Emotional Bungee Jumping

My last NAF post (Envy), was about the despair we writers can feel when we think we’re not good enough. Some of the comments indicated another kind of envy and despair—that which goes with seeing the unfairness of the publishing industry. I’m not here today to continue that discussion, though, but to point back to the end of my post. Yes, I despair sometimes, but I don’t let it hold me down. I bounce back.

That’s not always easy, though is it?

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “sinking into depression.” This implies a slow decline, slipping bit by bit until we feel trapped, like we’re stuck in the bottom of a well. The walls of that well are high and hard to climb.

My moments of despair come suddenly, and when they do I tend not to sink slowly. Instead, I dive. Straight to the bottom of the well. On purpose.

Why do I do that?

Here’s where I start mixing analogies. That jump into the well may be hard and fast, but it’s short-lived because I use the force of the jump to bounce back—the way a rubber band snaps back when it’s been pulled and let go. Hm…I guess instead of diving into the well, you could say I bungee jump into it.

The point is, I force myself to hit bottom. It hurts. May even break a few bones. But I get it all over with in one mighty crash, and then come barreling out of the well, ready to take on life again.

Let me illustrate. I told you all some weeks ago that I’m a cancer survivor. (Still surprised no one called me on the comment I made about hating that term.)  When I got the news I did the usual crying/praying/etc, but I also sat myself in front of the TV with about half a birthday cake (my daughter had just turned two, and there was lots of leftover) and ate until I nearly puked. I literally forced the cake down, which in turn forced me right into that well. I hit the bottom, hard and fast. But the next day, sproooooiiiing! I was back on my feet and ready to fight.

Now, am I telling you all to run out and thrust yourself into depression every time something hard knocks you down? No, of course not. Emotional bungee jumping is not for everyone. You have to deal with things the way that works for you.

This works for me, though, and I don’t think I’d have made it this far as a writer if I didn’t handle things this way. I get a critique and immediately curl into a ball of defensiveness. How dare they call my baby ugly! There’s nothing wrong with this…or that. Hah! Grumble, grumble, moan, groan. Shove all the anger to the surface as I dive.

And then the next day, sproing. I pack up the bungee cord and start on the edits. Yes, well, that sentence is a little awkward isn’t it? And what was I thinking when I wrote this? Chop, chop, kill my darlings.

There still seems to always be a well somewhere along the path in front of me, of course. I think with writing that’s inevitable. But with each jump, my legs grow stronger, and the well feels shallower.

About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

17 comments on “Emotional Bungee Jumping

  1. My Dearest Kat,

    All I have to say to this is “Hear-Hear!”

    • Why does that response not surprise me? 😀 I know exactly where Diane gets her spunk and survivor attitude!

  2. Ha! The title of this post is the title of my life. LOL Great post, Chicky. 😛

  3. Depression and disappointment is so much easier to get over when you just face it down; I might have to use this tactic (minus half a cake-I have a small stomach).
    Regarding the cancer comment, I can’t blame you for hating that term. It makes cancer define your entire life. Just a note, my grandmother died of breast cancer, and I doubt she would have appreciated the term herself.

    • I don’t recommend the cake anyway–but I was about to go through chemo, so I knew the calories wouldn’t hurt :P.

      And finally, someone calls me on it! I hate the term not just because it makes cancer define you, but because it’s inaccurate. You survive a tragedy–a car wreck, a hurricane. You beat cancer. If anything, what you “survive” is the treatment. But cancer is an enemy, not an experience.

      I’m sorry about your grandmother, Mary. And actually, that’s another reason I don’t like the term. My experience was actually a cakewalk (no pun intended) compared to most. In some ways, I feel I don’t deserve a special term–but others have a huge battle to fight, and so many lose it.

  4. This sounds like it works wonderfully for you. You must be brave. I’m too chicken to go bungee jumping, literally or otherwise.

    • Literally, bungee jumping is out of the question. I hate heights! Really, really hate them…..

      • I do too.

      • See, emotional bungee jumping is out of the question too, because I don’t trust my rubber band. I am pretty sure it would break, not bounce me right out like yours. I think the only strategy that might work is once I recognize I’m in the well, throw my hands out fast and hope they grab some chink I can use as a hand-hold to start that steep ascent. But darned if that well isn’t slick with wet moss and all kinds of other hindrances to getting the heck out.

  5. If I may add…

    …this well FEELs shallower.

    Until eventually it seems like you’ve stopped jumping in. As you said it works for some.

    What an honest post. In actuality you’ve shined a whole new light on things.
    To clarify this sounds to me more like an exercise (exercise=good) as opposed to “sinking into depression”, which you did also mention 🙂

    Good on you!

    Be blessed!

    • Thanks, Tymothy! And yes, it is exercise in a way. You pointed out the stress on “feels”–which is true. The well isn’t necessarily shallower, but the practice of pulling myself out makes it all seem like a little less work each time.

  6. Before I can jump, I have to realize I’m depressed. Fortunately, after nearly 40 years, I’m getting better at ID’ing my emotions. Usually a good night’s sleep makes all the difference.
    Although, a good night’s sleep it hard to find when you’re sobbing into your pillow…
    Good friends help, too.

    • Ah, now, see…that’s where this strategy helps me. I sob into the pillow, long and hard, and get it *out*. Then I actually can sleep well, and feel better in the morning :).

  7. That is really quite freaky, but FAR more efficient than the slow descent and dragging recovery I’ve had way too often. Hate heights or no, this is bravery.

    • Bravery? Hm, I don’t think so. Impatience, maybe. A tendency to overreact is more like it–but my own twisted way of making that work for me. I’ve never claimed to be normal ;).

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