By Sabrina John
How do you write a book about mental illness whilst battling with mental illness?
This is my most googled question, along with ‘How do you chose happiness when happiness is not a choice?’ and ‘How do you find willpower when your will to live is gone?’ Even now, with one manuscript under my belt, all productivity goes out the window when my PMDD brain takes over and brings imposter syndrome and depression along for the ride. My once Nobel Prize-winning literature becomes nothing but an Oscar-worthy monologue about why I should delete everything, quit, run, and bury myself in the Titanic-sized iceberg also known as ‘Writers Block, ’and stay there forever!
Anyone who suffers with a mood disorder knows it is just not as simple as embracing the power of positive thinking. You certainly can’t just “Mind over matter” it when it’s your mind that IS the matter! The day I accepted this was the day I found my flow as an author. Acceptance, and these three other tips, helped me finally finish my first book and continue my writing as a meditation author whilst battling a mental illness.
Be gentle with your soul.
Think of your soul like your inner child. All your soul wants to do is to express itself, to say what it wants, needs, and feels, without being silenced. If you are anything like me then for years you have held your feelings back, battling with the silent disease of mental illness. Part of my healing came from finally giving a voice to the child inside my soul. Yes, you were once born free, before you became who you were told to be. It is time to tell your story because you are a survivor. That little voice inside will surprise you if you give it the chance to. Listen to it.
Write like you only have one month to complete your book.
I am the landlord to a chronic tenant called Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This leach on my life can cause me to lose the love not only for where I live, but for those whom I love, myself, my life, and my projects, for 2-3 weeks out of a month. PMDD is a self-destruct button and detonator resulting in me quitting on everything during its eruption. Before I was diagnosed correctly, the constant cycle of beginning at page one all the time felt like a curse. Now, I treat it as a blessing because I know how precious my good days are; I know that when I get the urge to write I have a limited time to give it my full attention. I write like my book’s life depends on it, setting a monthly 30,000-word goal, giving myself no time to edit it or over-analyze. The mission is to get as much down on paper as possible. The more I have, the less I want to destroy it. This urgency helped me write 50,000 words of my first book in three weeks.
Go with your flow.
You are a writer, there is no right or wrong way to be this, so just do you! Some days you will sit and bang away confidently at the keys, other days you will just, well… bang them! That is ok; allow yourself the time and space to find your own rhythm without judgement. Write in the morning, write late at night. One day, you will write your best work at the kitchen table and the next you may find your peace writing in the bathroom sink. No rules. Allow yourself to just flow and let it go! Meditate whenever you can, for however long you can, and embrace the peaks and valleys process.
At the end of that first month, print out your pages, unedited and unfinished. Hold your brand new baby book! It may not be ready yet, but it’s born! Celebrate that success. Feel your mind on the pages with your actual hands, and see your thoughts in black and white.
Remember, you cannot remove your brain, nor your mental illness. You may or may not be able to cure it fully right now. Instead of fighting against it, embrace it. The fact you want to write about it is where your power lies. Your brain is not broken, it’s the beauty of your book, and your courage to still show up and speak out is the miracle. Allow your life to live on the pages, because you are incredible and it’s time to share your story.
Lastly, you don’t have to find that magic perfect moment to start writing your book. Your imperfections already make you the prefect person to tell it, like no one ever can and no one will ever do.
Sabrina John is a British Author who recently relocated to Bath UK after 15 years in America. Her first book ‘Somewhere Between Losing My Mind & Finding My Soul’ is due for release in Spring 2021. ‘Glow With Your Flow’ The Podcast about all things Mental and Menstrual Health is launching 28th September 2020. Sabrina can be found hugging trees and on Instagram @sabrinajohn.co.