brain that’s caused me long and deep depressive episodes (and occasional manic spells) for years now. Ho hum, situation normal.
Part is the long-standing situational shit everyone on Earth has been dealing with all year. Months upon months of going nowhere, doing nothing and talking to almost no one has worn us all down. I don’t think I’m alone in being flabbergasted at how much of an effect this has had. For introverts like me, it sounds on paper like utopia, but…well, I don’t have to tell anybody what it’s like, you’re all alive in 2020. Starting from a state of baseline mental imbalance, it’s been…a thing.
Part is more imminent situational shit, as this week I wait to find out whether my country is going to dive into full-on fascism or revert to the intolerable post-capitalist dystopia that’s made millions of people desperate enough to embrace full-on fascism, while I sit here watching both axes to see which falls and wondering what it’d be like if there was a good option, or even a bearable one.
And I’m pretty sure part is the self-fulfilling prophecy and vicious cycle of how all this has caused me to continue to fail at everything, which adds to the pressure and self-recrimination. As deadlines pass and updates don’t happen and promises go unfulfilled because I just can’t seem to function on a basic level it becomes more and more evident to me that I should quit wasting everyone’s air pretending to be a writer and go get a warehouse job.
The really shitty thing about mental illness is how invisible it can be even to the person having it. With no sensation of pain or nausea or any such biological warning sign, when I sit here for hours at a stretch unable to just type words on a keyboard and not being able to tell why the only sense I can make of it is simply that I suck. There’s no feedback that tells me why this is so hard. I’ve been staring at an in-progress chapter in my word processor all day and achieving nothing but anxiety attacks. Well, almost nothing, I have managed to add a whole four (4) god damned words to the chapter. Just typing this post is as physically difficult as running a marathon and that makes no fucking sense. Yes, I understand what mental illness is, but just intellectually. It doesn’t feel like there’s a legitimate problem here. It feels like I am just lazy and stupid and generally inadequate by every possible metric.
This has been a month of basically no productivity, of anxiety and panic attacks, of some of the deepest depressive episodes I’ve ever had, and I’ve been trying so hard to push through and get the fucking chapters out because life is shit for everybody right now, I’m in a luckier position than so much of humanity and my one job is to produce something to help make people’s day a little bit more fun and this is the worst possible time to fail at it, but, well. I have. Failed.
I’ve gotta stop. I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams. I can’t fix what’s wrong in my brain or what’s wrong with the world. The only thing I can change about this is the pressure on me to get something published for god’s sake, it’s not a difficult job and people are counting on me and paying me to do this and it’s unbelievable that… sorry, that’s the kind of tangent I spiral off into every time I think about it.
I have the most supportive and understanding readers on this blessed earth and I appreciate that fact and every one of you so very much, though in a way that almost makes it worse. Everyone’s always telling me to take breaks and take care of myself, don’t worry and stop pushing, and god, I really wish I could. I just can’t suppress how awful I feel because I keep letting you all down when you provide me with a living to do this one simple thing that I can’t seem to keep up with anymore.
I’m sorry, further, for subjecting you to a rambling unhinged rantpost like this, I’m sure you all have plenty of stresses and don’t need any of mine. Feels like I spend way too much of my time complaining about my lot in life anyway. It’s just that I don’t want to be silent and leave people wondering. If I can’t manage to meet my obligations, which feels like it’s basically always now, at the very least I owe everyone an explanation of what’s going on.
This feels even more ridiculous coming off my last break, what, a month ago? Two? Time is chaos anymore. I would never plan a hiatus so soon and that’s why I’ve been resisting this so hard but I finally have to bow to the obvious fact that the content isn’t getting made anyway, so I guess if I’m gonna be useless I may as well make it official and try to turn it into a plan to fix my shit as best I can.
In a concession to reality, I am taking an official break. Last time I took two weeks off after spending two weeks in a spiraling stew very similar to this one in which I failed to publish anything and then called that a post hoc month hiatus. That doesn’t seem to have worked. I came back feeling better but it barely lasted a week.
The idea of it is causing me to panic again but I’ve gotta face the fact that if I don’t take the time I need to recuperate this is just going to turn into an endless cycle and I’ll just never be able to finish this story. So, and I can’t express how much I hate myself for doing this, I am taking a planned hiatus of one month, not counting the preceding month of effectively accomplishing nothing. November will be off. And at the end of that, I will reassess my condition, see if I’m feeling recovered enough to resume publishing, and if I honestly do not, I will extend it. God, even typing that makes me feel as slimy as a slug orgy. I’m just out of any better ideas. I can’t keep doing this, the story will only suffer more for it.
This is wholly inadequate and I’m more sorry than I can express for letting you all down so much. I just don’t know what else to do; this is my only idea for trying to restore some of my dilapidated functionality so I can get back to creating the content you all come here for.
I’m eternally grateful to you and sorry about everything.
If you haven’t read them, I strongly endorse A Practical Guide to Evil and The Wandering Inn for your fantasy webserial needs. I love those stories; I think most of you who like TGAB will enjoy them, too. They’re both super long, as well, so if you’re picking them up for the first time they should keep you busy for quite a while. Hopefully longer than I’ll be on hiatus; it took me several months to catch up with each. Please give ErraticErrata and pirateaba my professional respects if you head over there.
Mother of Learning is also a really good story. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much but still quite a lot, and it has the advantage of being complete now–plus, as with the above, free to read online.
I’m sorry that recommendations are the only entertainment I’m able to offer right now.
I promise I’m going to do my best to recuperate and be able to get back to giving you some real good story material when I return. I’m so sorry for this, all of it.
Please take care of yourselves. It’s rough out there; do whatever you have to to come through okay.
68 thoughts on “admitting defeat”
Webb, I care about you, but you’re being ridiculous. You’re beating yourself up for something you don’t control. You’re saying you’re disgusted with yourself because you aren’t as productive as others, while admitting you’re under ridiculous pressures and constraints.
Stop trying to minimize your suffering solely so you can increase it.
I don’t know what or why you think you owe us, but you don’t. Get that right out of your head. If anything, WE owe YOU. TGaB has been an epic I’ve enjoyed for months (yeah, I’m late to the party), and whether you continue it now, later, or NEVER doesn’t change the enjoyment and happiness you brought all of us. You’re doing the thing again: minimizing your accomplishment so you can maximize your suffering.
This post about your depression, even, has doubtlessly helped so many people. You have put into words what I haven’t been able to articulate about myself for months. The way you recognize what you’re struggling with has helped me recognize my own struggles and finally do something about them. I’m taking positive steps towards healing, and it’s in large part because of you.
I strongly recommend you take the pressure off yourself however you can. Find a hobby you enjoy that you’re unaccustomed to overworking yourself on, and don’t let you beat yourself up for not writing. You need not just to take time away from writing, but to enjoy it, or at the very least, not fret about writing while you’re not.
Don’t be silly about this. We love your story and care about you either way, and you owe us NOTHING. Please, please, please, do a hiatus and enjoy it, and if you need more time, do it again!
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I love your story.
But if I have the choice of it never being finished through your choice to be a healthier person, or it being finished and you being unhappy and miserable the entire time… I’ll take what I’ve read up until now and be happy with it.
Take heart. Reach out for help if you need it. I’m confident that ~100% of your readers, friends and family would be more than happy to support you however they can.
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Wish I could just tell you to stop feeling guilty and that it would work. Your health is way, way more important than anyone’s entertainment. You’ve held yourself to this for so long, you damn well deserve a proper break.
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Webb, the novels you shared are great. Its an enormous relief to have something positive to read to distract from all the … current events
Liking still doesn’t work.
I’m sad you are having a depressive episode after depressive episode.
I too have issues.
I know where you are coming from, and it’s not pleasant.
But I will be (hopefully) a voice of reason. These days aren’t new. Nothing done today hasn’t been tried before. Sometimes it failed, and Tyranny must be fought off. Sometimes it succeeded, and freedom has prevailed.
But that means naught to the individual.
We have to live with the results.
Tomorrow comes. Seeing the end of a day is a victory. And maybe, after long enough, one can see a light at the end of the dark path one’s feet tread.
I will hope for you until you can hope for yourself.
I hope it will be enough.
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you take ALL the time you need.
we will WAIT.
AND, on the off chance that you decide you can never complete the tale?
NO ONE will hold it against you, that matters.
you’re not ‘being silly’- I’ll NEVER make so light if another’s demons- only a fool does, & an ignorant fool dismisses them. it hurts when attempting sympathy wounds deeper, but that is the case.
your issues are very real. you will find your way.
we’re happy if you’re healthy, not just greedy for content to distract us from our hellishly complex & fraying world.
take your time.
we love you, and your work.
thank you for the gift you have given all of us.
Thank you for the incredible story you have been telling for years, you don’t owe us anything. Mental illnesses suck, I am all too familiar with that feeling of helplessness. Its just our dumb lizard brains refusing to accept that your own problems are valid, a bit of positivity isn’t enough to make it go away, all we can do is hang on and live on in spite of it. Take as long as you need.
Get well soon. Don’t worry about the writing. Thanks for the recommendations, though – I enjoyed the first two books of A Practical Guide to Evil and mean to read the rest at some point, haven’t tried the wandering inn, but I love the mother of learning.
I’m now up to the second book of The Wandering Inn. It is indeed good stuff, but my favourite out of the three recommendations remains Mother of Learning. For anyone else who enjoyed it, although the main saga is now complete with no plan for a sequel, there are still intermittent world-building posts at https://motheroflearninguniverse.wordpress.com/
If it’s any consolation Webb, you made me realise I’m not the only one feeling like that too. Depression and anxiety can cripple you at times, and it is totally invisible, just like you said. It isolates us mentally and emotionally as much as this pandemic has isolated many of us physically.
Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves, but in our minds we’re never doing enough, just being slow and lazy and stupid, even when we really aren’t. And no matter how many times I might try to convince someone else that feeling that way about themselves is unreasonable, I can never take my own advice. Cause in my mind, I will always doubt myself, I will always feel I’ve let down someone, and I will always dread doing it again.
But, that is wrong. It IS unreasonable. And as a fan, I’ve never felt like you’ve let me down. If you need the time out, take it. Web-serial authors like yourself put out an enormous workload compared to some those published in paper form, and those authors sometimes take YEARS between books! I know that facts won’t necessarily alter your self perception or the situation you’re facing, but some perspective can help.
Mental health issues suck serious donkey balls (if you’ll excuse my french), no two ways about it. But others do get how you feel. Some of us understand all to well, and will never blame you for something that’s out of your control.
Do what you can, when you can, and only that. We don’t expect, or want, more. We all hope the break helps and you’re feeling better soon.
Oh man, I have waited weeks for this. I think months, even. So many chapters end with a comment on your latest troubles, how you’ve been struggling, what fresh guilt you have over a late update. So many time I wished I could say something but, always, comments are locked due to the age of the post. I’ve been looking forwards to catching up for so long now!
Because obviously I want to gush about your story. It’s incredible, you deserve the highest praises there are. Nobody does worldbuilding like you. Nobody. I wish I could respond to every naysayer who had problems with one villain or another, or simply wrote off characters wholesale because they didn’t find them interesting or likeable. Have some faith people! Because you have shown time and time again that you are writing real characters with full histories, their own complex motivations, and with a real ability to grow, for better or worse. That goes for the entire setting as well. Eight thousand and more years of living history is no small feat! Gods, Elder and new, are fully realised people in a way that is rarely touched on in other works. And the seamless, apparently effortless, way you have meshed sci-fi and fantasy is a beautiful thing. Anyone complaining about that has too small an imagination, I think. After all, how is any complex system of magic anything but a science? And what is science fiction but fantasy for a critical mind? I had my doubts when Anne McCaffrey did it, but that was because she started messing with time travel. You made sure to make that off limits by word of god. Even now that it reads its head again, it doesn’t have a feel of desperation, it is simply another excellent twist in what is an excellent story. Because I have faith in you, and your vision, and the wonderful places you take us.
Please, please, have some faith in us too. We will eagerly await your next chapter, yes, but we will happily wait until it is ready. Until you are ready. What you have done so far is incredible, but it is only an extension of you. It is not more important than you. Our entertainment is not more important than your health. You are more than what you publish, which, by the way, you have been doing at a blistering pace. A serial is a wonderful thing for an audience, but you mustn’t feel beholden to any kind of timeframe just because you feel it’s the done thing. Write when you are ready, but only if you are ready. You say you have only one job, but it is absolutely not to entertain us. You do entertain us and for that we are thankful, but your one job is to look after yourself, first and foremost, always. Always you must come first. Yes you have enriched my life with your writing, but you don’t owe me anything. In fact, I want you to know I hope you keep your patreon open during this hiatus, no matter how long it may be. I have subscribed to your patreon because you deserve something for your work, but I will never demand you hurt your own well-being to deliver even one word one day earlier. Take all the time you need. I spent thirty years not reading The Gods Are Bastards, I’ll manage a few more just fine.
I don’t know you as a person, but I know how I feel when I read your story. I love how it hits me. I love what I get out of it, I love what it seems you put into it. I love you as much as any faceless fan can love an idol.
Please, do whatever it takes to love yourself.
I’m not going to tell you to take a break because every time I try to write something convincing I just end up fake-channeling a lecture scene from TGAB. You’ve written this shit already, man. What would Tellwyrn say to you, in your situation? What would Toby say???
The desire to keep bashing against that word processor when you aren’t in a state to write is coming from the “I suck” part of your brain, the same part that is preventing you from writing in the first place.
Feel that desire. Understand its source. Then let it go.
But by now we know that the US avoided the full-on fascism. Not by as much as we hoped. But we did.
Like you though, my depression is long-term, variable, and not based on what is really happening in my life. By my experience, I would advise reaching out to others, including professionals, friends, and yes, even fans. Finding a routine, but a routine that includes creativity and recreation. Especially regularity in medication and exercise. And regular contact of some satisfying kind with people.
If you can’t get there all at once, at least reach out and ask for help. I care, and I think most people do care about others, as long as they can slow down enough to see them.
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I’m not sure what I can add that everyone else hasn’t said already. Honestly, I was kind of surprised how many of us in the comments section have struggled with depression, but given how common it is in this day and age, I suppose it shouldn’t have been a huge shock. D. D. Webb. Your story has been amazing thus far, and I have enjoyed every bit of it. You write more fleshed out characters and societies than any published work I’ve seen. You should be proud of what you’ve created thus far.
That being said, of course your mental health is more important than continuing the story. As ModernMage said, it’s important that you enjoy writing this story. If you put yourself through agony to write it, you’ll only end up hurting yourself. Take whatever time you need. Get whatever help you need. Spend some time outside and try to avoid ruminating if you can. Find a way so see people, either remotely or socially distant, outside, and in masks. Those helped me through the worse times when my depression was more intense than it is now. Remember, we’re here for you. We may not know you personally, but we care about you.
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