Howdy, y’all, welcome back for another Writer Wednesday!
Our featured author today is the lovely Mayara Barros, who’s here to talk to us about a topic that I believe is relevant to a lot of us. Anxiety, and more specifically, trying to write through and/or alongside anxiety, is something that a lot of authors have to face and find ways to cope with. Today, Barros talks a bit about her experience with that.
Books were always a part of my life. My mom is a Portuguese teacher and she always nurtured my love for literature. She’d take me to all local book fairs and buy me and my sister a book each (sometimes more). So it wasn’t a complete surprise when I started answering the eternal “what do you want to be when you grow up” question with a proud “writer” at age 11.
My first stories were written on my dad’s old computer. Usually short stories, I’d proudly share with my family. They always told me how good I was. My pre-teen self had no questions about her potential.
But she started high school.
Here in Brazil, high school is usually three years. People tend to start when they are 15 and graduate at 18. We also grade with numbers, usually from 0 to 10. First year of high school was the first time I ever got a 0 on a test. My world fell apart.
I considered hiding the test from my parents, already making myself out to be a failure. It didn’t matter it was the first test of the year and I had at least three more chances to improve my grade. In my mind, that was it, I was done, game over.
That day I had the first anxiety attack I can remember, even if I didn’t know it back then, and it changed how I dealt with my stories. I wrote less and could never finish anything. I stopped updating the blog I had kept alive since I was 11.
I got through high school telling myself I didn’t care about my grades. That 0 wasn’t the only time I failed a test in those three years, but I managed to not go into an anxiety spiral again by tricking myself into thinking it was okay. I did write and shared my writing with friends, I just never finished a story. It had to be perfect, you know? So I’d go back and start over and over and over… My anxiety went unnoticed and untreated.
I had other crisis since then, but I also went to a therapist. Things improved, I published a few short stories, but writing was never again as easy as it was back in middle school.
This is how I’m dealing with it:
Understanding my rhythm helps. Paying attention to when I’m most active and taking advantage of this time allows me to get things done during the good days and helps me respect myself when the bad ones come around.
Establishing a routine of sorts keeps me from feeling powerless and spiraling back into an anxiety crisis, even when I don’t follow said routine. It serves as a point of reference I can use to bring myself back from the edge. Routine keeps my expectations somewhat realistic.
None of that means I no longer get panic attacks. Therapy helped me figure out what worked for me, gave me strategies to calm myself down so I can think clearly and make informed decisions about what to do next.
Which can be to take a break. Sometimes, I can’t keep going. Sometimes I stare at the blank page and my anxiety starts screaming that I’m out of time and a failure. This is when I need to let myself stop. Rest. Pick up the pieces and start again.
Then, I need to forgive myself. For having anxiety, for needing time off. For being me. Forgive and accept all that makes up who I am.
Mayara Barros was born 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Bachelor in Jornalism and Master in Communication. Published Caleidoscópio, short stories book, by Editora Illuminare and stories on the anthologies Contos de Fada, Anjos e Demônios, both by Illuminare, and Valquírias, by Darda Editora. Acts as editor-in-chief for Revista Avessa since 2014 and has a personal blog, Naive Heart, since 2011. You can find her at www.naiveheart.org and www.patreon.com/naiveheart.