To most readers, I’m sure this blog seems like it’s half-dead. I haven’t posted since July and the last time I was able to post frequently was April. Before that, it was sometime in 2012.
There is a reason for this. I was depressed.
It started in April 2011, when TOKYOPOP famously shutdown its manga publishing business in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy. I note this event not because TOKYOPOP is directly responsible, but because the shutdown was a catalyst that led to my depression.
Before the shutdown, TOKYOPOP was my biggest client. I worked on multiple books for them each month and I was generally busy with work two weeks out of the month. After the shutdown, my next biggest client only had work for me every couple of months.
Of course, I attempted to get more work both inside and outside the manga industry, but the recession was still in full swing. I managed to wrangle one new client whom I wound up having to fire for not paying me for my work. (Yes, you can and should do that as a freelancer. And they did eventually pay me, months later, after I threatened to take them to small claims court.)
I should have done what most people my age were doing then, getting part-time jobs at places like Starbucks, but I stubbornly refused. I really wanted to continue working as an editor, even if not for manga publishers, but kept facing rejection.
A part-time job could have helped, but I was already beginning to feel the worthlessness and guilt that are classic symptoms of atypical depression. (What I think I had, since I was never diagnosed by a doctor.) When job opportunities crossed my path, I was either too inexperienced or my depression made me feel like I would never get the jobs I was qualified to do.
That loss of self-worth led to the increasing feeling like I had dug myself into a hole that I could not escape. It felt like my entire life had been ruined enough that I would never be successful, fulfilled or happy ever again. I could not see that I had other options open to me. That’s how blinding depression can be. It’s particularly chilling when I think about how optimistic I was before depression hit.
Among other things, I began to lose my ability to be creative and productive. I had ideas, but my crushing lack of self-esteem meant that I could never act on them. The loss of regular manga-editing work meant I felt increasingly irrelevant as a manga blogger, which lead to feeling strained for ideas for this blog. Getting myself to blog in 2012 often felt like pulling teeth. Every post I wound up publishing took an extraordinary amount of time to write, as did many of my 2013 posts so far.
But thankfully, 2013 lead to my recovery.
At the beginning of the year, an elderly relative was hospitalized and needed me to take care of her. Her long battle with her health wound up giving me a sense of purpose. I finally had something to do that I needed to do regardless of my skill set and my mental health. My outlook on life became more positive as I felt needed. I began enjoying my walks with my dog, enjoying my neighborhood, exercising more, learning what it means to love yourself, enjoying life more in general. I was finally coming out of my depression.
Now I’m able to say that I’m out from under depression. Unfortunately, I lost a lot in the process. My boyfriend of 4+ years left me. I had to leave the neighborhood I had grown to love, as well as most of my friends because we now live far enough away from each other that I can’t see them regularly. My creative drive isn’t back at all and I still feel a large amount of social anxiety at times.
But it’s not all bad. Thanks to my wonderfully supportive family, I got a full-time job this summer, as well as the chance to live in a nice house in my hometown. I’ve begun to make new friends in my area, and many of my old friends and I have reaffirmed our friendships. My emergence from depression allowed me to realize self-love and how important it can be. My conclusion is that you must love yourself the way you want to be loved because no one else is going to do it exactly right. With it came the power to forgive myself, which is quite possibly even more important, as it taught me how to end the mental cycles of self-hate that came with my depression.
2013 was a year of roller coasters for me. Now that it’s almost 2014, I don’t really know what lies ahead, but now I at least have some much-needed stability. I’m hoping to get back into activities I used enjoy like blogging and drawing, as well as discover new ones. (Roller derby, anyone?) Either way, I’m very much looking forward to the future.
My hope in publishing this to my manga blog is this: If you are depressed, I hope you seek out help. Without it, you may not recover from depression, and you certainly will recover much slower. Seek it out because you know you hate what your life has become and you’d give anything to make it less awful.
If you are not depressed, I hope this encourages you to help those who are. They need you, more than you know. Those with depression and other mental illnesses may not be easy to be around sometimes, but they need you to help guide them out of it. You may have to hold their hand the whole way through. It will not always be pleasant, but you will be saving someone’s life in more ways that one. (Not just because they may be suicidal, but because depression is a miserable existence that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.)
Thank you for reading, and I hope 2014 is the happiest, healthiest and most loving year for you yet.