The Gray Fox Blog: “Mental Health, the Check Engine Light is On”

   Where do I start? Honestly, it has not been as easy a question lately as before. This isn’t because I don’t have anything substantial to say for myself and the ambitions I have for the Nightmare Shift (and, in turn, Mishmashers Publishing).

   The check engine light has been on for a while and I haven’t dealt with it. I think that analogy is a fair microcosm of how I have felt about, more or less, everything in my life the last few years. I don’t stop and smell the flowers, and I do whatever I can to keep forward momentum. The moment I finish one task, no matter how significant or large, I recalibrate and reallocate myself to what’s next. 

   I’m not special or unique in that regard, I don’t think. That’s the way a lot of people live and, frankly, a lot of people are able to keep the balls in the air way better than I am. 

   I am twenty-five-years-old and, as of this moment, I have written and finished eight novels and two novelettes that can be read on Amazon (*my first novel Blind Salvation was taken off Amazon so I could do a “rewrite” sometime later on). Sometimes I feel like I punish myself to meet self-imposed deadlines or irrational anxieties I have about myself and my art. As though I feel like if I don’t release a full-length novel every year, I will lose a part of myself I once coveted and cherished (and still do, but differently now).

   In some ways, I like this about myself. I am persistent and unwavering, but it no longer feels sustainable and is one of the major stressors in my life. I allow this unnecessary expectation of myself to weigh me down and, ironically, like a snake swallowing its own tail, it is counterproductive and destructive. It isn’t something you’re likely to see in my output, but, rather, something that lives rent free inside my mind. It is an insecurity or low feeling of self-worth that drives me to overwhelm myself to reach an imaginary goalpost, no matter how much damage it inflicts physically or mentally. This is something I will continue to work on.

   Like any vehicle, if you don’t maintain and sustain it, the mounting issues will pile up and lead to further complications, ahem, down the road. I feel I am at the brink to where I have to address the nagging issues I’m facing, but that I am at the precipice of doing that.

   I have suffered from severe social-anxiety and mental illness for my entire life. In ways, it has touched and affected every relationship I’ve ever cultivated and every decision I’ve ever made. As a teenager, I didn’t know what my life would look like. I didn’t know if I would be able to hold down a job, drive a car, have any type of real romantic relationship, or ever even live on my own. The panic attacks and suicidal thoughts can rationalize about every irrational thought you may have for or about yourself.

   I didn’t magically fix everything, and, in truth, sometimes there’re moments where I feel I haven’t made any progress at all. This is that irrational thought I talked about. But, it is in the moments like this, when I stop because I have to stop that I reflect. I have held down a job for the last seven years and, although I’ve never lived alone, that is because I have been in a happy, healthy relationship for the last five years – we bought a house together almost two years ago. The last real major milestone I had to traverse was transportation. Driving was always a major complication I had, especially in a small town with little public transportation and no teachers at my disposal. That said, in my red Chevy Sedan I bought from a nice Slovakian woman (Eli Roth was wrong!), I am happy to say I recently solved that as well.

   Here I am, a street legal ball of insanity, with a 401K and a normal suburban lifestyle. I feel as though I’ve survived myself, for lack of a more apt phrasing, and now, ironically, it’s time to put myself in park and address the check engine light.

   Thank you,

McConnaughay

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