Good things happen when I share who I truly am with other people. So: Hello! I’m Liana. I deal with depression every day. I’m a fanfic writer who’s gathered a bit of a following (what I lovingly call my cult). I want to start writing original stories – probably urban fantasy / paranormal stories, at least to start with.
I’ve been writing fan fiction since late 2015, and this year I’m making the jump to writing original fiction. I bounced around between a lot of interests and occupations in my 20s without knowing what I wanted to concentrate on, but fanfic taught me that nothing is as exciting and fulfilling as putting my audience’s precious hearts through the wringer. So I’ve created a four year plan to learn about writing and publishing, try out a few experiments, make connections and write full-time when my youngest child (now nearly 2) is in kindergarten.
I manage low-grade, long-term depression. Deep repression, unreasonable expectations for myself, lack of confidence, fear of judgment and unwillingness to share my true self acted as shackles on my mind for most of my life. I’d always thought of myself as someone who should write, but I feared mistakes, failure and judgment too much to even start. When I did write, I’d hide my stories in nested folders, under misleading file names, even though no one else uses my computer. Even when writing journals I was never honest with myself.
So in a way, my depression going from low-grade to severe was a gift! For the first time in my life I dropped my ego and expectations and wrote with no shackles or shame, because that’s what made me feel alive. Would my husband think I was pathetic? Would my mom think I was a disappointment? Was I pouring my time and energy into a melodramatic, implausible, cringey bit of wish fulfillment ridiculousness? Who cared? The only thing that mattered was what twist in the story I could come up with next.
I’d known that posting the first chapter of my fanfic would change everything, but at the time I wasn’t sure if I was destroying my life or creating it. Thankfully, it turned out to be the latter: I made fantastic friends, established a community, learned a hell of a lot about writing for an audience and increased my confidence. Most importantly, I proved to myself that I can write, that I love writing, and that the time and energy I put into it will be returned by my readers a hundredfold. It’s been an incredible honor to see how what I put out into the world can inspire my readers in their own creative pursuits, help them forget their troubles or uplift them and touch their hearts. Now when I think “Can I actually do this?” I just remind myself that I’ve already done it, and the rewards have been incredible.
The people I met while writing fanfic, especially my gifted first beta reader, helped support me when I realized I was severely depressed in 2017. In hindsight, I can see that this depression emerged when I was in college, affected every ambition I had during my 20s and worsened after the birth of my oldest son in 2012. I’d gone into the test thinking I was ‘slightly anxious’ and was shocked to realize I was undergoing a mental health crisis. For my own sake and my kids’ sake I was determined not to let depression steal any more of my life, and I threw myself into treatment.
I started doing cognitive-behavioral therapy exercises to identify distortions in my thoughts and identify the parts of my life that were unconsciously making me unhappy. This helped me understand who I am and what I want, and as a result I made a lot of changes to the way I dressed, interacted with people and spent my time. I’ve since added journaling, counseling, DBT and Zoloft to my mental health arsenal, and I’m prepared to keep it up for the rest of my life.
What surprised was me was the ways in which mental health and writing intersect. I’ll be writing more about the CBT worksheets I do to keep myself on track and how improving my mental health has made me a better writer, and also about how my writing unconsciously contained themes of mental health — and how becoming conscious of it as I wrote led to scenes that had my readers in tears.
There you have it: my origin story. I look forward to sharing more about what I’m learning about the craft and business of writing, what my plans are, what writing means to me and how it intersects with mental health, and, of course, when you can buy my first book!