Writing a Book about Bipolar and Depression Almost Killed Me
I’ve been forced to realize that writing my book about bipolar and depression has almost killed me. This is hot hyperbole, this is really what has happened. Of course, most people aren’t about to sit down and write/publish a book tomorrow but the point is that a massive effort and stressor has gotten to me. Almost killing me was not what I thought writing a book would do.
Writing Lost Marbles
As most people know, I’ve written my first book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar (More about what’s in the book here.) This, of course, was a huge undertaking. Even though some of the content was pulled from existing sources, almost everything had to be rewritten for quality and editing reasons. It was a much bigger effort than I initially thought it was going to be.
And I was very lucky that my boss at HealthyPlace allowed me some time from my regular duties to work on it and work on it I did. Day and night. But holding down writing jobs to pay the bills while also writing/editing a book is very hard. Books take extended periods of concentration that, for example, blog articles do not.
All that said, the writing of it went pretty well. My writing is pretty good straight up so my editor didn’t need to suggest radical changes. So far, so good.
Publishing Lost Marbles
As most of you know, last week the paperback for Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar was released. This was a big week for me. While the eBook has been out for a few weeks, this was the first time that I knew people were physically holding my work in their hands. It truly was glorious.
And I can honestly say it was the publishing of the book that sent me over the edge. It was all the minutia of cover design and ensuring perfection in the interior and so forth that really did me in. The writing of the book set the scene and the publishing of it played that scene out.
Lost Marbles, The Mental Illness
So what’s been happening is a mixed/ultradian cycling mood that is the worst I’ve ever experienced compounded by a lack of sleep (caused by the mood, causing the mood – it’s a vicious cycle). I’ve never felt this crazy for this long. My experience of bipolar is so rooted in prolonged depressions that this has felt extra-specially nutty to me.
And, as you may know, mixed states carry a particularly high risk of suicide and I have certainly felt this in the states I have been in recently. I haven’t tried to take my life but, boy, were those feelings ever blanketing my every moment.
My psychiatrist and I are working hard to battle the mood back but bipolar is being very, very stubborn and there have been times over the last few weeks when I was pretty sure it was winning.
What to Do About Extreme Stressors Like Writing a Book
I’ve always wanted, and planned, to write a book on bipolar and depression. This was always in the works for me but the actual doing of it sort of snuck up on me (another story). What I can tell you, though, is I put an obscene amount of pressure on my shoulders to get it done and get it out as quickly as possible. No slack time. Work time. I did this for a very good reason, I thought: I have tried to write a book before and it just never came together. This is because the effort was spread out. I felt I needed major pressure in order to truly complete this task.
I have said before that being hard on myself is imperative to success in bipolar – and I believe that to be true in my case – but there are limits to what any one person with bipolar in her brain can do. Sheesh. Recognizing limits is critical, too. (Not something of which I am unaware, just something at which I’m not exceptionally good.)
In addition to recognizing my own limits, other things that would have helped would have been:
- Building in some of that dreaded slack time – This means not getting everything out on a schedule that assumes everything will go perfectly. This means building in a buffer of reasonableness. This includes not gluing yourself to a due date when you don’t have to. (While people kept asking me for a release date, it truly was my choice to give them one. And I did meet it.)
- Building in rest time – Holy moly writing a book is hard. Editing a book is hard. Laying out a book is hard. Going from an eBook to a paperback is hard. Designing and getting a cover done is hard. Some time to rest in between steps would have been helpful.
- Not ignoring the first signs of a mood change – Yes, I admit it, I did ignore the first signs that something was wrong because I was just so darned busy that I didn’t have time to deal with it. Yes, well. I should have made time. Signs that a bipolar mood is changing should always be the first priority – even before a book. Because, of course, if you don’t have your health, you can’t possibly expect to complete the project anyway.
- Focusing more on sleep – That first sign thing? That was my compromised sleep. I know for myself that sleep is the number one indicator of future moods and yet I didn’t make it the priority it should have been.
- Not making medication changes – I’m also guilty of making a major medication change in the middle of all of this. This was not smart. I didn’t think about it at the time but I’ve always said, and it’s true, that you should never change medications at a holiday or in the middle of a major stressor (if you can avoid it).
- Allowing time for perfectionism – I’m a perfectionist. I always have been. It’s not the best character trait, I admit, but when publishing a book, it’s actually pretty good because you do want it to be perfect. That said, you need time to make it that way. Perfection does not come easily or quickly.
- Relied more on others – I did this thing on a shoestring of a budget. I only employed help where I absolutely needed to. Nevertheless, it might have been better to hire more people to take some of the weight off of me. Money is just money. Sanity is considerably more important.
And I’m sure there are other things, too. (If you have suggestions, you are more than welcome to leave them in the comments section below.)
Long story short, I now have a book to my name and I am thrilled. I am not thrilled. I think it’s pretty good and I hope you’ll agree. However, with dealing with the life consequences of doing it in the manner in which I did it. I have paid a very high price for my book, personally. The good news is that this will be a lesson-learner for sure and I will make different decisions for my next book.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.