By all accounts – by my own assessment even – I have it pretty good right now. My story, Diamonds are a Space Miner’s Best Friend, went live in the latest issue of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine yesterday. I have one other sale pending contract for a story I truly love and can’t wait to share. Several more stories on hold. My novel is now propagating through sites for pre-order, and is live on many sites now. The writing career is moving along.
I have it pretty good personally, too. My wife is always awesome and we have a wonderful relationship. My kids are doing well. Amanda is building a name for herself as a Youtuber discussing polyamory and sexuality topics, Aedan has a job, Gareth and Liam and doing their school things. All have my love and support. My father is healthy despite his pacemaker issues (needed a new battery). Covid has avoided most of the family. Finances are solid, and I’m gainfully employed.
So, it came as a bit of a surprise to me recently that I felt… surly. Mean. Downright angry even. I didn’t snap at anyone, held my tongue, though I do recall casting nasty glances at the dog a few times (poor guy, didn’t deserve it). I recognized I was in a wrong frame of being and decided it best to shut up and figure it out. But boy, was I mad. Over the next days, sleep issues joined it. Unable to fall asleep one night. Waking up at 12:30 or 1:00 and being unable to get back asleep another.
I’m not unfamiliar with those feelings. I’ve had them in the past before. They usually coincided with difficult periods, when finances were tight, relationships weren’t healthy, and I engaged in self-destructive behaviors. During those periods, feelings of anger were tied to feelings of depression, of feeling helpless. A whole bundle of emotional issues, wrapped together. I’d come to expect them, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt any of those, let alone separated from one another.
This certainly felt different. For one, I wasn’t depressed. At all! I generally felt positive about my life and the people around me. As angry as I am at the state of the world right now, I’m able to compartmentalize that into another part of my brain so it won’t impact my daily life. I prefer to live a low-key, non-confrontational lifestyle, which works well for an introvert. Even when I post a snarky reply to some dumb comment on a site like Reddit, I usually hit the “disable inbox replies” so I don’t see any of the followups. I made my point. You said something, I said something; balance achieved. Hell, often these days I write a reply, then immediately erase it and never post it. Just the process gets the poison out of my system.
So, I worked on getting the novel ready for release. I’ll do a full post about this later, but Ingramspark, which I’ve chosen because I intend to release widely, kicked my ass. It’s not entirely intuitive, and there are some steps that don’t have good explanations. Like… if you use their book builder, you ALSO have to use their cover builder. The very cool cover file you created from the template they provide can NOT be used, because it has white space (for printer marks, which makes sense). The cover builder isn’t designed for that, it’s designed for a full page cover image.
Lesson learned, but it took way too long to figure it out on my own. Their help files weren’t any use, and there wasn’t a single Youtube video that explained this, despite numerous that talked about making covers for Ingramspark. That frustrates a person like me, who is used to figuring out problems quickly and moving past them. Not getting that jolt of joy from “SUCCESS!” keeps me off balance.
Then there was getting the files converted over to KDP, because I decided to do that separately (higher royalties by using Amazon KDP directly, and leaving Ingramspark for everything else). A whole other topic, worthy of another post, too. Needless to say, this did not make me any happier.
All of this, I eventually realized, had created stress. Not short term work stress, which I’ve experienced in recent years, but an ongoing life stress over several weeks. After spending a couple of days sorting out the majority of my novel problems, I took time to reflect on my anger and recognize it for what it was. This was new to me. I’d never experienced stress WITHOUT depression and anxiety before. WITHOUT burying it beneath the oxytocin rush of bad habits (another post I’ll have to write one day).
We’re human. We experience a TON of emotions all at the same time, and we can rarely sort them from one another. They’re all bundled together, clogging the mental lines. It’s hard to address a root cause when you don’t know which emotion is the primary one. Which one is pointing to a real problem. Experiencing only one of them felt odd, but also left me better able to manage it and control it.
Now that the worst is past, the novel is submitted, and I’m back to my usual levels of stress… hey, whatdayaknow, I can sleep again! I’m not angry any more. All of which is a relief for me. I don’t like feeling that way. Don’t enjoy having to keep my wonderful, loving wife at arm’s length because I don’t want to inflict her with emotional baggage by being snappish when she’s not the problem. Don’t enjoy the ongoing sense of exhaustion, and that the world is off kilter.
We all feel stress. We see videos posted every day of people reacting to stress poorly. Maybe we need to give some of those folks a little more of a pass. Yes, some of them are completely out of control. They go on racist, sexist rants. They get violent. Absolutely, call those people out, because THOSE reactions aren’t acceptable. But for the rest, let’s try to understand. It’s hard to separate stress from all the other emotions we’re feeling. We aren’t going to be our best selves when we’re under its thumb. And we won’t be able to see what’s going on because it’s buried under other emotions which mask it and may present as the “real problem.” Our stress may lead to depression, and we may “act out” when we are depressed in order to feel good again. Or we may lash out in anger at those who are not offending us because we don’t know where to turn to safely release our emotions. Neither of these are healthy, but fortunately we can get help for them.
If you do recognize that you are under stress or other emotions that are causing difficulties in your life, see a professional if you can and get the help you need. If you can’t, here’s some CDC guidelines for trying to cope with it.They may not cure the root cause, but could give you some tools for managing your feelings.
Some things can’t be helped, though. When money is tight, when relationships are frayed, when nothing seems to be going right and your overworked and exhausted, stress can’t be wished away. But if you can recognize it, you can at least perhaps keep yourself from misdirecting it at those who love you and want to support you. Or trying to mask it with self-destructive behaviors that make you feel good.
This time, my stress was manageable and I could address it. I figured out the pressure points. I tackled the problem creating it, solved it, and moved forward. I hope the same happens the next time I feel stress (probably right around the time I’m releasing another book… publishing is WAY more stressful than writing or editing, at least for me).
Be well, friends.