Rather than one of our usual blog posts about lifestyle, wellness, or underwear, I wanted to take a moment to chat a bit about why BlakeWrites hasn't been as active for the last several weeks as it usually is.
For most of 2019, we've managed to operate at a pretty rapid pace of publishing three new pieces each week. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I've been managing to get content edited or drafted and pushed live, keeping our content fresh and updated. Then, July hit.
First and foremost, I should point out that I am the only person who edits and publishes content on BlakeWrites. It's a passion project, and something that I manage and fund entirely on my own. I love it and firmly believe in what BlakeWrites is here to do– create men's lifestyle content that affirms the broad spectrum of masculine expression rather than the narrow versions we've typically seen in men's publications. The downside to the current model, however, is that there isn't a fail-safe in place. If I don't schedule months worth of content at a time, then if I'm sick or traveling or otherwise unable to publish one week, nothing gets published.
So what hurdle has gotten in my way or adventure have I been on that has prevented me from writing and publishing as regularly as before?
Well, I wish I could say that it was something glamorous like a residency in a secluded seaside villa. Unfortunately, the real answer is that my depression has been rearing its ugly head in a significant way for the first time in about a year. My day job has eaten up most of my energy, and what little bit of effort I can muster after my shift has gone into exercising in an effort to buoy the effects of my antidepressants with some naturally-derived endorphins.
When I haven't been at work or the gym, I've sat down and tried to write, tried to maintain BlakeWrites, but often found words difficult to conjure. I've sat down to write, opened a new document, placed my fingers on the keyboard and just shut down. Depression creates a particularly nasty version of writer's block in which writing is not only difficult but also feels utterly pointless. For me, depression and anxiety are particularly adept at targeting the things I enjoy and sapping the joy out of them. But it's not just the lack of joy that causes problems– the energy drain is even more significant.
If you've never dealt with depression or anxiety, it may be hard to fully imagine what that kind of energy drain is really like. I compare it to trying to run by the beach. When you're not in a depressive episode, tasks like writing are akin to running on the sidewalk. Sure, you may get tired after a while, but you can enjoy the view and all that is going on around you while you run. As depression starts to set in, you're stepping off the sidewalk and onto the sand. It may be the packed sand by the water that's only slightly more difficult than the sidewalk, but you also encounter periods of loose sand. It's possible to run there, but it takes a lot more energy. If you're going to keep up your normal pace, you've really got to dig in and strain yourself far more than normal.
A full-blown depressive episode is like running in the same place as before, but with high tide coming in. Water gets up to your thighs and you're still trying to keep up. There's so much resistance that your speed halves and your effort doubles, then triples, then quadruples. Before long you feel utterly burnt out.
Meanwhile, it feels like everyone else is still on the sidewalk, outpacing you in every way. You know that you're trudging through water, but you're still kicking yourself for not keeping up with the other runners on the sidewalk. They're making long, powerful strides, so why can't you? Eventually, you just have to stop running and figure out how the hell you're going to get out of the water and back onto the sidewalk. You think it'll be easy since you were just there a little while ago, but each step you take toward the land, the ocean seems to match you. No longer can you focus on running– all you can focus on is getting out of the ocean since that's the only way that you're going to survive.
In short, I've wanted to work on creating and publishing new content for BlakeWrites, but the water has been lapping at my knees. I've had to focus on getting out of it. If I'm being fully transparent, I don't feel like I'm back on the sidewalk just yet. I'm still in the sand, but each day I'm making a bit more progress.
I can quite happily say that, thanks to my antidepressant regimen, my symptoms are much better controlled than they have been in the past. The fatigue and loss of interest I've been experiencing are rough, but at least I haven't felt like I was in a place of hopelessness or severe distress. I haven't even had a borderline dissociative fugue and done something drastic to my hair, which was my pre-medication MO. Progress, baby! Plus, this was my first prolonged depressive episode in over a year, which means I've had more than 52 weeks that have been largely symptom-free.
As much as I celebrate this progress, it has definitely been a sobering reminder for me to be better at practicing what I preach. The logical side of my brain knows that even with medication, depression doesn't just go away. It's more of a disease that goes into remission, but flare-ups still occur. It's put me in a position, where I have had to recognize that I can get plenty of sleep, eat a nutrient-dense diet, exercise daily, and still deal with the symptoms of depression; as disheartening as this may seem, it has also forced me to recognize that I have to be kinder and gentler with myself. I can't beat myself up or blame myself for not being able to outmaneuver my mental health. No matter how much I do things by the book, the fact remains that my neurotransmitters don't work so good– they done goofed, as the kids say– and I can't change that. I can rewire my brain about as easily as I can sprout wings and fly away.
Luckily, the rest of the BlakeWrites team has been amazing and supportive. I sent out the email below at the start of the month to our regular contributors.
Just wanted to shoot a quick note to apologize for my slowness and lack of responsiveness for the last month, as well as for getting off track with BW's regular publication schedule– for full transparency, my depression symptoms, though normally well-managed, have been back with a vengeance for the last several weeks. Working my day job has taken about all of the energy I could muster, and I made the decision to put what little extra energy I could summon into exercising, hoping that the endorphins boost would help out (tbh, I don't think it has, but I've increased my deadlift-- that has to count for something right?). BlakeWrites has suffered a bit because of this, and I apologize that I've been spending more time curled up on the couch than I have been being a responsible editor.
Still, I also wanted to give a quick moment of celebration and let you know that July saw our highest ever amount of organic traffic to BlakeWrites in a single month, so kudos to each of you for the great work and great content.
All the best,
To be honest, I didn't know how they would respond. I try to be transparent and encouraging with my writers, and I felt that I would be letting them down if all they got from me was silence, so I offered the above as insight into what was going on with me and why the normal Blake wasn't on the other end of the computer. Thankfully, their responses reaffirmed that I've brought the right group of guys into the fold of BlakeWrites. I got emails and text messages of encouragement, understanding, and sympathy from each of them; guys, if you're reading this, I seriously thank you and appreciate how you've responded. It has helped tremendously.
Moving forward, I recognize that I've got a few options for creating a safety net for BlakeWrites so that we can continue to hit our target goals. In order from least likely to work to most likely to work, they are:
- Volunteer at a genetics lab that is perfecting cloning so that I can have four to five different Blakes to handle BlakeWrites, and hope that we don't have synchronized depressive cycles.
- Alternatively, inquire as to whether said genetics lab could just do some poking and prodding to get those neurotransmitters corrected and then do some cloning for fun-- I think I am great company for myself.
- Find a surprise source of funding that would allow me to bring on a full-time editor for BlakeWrites.
- Talk to my doctor about my ongoing symptoms and management to see if there might be a better solution or combination of medications that could help alleviate and improve situations like this. There may still be an adaption period if I start a new medicine and there may still be periods in which my symptoms are undeniable, but it'd be a step forward and opportunity to optimize my performance.
So, if anybody reading this has a spare $50,000 that I can put toward hiring a full-time editor, we'll go with that one. Otherwise, I'll just call my doctor's office after I get back from an upcoming work trip to Boston and get things sorted out. (I'll go with Option 3 regardless, but please know that I am 100% open to annual donations of $50,000.)