Category: mental health


015: writer burn out

This year for NaNoWriMo I decided to write in Swedish, my first language. I haven’t used it in fiction for well over a decade, and while it worked… sort of… it also nearly broke me. The rhythm in the both languages are very different, and what sounds good in English often sounds clunky in Swedish, and the other way around. I still wanted to try. Afterwards I went head first into a I CAN’T WRITE EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE I CAN’T BE A WRITER, ETC, every writer knows this one very well, I’m sure. I’ve had writing a blog post on my to do list for about three weeks. That’s how much I didn’t want to write anymore

But. I am a writer. I think in stories. Right now I work going through old records and digitalising them to be put in geneology databases. I’m focusing on something called soldattorp — crofts (I think) for military. In the 1600s to 1800s every soldier was assigned one, a small cottage, that they lived in while on active duty. We’re going through every inhabitant and finding as much info as we can, though I’m sticking to the 1800s, because reading old handwriting from the 1600s is beyond me. At least at this point.

This is some of the pretty handwriting from the early 1800s. Most of it isn’t this legible, but this I photographed because it’s basically art. From the left that’s date of birth and baptism, name (underlined), parents identity, and if they died young, their name is struck out and there’s a date on the right with their date of death — död is Swedish for death.

We look in old records, mostly books that priests kept back in the day, noting down births, deaths, marriages, people moving away, military service, etc. Looking through these books we note things like:

  • Birth date, location of birth.
  • Death date, location of death, cause of death when possible.
  • Parents, their maiden and married names.
  • If married, their wife’s name, maiden name, birth and death date, cause of death.
  • Children, birth dates.

And so forth.

This is death records, annoyingly cropped to remove some identifying stuff. First column is name, location, name of spouse. Second is date of death. Third marks whether they’re married, unmarried, widowed, etc. Fourth is just a page number. Fifth is cause of death. Most of these are tuberculosis (lungsot), but pneumonia, heart failure, old age, etc are common too.

The other day I found a man, who was conscripted into the military at age 10, as a musician. We went through so many records trying to figure out if there was an error date wise — who even joins the military at ten years old, even in the mid 1800s? — but eventually found proof that it was indeed true. I kept digging, found his parents names, that he was unmarried, and at last, in a book like the one above, that he committed suicide, at age 31.

I spent probably two hours on him (note: I’m not actually educated in this stuff, it’s part of a program to activate disabled people, and I’m learning as I go so I’ll get faster I’m sure), and as I did it I slowly found myself wondering how a story about him would go. I probably won’t write it, because that’s not really my genre, but this guy’s fate somehow made me want to write again. I haven’t yet, because I’m busy with Christmas prep and trying to give my brain a break, but the feeling of it returning, slowly, over a week or more, is quite something.

I’m not entirely sure how or when I’ll start writing again, but a week ago the answer was NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS (I love a bit of dramatics tbh), so this is nice. I’m not even sure what the point of this post even is, other than that writing a few words seemed like a good place to start, and to note that writer burnout is very real, and I’m grateful that I’m starting to recover.

(As an aside, if you think you have this problem, read this or this for some pointers, I found these three posts helpful, particularly the first two.)


005: On girls and ADHD

Okay, so I’m not an expert. I was diagnosed two weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten any medication or any help at all as of yet, because that’s just the way it goes at my mental health clinic. (That’s a story in of itself.)

But yes, I first got help for depression and anxiety when I was nineteen. That’s 1999. I’ve been on so many medications since then (eight I think? or nine?), but my anxiety has still been doing its thing anyway, especially in social settings. I just can’t keep up and it’s just terrible.

This year, in spring, my psychiatrist asked me if I would like to be evaluated for neuropsychiatric conditions. (That phrase isn’t used outside Sweden, it seems. It means autism, Aspergers, ADHD, etc.) At first I said no. I was upset at the possibility of having been misdiagnosed for eighteen years.

I thought about it. I talked to my sister (she said do it). I talked to my mum (she said you don’t need it). And my friends, and… yeah. Lots of people. And I read up on it, and thought “yes, maybe…”

I ended up saying yes. And so, I had a very intense week of extensive tests of all kinds at the beginning of October. I had to travel to the next town over, which took up towards an hour each time. There were four days. So I went, travelling for an hour each way four times in the span of a week, and did tests and talked to three different people and honestly, I’ve been going to mental health clinics for almost twenty years, but this was different. It was harder. And I was scared they’d end up saying it was nothing and that I’d have done it all for no reason.

On the last day I met the psychiatrist and psychologist together. They told me I have ADHD. Or ADD, rather. They told me girls, especially the ones growing up in the eighties, like me, often slipped through the cracks. Back then all focus was on hyperactivity, which is more common for boys. Girls generally have the inattentive thing going. It can cause anxiety and depression because you just can’t keep up with everything around you and it’s just too much.

I felt a little bit like I was hit by a ton of bricks. I also felt like I did when I figured out that I was queer. Like I found a puzzle piece I didn’t know was missing. It felt good, actually. It still does. I’ve been reading about it, and today I came across this on Instagram. It’s a page from a book, and it’s in Swedish so I’m going to transcribe it:

Characteristics; adults with ADHD:
Inattentiveness (often in boring circumstances only)
Hyperactivity (often decreasing with age)
Chronic inner nervousness (“thousands of thoughts at once”)
Disorganised (“chaotic life style”)
Quick mood changes
Doesn’t reach their intellectual potential (grades, etc)
Difficulties when routines and discipline is required
Difficulties with hierarchical structures
Interruption in friendships and relationships (including high divorce rate)
Interruption in education, work life, unemployment
Often co-exists with addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, personality disorders

Positive traits; adults with ADHD:
Taking risks
Quick learning
Ability to organise others
Hyper focus
Courage to question rules, hierarchies, etc
Strategies to compensate (good memory, clean house, etc)

10 out of 13 (list 1) and 7 out of 11 (list 2) is me. Despite this, and despite the diagnosis, people are telling me it can’t be me. I can’t have ADHD. I can focus, they say. I’m smart, they say. I have good grades, they say.

Actually, when it looks like I’m focusing I need multiple things to keep me focused (a timer, music to shut out the outside, knitting in my hands), and I use half the time I look focused trying to sort the facts inside my head before I can do anything with them.

I’m smart. They got that right. My grades, however, are just above average. They should’ve been better, I was told, given my intellect.

(I feel like I’m bragging. I’m honestly not. I’m just relieved that there’s a reason for my average grades, my inability to keep things neat, to remember where I put things, to filter out the conversation at the table behind me and focus on the person I’m talking to.)

They encouraged me to go back to school. Maybe I will. My university transcripts contain an endless row of half finished courses and interrupted attempts at learning things the way I’m supposed to. I always thought it was because I was… not stupid, but unable to follow through on things. To finish them.

I guess we know why, now.

I’ll probably have more to say on this topic once I’ve seen my regular psychiatrist (the people doing the evaluation aren’t allowed to do more than evaluate and send the results to the person referring me to them), but for now I’m just relieved.

So yes. I was misdiagnosed for eighteen years. My social anxiety and agoraphobia was likely caused at least in part by untreated ADHD.

I’m thirty-seven years old. I finally have an answer.


003: Chaos brain meets #bulletjournaling

I resisted at first. I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to do the bandwagon thing. (I’m that girl, who refused to read Harry Potter until Goblet of Fire was out, because everyone loved it and I SURE AS HELL WOULDN’T. Then I needed a book for a plane ride and here we are.) I have to admit, though, that I’m a mess without one. I get nothing done. I forget birthdays. I’m unsure what day it is. Etc.

I fall off the wagon a lot. But when I do use it regularly I feel so much better.

21689260_122078798453653_6999316754123980800_nI started with squiggles to minimise the use of a ruler. Sadly the monthly spread and habit tracker kind of requires it.

21690039_742569189266665_1473875739097956352_nMore squiggles. Also: ‘Do this shit’ section is highly recommended. If I only have it at the monthly spread I’m not suitably shamed to do it.

21911286_1538885259513397_1444235143291076608_nI do the calendar method for my writing too. One sticker is 3 x 20 mins. Two stickers is 6 x 20 mins. I get a 5 min break after the two first blocks and a 15 min break after the third. Rinse and repeat. (And yes, stickers are as motivational now as in first grade. Truly.)

21910020_2030749373877897_1789978309812027392_nWriting is also easier with a graph to motivate me. Filling things out fills me with joy, I can’t help it. The dashed lines are where I’m supposed to be on Sunday of that week. This week I’m still high on LET’S DO THIS, I don’t expect the future weeks to be that much ahead of the plan all the way to NaNoWriMo, which is as far as this specific graph will take me.


002: On mental illness

I try to talk about mental health and not gloss over the truth. I’ve been doing that for years, and will continue to do so. It’s not always easy, and there are times when I wish a simple “I can’t do x tonight” would do. But for the most part: there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to mental illness, and no, telling me I don’t “look” mentally ill really isn’t helping. It’s not a compliment.

So anyway. I’ve been given a boatload of different diagnoses and medications in my days. Not all of them were correct, obviously, but the current labels are recurring major depressions, generalised anxiety and agoraphobia. I take four kinds of medications, one of them twice daily. I can go outside on good days. I have a very low threshold for stimuli (sounds, scents, movements) and voices often turn into noise rather than words. I have a lot of limitations, but I have a garden that help me, I craft to calm my brain when I have trouble keeping it from wandering in a hundred different directions (“I feel a little crazy today” or “my brain is everywhere and I can’t make it stop” are both very real things I say) and when I can control my environments I can be quite productive and feel almost ‘normal’, whatever that means.

I know people don’t blog the way they used to, these days. I don’t care. I think I’m going to use this blog that way anyway. At least until my brain starts wandering in a completely different direction.