When I dropped off of the Internet, it wasn't meant to be a years long sabbatical. I thought I just needed a break; that I was getting burned out from writing Basement Songs and movie reviews for Popdose.com. Something cracked, though, and I couldn't consider writing even in a journal for a very long time. Things changed in the winter of 2017. While driving to pick up Jacob at theater rehearsal, I experienced my first panic attack. It started immediately after he got in the car at the theater and it slowly took over my body for the fifteen minute drive home. My skin became clammy and I felt myself removed from my body. My brain was empty and I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. I gutted it out until we walked through the front door. Without saying a word, I went upstairs, crawled into bed and got in the fetal position. I just wanted to close my eyes and shut out the world. The next morning I awoke exhausted, as if I'd exercised the previous day. That was the first time I understood that panic attacks are as much a physical experience as they are mental. I went through my regular day and thought it was just one of those things that happened. I didn't even know if I called it a panic attack the first time. But I knew that something was off. The first true indication that I had to remove myself from the Internet was when I went to write my next Popdose piece. As I tried to write, my fingers became dead weight and I could feel that same panicky sensation brewing. That's when I chose to stop writing. As painful as it was to just quit, something I never would have considered because I was raised not to be a quitter, it was such a relief, too. To not worry if anyone was reading my posts (most peiple weren't) and to not compare my ratings to those of my fellow writers took such a load off of my shoulders. I'm sure many of you know that feeling, the feeling that not enough folks have liked you posts on Facebook or Instagram. It's a vicious thing getting sucked into that cycle. Vicious. I thought that was the end, that ditching writing for Popdose would cure me. It didn't. It wasn't just writing on the Internet that froze me; I quickly found out that when I tried to work on a screenplay the same feelings crept in. Faced with the idea of not writing a screenplay, a new fear overtook me: if I wasn't going to be a screenwriter, what the hell was I doing with my life? Petrified that my life journey of being a writer was now something I couldn't do anymore, I bottled up even more.
I don't want to drag this out for a series of extended posts; there's no need to go into the minute details. So I'll wrap up my ongoing mental health journey with this post. After I basically quit writing, I began the work on myself. From 2017 to the middle of 2019, the only things I wrote were 10 minute dramas for our church, and let me tell you, even those were a challenge. But when God gives you a deadline, you don't mess around. There was a real depression that came with the relief of not writing or worrying about writing scripts. Again, if I wasn't writing, what was I doing? I really struggled with this question because we had moved from Ohio to Los Angeles so I could pursue a career in film. Even though I'd written and directed a movie, and sold a script, in my mind that wasn't good enough. I couldn't appreciate all of the great things in my life, and the solid career that I had forged in animation over 18 years. It took some real work: a lot o