For close to five years I maintained a book blog called Vicariously! I protected it, I worked my ass off on it, and, as I am wont to do? I drove myself into the ground trying to be good at it.
I’m writing this for the people who have encouraged me to keep going, for the people who don’t understand why I had to move on, for my readers, for the bloggers who became my friends, and because I need to do this for me too.
There are parts that I am leaving out of this story because, while they are relevant? I really want to remove myself from that particular situation.
When I was nine I read the first Harry Potter book. Once I finished Prisoner of Azkaban and waited (im)patiently for Goblet of Fire. I became a particularly voracious reader. And as a kid with no disposable income or a real way of earning any kind of income, where did one go for books?
The library was my favorite part of the week and it’s still one of my favorite places on earth. It was where I discovered Madeleine L’Engle, Tamora Pierce, Encyclopedia Brown, and read Oliver Twist for the first time. I tore through every book Mrs. L’Engle wrote, fell in love with the Emelan series by Tamora Pierce…..and despised the five book limit they put on my library card because I was a kid.
As I got older I bought books, but I also went to the library every weekend. When I turned sixteen, my mother signed permission for me to have unlimited access to the library, which not only meant I could check out any book I wanted to, but also that my max checkout limit was twenty books. I took serious advantage of it. I would come in with a wicker basket and max out my card book limit on the twenty books I’d painstakingly chose to read that week.* One of my biggest pet peeves was when I couldn’t fit all twenty in my basket OR when I checked out a book that was the second or fifth in a series without having read the first few because no one marked them as a series(THANK GOD FOR GOODREADS NOW) :(.
A lot of readers and writers talk about not being ‘normal’ or not being the ‘cool kid.’ I wasn’t really ever the cool kid, though middle school was okay and I had good friends. High School however, I could write an epic series as detailed and complex as the A Song of Ice and Fire Saga and still not be able to explain everything that happened to me in the right way. I’m still working through some of that in therapy.
But back to books.
Books (and music) have always been a healing place for me. I wasn’t really the cool kid. I wasn’t always well liked. I was treated badly because people didn’t understand how to handle my mental illness, I didn’t stand up for myself, and, far too often, I picked the wrong friends. Books made me feel normal, like I would be okay one day. Working through my issues alongside some of my favorite characters had helped me through some of my worst major depressive episodes. These characters, characters I’d watched grow and sometimes grew with, conquered their demons. So if they could overcome these obstacles? I could too. They gave me a lifeline that kept me from killing myself. Reading literally saved my life.
Which brings me to why I made a book blog and the ultimate reason for its demise:
I used to be on LJ in a big way, through which I discovered Goodreads which lead to checking out book blogs. The more I saw and learned the more I was convinced that that book blogging could be a very good thing for me.
So I made a book blog in 2010. For a while I enjoyed it immensely. For the first two years I may have had some spotty moments, but I was fairly consistent. I made friends and expanded and found my rhythm. I started learning how to make my own content and found I was pretty great at networking.
I want to point out that, through all of this success I was experiencing? I was also dealing with mental illness. My bipolar disorder is its own monster and I’ve always had anxiety. However in 2013 this changed. I was raped and subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. The PTSD exacerbated my anxiety to unbearable levels which led to a crippling eight month major depressive episode. I remember days that my greatest accomplishment was a shower. I’d look listlessly at my books. I’d look at every book on my shelf that I should be reading and felt like a failure. My depression threw me for a loop constantly: One day I’d be numb and the next day I’d feel a physical pressure on me, like i was carrying every bad thing in the world on my chest and I couldn’t stop crying and the next I would decided that I could not do this anymore. I got hospitalized twice due to complications with my meds.
So my blog went from being something I was proud of to something that was proof of my inadequacy. I’ve always been a perfectionist. Anytime I put something out that isn’t my absolute best? I feel like a failure and I’ll either a) rectify it or b) remove it. So I struggled through several more hospitalizations, for both mental and physical reasons. It took everything in me to try to keep myself afloat. I couldn’t keep the blog afloat too.
So I had to start making more deadlines, trying harder, but my health didn’t want to cooperate. My PTSD would go through periods of escalation and periods where I handled it a lot better. However, I had no control and I never knew where I’d mentally be the next week or month. Some days I couldn’t even get out of the garage, my best friend would have to convince me I was safe and guide me back into my room. Any responsibility I took on or chance I had to prove myself was always a question mark in my mind. I was either going to eff this up too or I was going to crush it. There was no in between.
This led to an intense escalation of my anxiety. I was so terrified that I’d fail or have to write another open letter on the blog that, regardless of it being true, I would feel judged for. I saw all of these other bloggers doing an amazing job and, seemingly, not struggling. Why couldn’t I? I started to get where I couldn’t comprehend what I’d read because I was having anxiety attacks. I was having anxiety attacks trying to read BOOKS. Books. My health started to further decline, my sister moved in and I was constantly with my nephew after she had twins. I was being harassed by third parties and I just couldn’t anymore.
After retreating and trying to balance my life this past April (2016)I realized that I hadn’t read more than FIFTEEN books in THREE years. I realized that a part of me had begun to hate reading. When I opened a new book by my favorite author and put it down because I couldn’t concentrate, I realized everything had gone too far.
Books and music have always been the only medicine that have consistently helped me. However, anything can be twisted or destroyed when you’re sick. And I was, and still am, sick. My sickness just wasn’t and isn’t visible.
I was losing sleep. I was losing one of the only coping mechanisms that had ever helped. Books were never just books for me, they were old friends I could turn to when I needed to work through something, people I could relate to and empathize with, people who validated my trauma.Suddenly I realized how much my love for books had been damaged by things beyond my control. My whole life has been an exercise in learning what I can and can’t control. I can’t control my mental illness, but I can fight for the things I love and I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything take books away from me.
Whether we want to admit it or not, book blogs are giving authors a new avenue to advertise, connect with their fans, and a level exposure they’ve never had before unless they had major marketing campaigns managed by their publishers. Book bloggers work hard as hell. Even though I was trying my best, I wasn’t able to give (and still can’t at this point in time) the 101% effort each author and publisher deserved from me. I was letting those authors and publishers down.
I mentioned before that I’m a perfectionist, but what I haven’t said is that I hold myself to often impossible standards. I felt like the butt of a really bad joke. My health was declining and my sanity was often nowhere to be found. I felt like an ad for Xanax and my doctor had to increase my dosage of that particular medication because of the sheer amount of stress I was under. And furthermore, my friends that live near me (my ex-co blogger and I have been friends for nearly SIXTEEN years) were worried, and those who weren’t nearby were worried too. I remember three bloggers that I consider fantastic friends contacting me months before I deleted the blog saying they were worried about me. One in particular, my good friend Lia, who deleted her blog Bookshelf Reflections, whatsapp messaged me about two months before I cut the cord on Vicariously! When Lia said she was worried? I realized that I needed to take care of myself. A huge part of that was learning what was worth stressing over. I came to the decision that too much of my stress was coming from something I no longer enjoyed that was ruining one of my oldest, truest loves: books.
So I deleted it. It was a split second decision that I made the day I was going in to find out whether or not I had cancer (I don’t) and I don’t regret it. I’m starting to read again. I don’t feel like an obsessive bibliophile hoarding books anymore. I feel like I can love books again.
I still keep in touch with my blogger and author friends. I still love and check out certain book blogs.
But my journey with Vicariously! had to end. It sucks, but it was time to move on.
Hopefully you don’t hate me or you understand or you got something good out of this post.
Myself? I’m getting peace of mind.
❤ Lady Lynx
*I’m a speed reader. I can usually do two to three hundred pages in a hour.