I've debated sharing this with you all for some time. In the grand scheme of things, my recent struggles seem very small in comparison. In my own life, I've experienced worse than my current situation. But, I believe that sharing this story may help others. So here it is...
Three and a half years ago I experienced a bout of severe unexplained fatigue. I went to the doctors, changed my diet, exercised more, exercised less, tried supplements, took vitamins, and anything and everything else I could think of to feel better. Nothing worked. Experts blamed stress. I didn't. I knew something was wrong, but I kept going about my daily life trying to push it to the side. After six months it disappeared as strangely as it came. Until this past month...
At the beginning of April I started to feel the odd fatigue again. Only this time it was ten times worse. I cut out going to karate and the gym. I went to bed earlier and had a tougher time getting up in the morning. Eventually, I stopped writing anything new for weeks, when I'd gone only days before at the most. This more than anything sent the red flags up. I KNEW something was wrong.
When I went to the doctors over three years ago, I was borderline for a thyroid condition. This time it was without a doubt. I have Hashimoto's, a condition in which antibodies in the immune system attack the thyroid until there is low function or none at all. I'm not alone as 1 in 5 people develop a thyroid problem within their lifetime. I am so relieved to have a diagnosis and now, to be on the path to feeling better.
So, why am I telling you all this? First and foremost, I urge you all to trust your instincts. If something is wrong, don't stop pursuing the matter until you have an answer. Second, and this is the advice my friend gave me, give yourself a break. When I was going through all this, I felt incredibly guilty. I wasn't meeting my writing goals like I wanted. I wasn't working out which has always been important to me. I struggled some days to get out of bed or walk my dog, and when I couldn't, I felt guilty. And for what? The guilt didn't help me at all. It certainly didn't make me feel better.
When you're going through a rough patch, don't be too hard on yourself. As writers, we can be our own worst enemies. When we have feelings of self-doubt or guilt or frustration, we internalize it. "Oh my work sucks." "No one will want to read this." "I can't believe I didn't write X words today." Etc. These attitudes are all self-defeating and pointless. It's absolutely important to set goals and believe in your work, but when life throws you a curve ball, give yourself a break. Be good to yourself and acknowledge your needs. If you need to take some time off, take it. If you're on a deadline and need more time, be honest and upfront about it. Being writers is who we are, but we can't be our best selves, unless we're good to ourselves first.
Have you ever gone through a rough patch that affected your writing? How did you handle it? What advice would you give to others for getting through it?