Reinvention in the bleak midwinter
Tiktok, suns orbiting around other suns, and pushing past the fear of starting anew
I feel like I’m currently in a season of making changes to my day-to-day life and career based on intuitive hunches. Stripping away and taking on. Saying no. Saying yes. Saying not now, but maybe someday. I’m looking at commitments and habits and opportunities and routines and trying to ask, will starting or continuing this help me, or harm me? Usually, I can’t discern the answer, but I don’t wait for certainty to act. Every yes and no will yield a different result. Every result will teach me something about who I am, and who I want to be.
I’m notorious for taking on too many commitments at a time, striving for a balanced-yet-multifaceted life but always stretched far too thin. Bilbo puts it best in The Fellowship of The Ring when he remarks that he feels like “butter over too much bread”.
My schedule is usually like a galaxy of orbiting planets at varying distances, with the sun as my ADHD-induced hyper-fixation at any given moment. There are a lot of planets—day job, freelance work, writing events, writing itself, church, family, health—but for some reason, my brain likes to choose one thing at a time to be at the centre. Sometimes this thing is a creative project, like a book. Sometimes it’s my faith life. Sometimes it’s my mental health. My wedding. My home.
Let me be clear in saying that there isn’t really anything wrong with this. It’s perfectly natural for different areas of life to take priority over others in different seasons.
If my priorities are usually planets orbiting around a sun, then right now they are all suns, each orbiting around each other, and I am rapidly oscillating between them. I no longer have a multifaceted life as the foundation for each hype-fixation, but rather, every commitment is either a hyper-fixation or non-existent in my mind.
Part of this is because of that butter over too much bread feeling. I don’t feel like I’m truly putting all the required energy into a project or commitment unless I’m putting all my of myself into it. Instead of butter over too much bread, it’s one perfect, buttery bite, and every other bite is bone dry.
I’m bringing this up because I’ve come to an epiphany as of late: my current lifestyle isn’t sustainable. I can no longer attempt to have twenty first priorities, some of which empty my cup without refilling it.
In this season of my life, I don’t want obsession. I don’t want the project that permeates every waking moment of my existence, pushing away all else. I want balance. Quiet. Peace.
I don’t think that this desire makes me a bad writer. And I don’t think that I’ll have the same desires surrounding my creative life forever. And I’m not even certain that I know how to engage with a project that doesn’t take over my life. But I know that it’s what I need right now.
I deactivated my TikTok account last week. I used the account to promote my writing, demystify dissociative disorders, and to connect to others making similar content. I had a little over 1200 followers, and I made new videos almost every day.
But each time I closed the app, I felt worse than when I had originally opened it. What was once a For You page of educational, trauma-informed content quickly became DID content for content’s sake: Vlogs of people switching or having panic attacks that felt like they were pandering to voyeurism; rants revolving around the minuet in-fighting I had ever heard; public pleas not to seek out therapeutic help or a diagnosis in an attempt to “normalize” dissociative disorders; people faking DID, and people accusing others of faking DID when they weren't.
Finding community after a mental illness diagnosis can be a really important aspect of healing—but it isn’t always. The issue is that social media can’t replace the kind of structure and group dynamics that take place in a formal therapeutic setting, but most of these settings are completely inaccessible to most traumatized people. If you can't afford group therapy, of course you’re going to gravitate towards online community. I did.
At a certain point, I had to say to myself: "Is engaging with this content helping me heal?” and I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t. Still, I had reservations about deactivating the account, mostly surrounding my brand as a writer (whatever that means). Was I limiting my book’s reach by leaving a social media platform? Was TikTok simply a part of being an author now?
I hope not, but I can’t say for certain. All I can say is that for me, it wasn’t worth it. I’m much happier promoting my writing on other platforms and doing the majority of my trauma healing in private.
There’s a fear that comes with ending something you’ve built up over time (a project, an account, a relationship, a way of being in the world), but after the fear comes freedom.
I want you to know that there will be things in life that limit you but help others, and vice versa. You might find healing and community in TikTok. You might be at your best when you have a project or event or aspect of your life that you’re fully immersed in—one that takes priority over all else. Both of those things are okay. And it’s okay that, for me, neither of these things are true.
We need to find what ways of creating and healing and loving and working and resting and being in the world work best for us at different points in our lives. When we allow our lives to be spirals rather than hundred-metre dashes, always cyclically returning back to the centre to start anew, we make room for both growth and rest together.
I hope that this winter invites you to begin again in small ways each day.
I’m teaching two March Break Youth workshops (ages 13-18) over Zoom for the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in 2023: Writing Through Climate Anxiety and Introduction to Short Fiction. Registration is here.
My poetry chapbook The Last Thing I Will See Before I Die is now available from 845 Press. You can purchase it here.
News: The Pump will be translated into French by Kama La Mackerel and published by Les éditions l'interligne. You can read more about that here.
News: Invisible Publishing has acquired North American rights to my next two books, Bird Suit (2024), and Bad Kids (2025, edited by Alicia Elliot). You can see my not-so-vague publishing tweet about that here.
I update my events and publishing things frequently on https://www.sydneyhegele.com, so take a browse there if you’re ever wondering what I’m up to. And, of course, subscribe to Marsh Mail if you want more of these kinds of musings in your inbox.