Being A Functional Crazy Person Involves Knowing Your Limits.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’ve been doing a lot of promotion for my new book – and on Tuesday, release day, I did the big push of doing two release events within eight hours. Two events where I stared at a screen and pretended to be an extrovert, reading from my new book, carrying the conversation, being interesting even though I couldn’t see an audience or a chat screen.

(If you wanna watch me do it again, I’ll be on Tubby and Coo’s YouTube at 7p.m. EST tonight. And if you want me on your podcast/YouTube/blog, well, get in touch.)

But come Wednesday, the three weeks I’d spent gearing up for Automatic Reload‘s release all came crashing down. I couldn’t think; I just stared at the screen, trying to summon up words or code or whatever. I could not speak; all my words were slurried half-stammers.

I had things to do. I had an important deadline at work. I had more events to plan. I had to retweet reviews, I had to catch up on old emails, I had to write my new book…

What I actually did was rest.

I did not want to rest.

But part of being an optimized crazy person is knowing when you can push, and when you can’t. I had been running hard since the beginning of July, knowing I was accumulating stress I could not burn off, and I knew I’d pay for it some day.

That day had arrived.

The other days, keeping up the grind was costing me, but “pushing myself” then meant “the bill was in the mail.” I could keep going, and the crash would be hard, but it wouldn’t leave scars.

Yesterday, if I’d pushed myself?

Something would have broken.

So I hated it, but I called out sick to work and played Monster Train on automatic pilot, and watched reruns of MAS*H, and curled up with my wife. I should have been doing Dramatic Things, but that effort would have torn my willpower in half, like a hernia of the brain, so I just loathed my quiet and let my body heal.

(Which is ironic, because Automatic Reload is about a guy with mental illness, and he too has inconvenient downtimes – his are in the middle of gunfights because, well, fiction, but I always magnify my actual problems into more dramatic versions for fiction’s sake.)

The point here is that I’m an experienced crazy person, and I knew when I’d hit my limits. In the past, I didn’t, and I would go “NO! I am not that mentally ill. Here, I’ll prove it, by shoving past this weakness to show you my strength,” and then I’d have some extremely bad mental meltdown, probably with very public and very embarrassing side effects.

It is humiliating to meet your absolute limits. Society tells you that you should be stronger, and your brain tells you that you’re not really mentally ill, you’re faking it, nobody has whole days where they just fog out, aren’t you buying into the idea of your own vulnerability?

When you’re chronically ill, self-care feels a lot like weakness. Because it would be a lot better if this was self-pity. It would be so much more satisfying if your real illness was drama – that this paralysis you were experiencing now was just you holding a pity party, and if you really wanted to you could man up and do what needed to be done.

The truth is this: Some days you can’t do what needs to be done. It’s inconvenient. It’s degrading.

And it’s necessary to heal so you can do the things it is possible to do.

I am taking it slow today. Like I said, I have one more appearance, and I hope y’all show up; I’ll be discussing my new book Automatic Reload, and maybe doing a new reading from a different chapter. That much, I can do.

But I can do that because I didn’t do anything yesterday. Because I shrugged aside my instincts of “This fog is bullshit” to give into the recuperation, to rest, to be temporarily helpless so I could be strong tomorrow.

It’s not a fun lesson. But ironically, it’s part of the book I’m promoting. Go figure.

1 Comment

  1. Van
    Jul 30, 2020

    Reminds me of that part from Bujold’s Komarr. I’ve gone and looked it up:
    The man had driven his body far past its limits, in the belief, apparently, that unsupported will could conquer anything.
    So it can. For a time. Then time ran out–no. Time ran on. There was no end to time. But you come to the end of yourself, and time runs on, and leaves you.

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