Today, I’d like to welcome guest blogger, Tyler Wittkofsky. Tyler is no stranger. He’s been on my blog several times with author interviews and promoting his books. If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen some of Tyler’s posts. He is an advocate for mental health. Tyler is open about his own diagnosis and shares his struggles with the development of his fictional characters. Tyler proves that we all deserve to be the hero in our own story. I hope you enjoy Tyler’s blog.
What It’s Like Writing with Mental Illness
I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness for nearly ten years now. In that ten years, I have seen the way that mental health impacts people and have experienced the ups and downs of mental illness. When I first received my diagnosis, I was ashamed of who I was. I hid it from people. Every aspect of my life was impacted by this diagnosis, I just had never noticed it before because I simply didn’t know.
When I started writing poetry in 2012, it stemmed from my mental illness. I needed an outlet to write down my feelings to free my troubled soul. I wrote poetry to describe how I was feeling and release the emotion that would build up within me. Some of it was dark, some of it was happy, all of it was mental illness personified.
My mental illness served as my muse in that respect, giving me a source of inspiration and raw emotion to fuel my writing. I found that who I was deep down was the person I would grow to love. Despite the mental illness diagnosis, I had hope again because of my writing. I never thought about publishing it though, because it was still a secret I was ashamed of.
Fast forward a few years and my mental health was the worst it had ever been. I was drowning in life’s tides and couldn’t escape the incessant ebb and flow of the waves. Still, I hid my diagnosis from everyone except those closest to me. I was still ashamed of it.
Then one day, a book idea came to me. My first novel came about out of a desire to help others feel like they aren’t alone in life. I had spent so many years hiding my secret from everyone that when I finally started opening up to people, it made me question why I hadn’t sooner. I had this desire to write my story and help other people like me not feel alone.
I used my mental illness and experiences as my muse to write that story. I crafted a new adult fiction story that followed a young man with mental illness, showing the harsh realities of living with mental illness. My goal was to raise awareness and help people understand what it was like to live with a mental illness and help those with mental illness have the courage to reach out to those closest to them.
Then came time to let people actually read my work. My anxiety kicked in and my heart beat out of my chest. Every time I thought about someone reading it, I would hyperventilate. It felt like the air was sucked out of my chest and replaced with a void that sucked away every bit of my confidence.
When I sent it to friends and family, I started to avoid them. I didn’t want to hear their feedback because I was afraid of hearing the truth. I secluded myself and delved into a pit of darkness. The thing was, though, these people were the same ones I wrote about in my story.
They all loved it and that sent me into a spiral of mania. I was on top of the world. I put together everything I needed to publish the story and was throwing money at it to help keep it afloat, because I didn’t care about money anymore. Desire to be published filled my heart. I was happy and on a mission that I would accomplish.
It’s a never-ending cycle though, because once I published it my manic spree was over. The depression and anxiety of bipolar swarmed through my mind. I was so terrified of letting the world read my work, especially about a topic so sensitive.
I feared what future employers would think of me if they knew I cared so much about mental health. What would my current job think? Would my other friends who didn’t know about my diagnosis judge me?
Then came the people who told me thank you for writing the story. That put me on the top of the world. It wasn’t a manic type of joy, but one of pure ecstasy. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I discovered what my truest passion was.
Writing my story pulled me out of the darkness. When I heard the stories of others, it helped me understand Iwasn’t alone in my struggles. I made it my mission to raise awareness for mental health through my writing after that. Giving people that kind of hope is what I want to accomplish with my stories.
Tyler Wittkofsky is a multi-genre author, podcaster, mental health blogger, and award-winning marketing and communications professional from the southern coast of North Carolina where he currently resides with his wife Grace and dogs Dutch and Belle.
His first novel, (Not) Alone, was based on true events surrounding the struggles of mental illness. The Seeds of Love: Sunflower Kisses Book One was his debut romance novel centered around a mentally ill young man. His first poetry collection, Coffee, Alcohol, and Heartbreak, was composed of mental health-based poems written over four years.
Tyler blogs his mental health journey on www.TylerWittkofsky.com. He is the co-host on the Back Porch Parley podcast where he discusses society and modern trends in an attempt to bring civility back to discussion.
You can find him on social media at @TylerWittkofsky and his work at https://linktr.ee/wittkofsky.