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Taking a Few Days Off, November 2011

Folks,

I’m gonna take a few days off from blogging. I want to hunker down and finish a project I’ve been working on, which I’ll share with y’all soon enough. And lately I haven’t been able to quite manage both a couple thousand words on projects and writing up a blog post. And I’m going to use that as a segue to talk about mental health.

This constant workload is one of those things that ends up biting me. Lately has been a lot of “burning the candle at both ends” sort of activity, to finish up some stuff for other people. Unfortunately because of that, some days I just can’t get the words together at all. This is partly do to dealing with a psychiatric condition that causes excruciating headaches in times of stress or heavy continual brain contact. With the anti-anxiety medication I take[1], working an eight-hour day is doable, but the eleven-hour ones eat up my spoons quickly.

Having to deal with being a creative and dealing with psychiatric conditions means gauging your ability to work, and not working like you see other people doing. I would love to have the output that, say, Matt Forbeck has. Especially with his 12-for-12 project, which I encourage you to check out. But I can’t do that; I’ve tried, and found my neurochemistry doesn’t support my desired output. Since I’ve come to terms with that, I’m pretty watchful for “wait, the extra hour of work I’m about to do tonight is going to kill my brain for the whole of tomorrow. Fuck.”

I want to finish this project without crashing myself. And I want to finish it soon, because that’ll make me happy. So I’m at that point where I look at the “this is what I want to do” pile and “this is what I have the bandwidth for” meter, and decide what has priority.

Anyway, I figured I could just say “Hey, taking a break! Working on something cool!” and folks would just nod. But I wanted to say a little more, because I know I’m not the only creative type out there who deals with mental health issues.[2] I’m rather resentful of this limitation, but that’s what I get to deal with.

In the meantime, you should check out Elizabeth Shoemaker-Sampat’s new blog. Her first post is pretty amazing.

See you in a bit!

– Ryan

[1] Which is why I’m so very damned loud about health care in this country. Because I pay for the medication out of my pocket, and my thought process each time I do is “Okay, I’ve bought another 100 days of sanity & ability to work. What can I do with it?”

[2] I’ve always been quiet about such things, because I’m genuinely afraid that it’ll cause me to not get hired by some people. But I think I’m done being quiet.

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19 Responses to Taking a Few Days Off, November 2011

  1. My wife has struggled in the past with a spoon-related problem, so I can sympathize somewhat.

    As for your taking some time off from blogging, I say, “Godspeed, sir, and we look forward to your return!”

    Oh, and thanks for being open and honest about what’s going on. It’s much more appreciated than the “Taking a break” succinctness.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Jeremy,

      Yeah, I tend to be surrounded by people who have spoon issues, reading comprehension issues, all sorts of “less than normal” stuff (if you can buy that term, which I don’t know if I can.)

      Honestly, that colors a lot of my output. I’m an editor & mouthy about text design because I have seen for years how texts frustrated and sometimes even cripple the confidence of people.

      – Ryan

  2. Jess Banks says:

    I’m not your mom, but I’ll say this anyway: I’m proud of you for speaking up about your stuff, and for knowing when you need to take care of yourself.

    Part of my pride comes from being in a very similar boat, but not being very good at self-care. Often, it’s my body that decides it’s going to put a boot on my neck and keep me down. It’s effective, but often takes way more time than being responsible about my limits up front. Self-care is all tied up with guilt and obligation and self-worth, for me; I hope that’s not the case for you, or anyone else.

    And part comes from taking a stand so people like us become visible in the discourse. I’m off all my meds right now because our health insurance got jacked up. The last time I went off everything abruptly for insurance reasons, I landed in the hospital for the first time. Putting a price of sanity and safety is something no one should ever have to do, but there we are. It can be difficult to hold that situation up against people choosing between cancer treatment and rent, but that’s a false equivalency. Your ability to work and create and be happy is facilitated by health care differently than someone else’s, but it is precisely as valuable.

    Take care of you.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Jess,

      Ugh, You have my sympathies on being off meds.

      Yeah, having to put a price to the ability to think is rough. I also have to deal with other physical pain, and the price for dealing with those along with my anti-anxiety meds is too high. So I have weighed price on one to be worthwhile and the other to be too expensive.

      Thank you,

      – Ryan

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, thanks for the plug. I understand the mental health thing— it’s never worth killing yourself to do good work, because if you have to kill yourself to do it, it’s not going to turn out as well as it could have if you were in top form.

    See you on the other side. :)

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Yeah.

      That’s a painful realization that I starting coming to grips with last year. I still feel guilty when I’m watching a show or reading something not directly related to work, but if I don’t do those things, then I’m ruining myself for said work.

      Stupid overcorrecting work ethic.

      – Ryan

  4. Eddy Webb says:

    Amen.

    Your output is your output. A good product in half the time is not as valuable as a great product in twice the time. (Unless you’re working freelance, but that’s a separate issue.)

    Never let your pace get to the point where you end up hating the work.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Eddy,

      Freelancing is part of why my own games haven’t come out. I have the bandwidth to freelance or to make my own stuff.

      Since I’ve been blogging regularly, I’ve found that bandwidth slightly expand, like working on a muscle. But I’m still doing work for Evil Hat right now, and want to take the rest of that bandwidth for me for a bit.

      – Ryan

  5. EZ says:

    “But I think I’m done being quiet.”

    Fuck yes. I support this, so much.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I may blog more about being a creative, for myself & freelancing, and dealing with my happy fun anxiety.

      – Ryan

  6. Bravo on making a point to talk about this stuff in the open. I’m bipolar, and I made the decision to be “out” about it in general because I got tired of hearing people say really uneducated things about mental health issues. I will talk about it with coworkers if they ask me directly or if they’re saying ignorant things; I feel that the stigma associated with mental illness will only get better if those of us effected by it stand up.

    Two pills are the difference between me being a fully functional adult and someone that can’t hold a job or leave her apartment. They do have an effect on my creative output, but they let me be part of regular society. While I was out of work and without health insurance, those two pills cost me over $1000 a month. There are no generic options. Without them, it’s like making an appointment to lose my mind. Seeing the end of your sanity coming is one of the most frightening, helpless feelings in the world.

    Working on creative projects always throws me off balance, even with the appropriate meds. Sleep has always been the biggest problem for me. When I’m performing regularly, I don’t sleep. When I’m working on gaming stuff, I don’t sleep. It catches up quick – then I crash and am useless for a day or two.

    I hadn’t seen the Spoon Theory before. Great example of how to explain things.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Megan,

      Thanks for sharing!

      I’m bipolar
      I was diagnosed with that over 15 years ago. Though either my head shifted in my 20s (which I know it has somewhat, because the headaches didn’t start getting really bad until 2009, which corresponds to when I started my ratehr notable habit of drinking heavily), or I was misdiagnosed. Dunno. Anyway, point is: I hear you.

      Without them, it’s like making an appointment to lose my mind
      …Yeah. Man alive, I so hear that.

      Sleep has always been the biggest problem for me.
      Me, too. I used to say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Then I realized that I was in one sense signing my death warrant by not sleeping, because the headaches we getting worse and worse, and I was starting to think some really fucked-up shit, like walking on a bridge over a freeway to get home and think “I could totally get around this fence.”

      Which was the final straw to getting medical treatment, even though I could barely afford it.

      Good luck with your struggles. It’s a hell of a road, but it’s the road we’re on.

      – Ryan

  7. Anna says:

    “But I think I’m done being quiet.”

    THIS. OMG THIS. I’m just now getting to the point where I feel comfortable enough to be open about my mental health issues with just my friends. I applaud you for being able to talk about this so publically.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Anna,

      Thanks!

      I’ll admit, it’s fucking frightening. I’m looking for a job right now, and I have been so hesitant because employers google you these days. But then I’m finally at that point, partly because the Occupy movement resonates with me due mainly do my inability to obtain health insurance, that I don’t want to be quiet.

      Too many people equal “mental health issues” with “dysfunctional and unworthwhile”. I hate this stigma, because it’s not true. And, to be totally tooting my horn, I kinda feel like my virtual shelf of RPG awards demonstrates that.

      – Ryan

  8. Mick Bradley says:

    Dude, I’m gratified to know – especially right at this particular time – that someone that I admire & respect goes through pretty much the same crap I do with freelancing, bandwidth, juggling, mental health, etc. Thanks for sharing and for helping to light the path.

  9. You know my feelings on this, in general and as it relates to – well – both of us. I’m glad to see you taking some time and taking care of yourself. Very much, and good dialogue.

  10. Laura says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to not only balance being bi-polar, but has to force themselves to remember that breaks are needed to maintain stability and future focus. Take your time and we’ll see you when we see you. Your people understand the need to take care of yourself in order to produce the awesome things you do. <3

  11. You know what I think, Ryan, and that I think it often and with much force. You know, too, that I am in favor of a healthy Macklin and honesty about what makes us us. So, then: onward.

  12. Jason Pitre says:

    Best of luck with your current project and getting a volume of output that satisfies you. I applaud you for rationing your spoons on getting your creative projects done. Furthermore, your transparency is a sign of your character which should impress any employer.

    Take care of yourself, you can only inspire us to design if you are (relatively) healthy and well.