I've been wanting to ask this question for a while, but today's ("should I mention my impending demise") blog post gave me the courage. I want to preface this by saying if it makes you too uncomfortable, you don't have to put it on your blog or answer at all. I know this isn't the happiest of subjects, and I never want to hurt you or anyone else by bringing this up.
I suffer from severe depression. Lots of listlessness, oversleeping/eating, self-loathing, that sort of thing. Definitely not fun, do not recommend. I've had depression for seven years, but recently it's been getting worse. Sometimes, I go through these things I call "spirals," which are periods of time when I feel much worse than my normal not-doing-so-hot. I'm managing it the best I can with what I have, but it gets tough sometimes.
This brings me to my question. In December, I was at the beginnings of a spiral, and I got a partial request for a book I'd assumed was going nowhere. Which sounds great! But the thought of submitting my work and getting rejected again just about destroyed me. In my agitated state, I kept thinking about the inevitable "thanks but no thanks" and it made me feel worthless. And I know, your writing is not you, but it sure does *feel* like it. Writing is the only thing I kind of like about myself, so when I get full/partial rejections, it hurts a lot more than it should. When I'm feeling normal, full/partial rejections just ruin my day. In a spiral, I'm praying a rouge meteor will fall from the sky and smite me.(**)
So what should I do? I love writing. It's the only thing keeping me somewhat sane in this miserable existence, and I would love to share my work with the world (and get paid for it, of course). And participating in query challenges or sprints with my writing group helps motivate me to keep going. But the nature of publishing is so difficult for me. I can send a full/partial when I'm feeling okay, like today, but a response can come months later, when I might be in a spiral. It's like a book version of Russian roulette; I never know when a rejection will come, so I can't prepare myself for it. I never sent that partial request. Should I forget it, even though I'm squandering an opportunity? Should I pull my one remaining full too, so I don't risk being in a spiral for that rejection? And what does that mean for future books? I can't bear the thought of never querying again and giving up on my dream of seeing my book in bookstores. I may not always feel this terrible. My depression has gotten worse because of recent stressors, so theoretically, when those go away I'll feel closer to my normal more often. But I'm also concerned. When mere partial requests--not even rejections yet-- have me eyeing the kitchen knives, I know I have to do something different.
Again, you don't have to answer if this makes you uncomfortable! I know it's a hard thing to talk about, and I've had years of practice. Also, I want to make it clear I'm in no immediate danger. I'm feeling pretty okay right now, and I have no intention of harming myself. No need for any suicide hotline links or anything (trust me, I have them all). I'm just trying to find a solution for now, and hopefully one day I won't have to worry about querying sending me into an abyss of despair. My goal is to get to normal amounts of woodland creature despair :) Thank you so much for your time, as always, and I really appreciate your blog and the community surrounding it.
Usually I redact the personal parts of a question, but I left them in here because I think it's important to have the complete picture.
I'm glad you're doing ok and not considering harming yourself. I'm glad you realize that's something to be concerned about. Please know that this world would be a poorer place for your absence. It's clear you're a good writer. The world needs all of those it can hang on to. Therefore, (**) no meteors for you my preciousssss.
Second, there is no one true answer here. I wish there was because then I would bottle it and give it away for free to everyone who needs it.
And everyone who needs it includes aLOT of creative types. Writers. Octo-spiders. Woodland creatures of all sorts. In other words, you're not alone.
But returning to reality, let's talk about what to do when you're querying with an unquiet mind.
The first thing to do is give yourself permission to handle this in the way that allows you to best function. Fuck the rules. Fuck the guidelines. Fuck anyone who makes you feel diminished or less, in any way, for taking care of yourself.
If getting rejections isn't a good thing for you, add a step to the process. A separate email address and someone else to monitor it sounds like a good idea to me, but really anything you set up that works for you is just fine.
It takes thick skin to put your creative work into the marketplace, and sometimes you just don't have skin that thick. That's not a character flaw or a personal failing. It's just a fact. Figure out a work around.
If you're a member of a writing community, someone there could be your stand in; sending out partials, receiving emails, keeping a data base you can look at on your timeline.
I respect your willingness to talk about your illness here, but I don't want you to feel obliged to offer it up if you don't want to. This is your personal business, and you need only share information with agents that will help us do our jobs better. For instance, if you have a stand in, tell me. Or mentioning that email replies can be delayed. Or setting up a system to alert you to the fact I have news, but not sharing it till you call back, ready to hear it. In other words: what works for YOU.
Mental illness is illness and people telling you to buck up or get over yourself should be removed from your contacts data base as well as shunned by polite society. It is a MANAGEABLE illness and what you do to manage it (other than binge drinking and/or developing a heroin habit!) is your choice. Choose the path that keeps you healthy. Nothing else matters.
I hope you will continue to be part of the community that has grown up around this blog. There are many wonderful caring people out there and you're one of them. There are also people who are managing mental illness like you are, who didn't write in and are benefiting from your bravery here.