Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Through Depression

By Rich

The human brain is an amazing and frightening muscle. On the one hand it allows you to move those pesky appendages, complete the New York Times crossword puzzle, and make the decision to turn off Million Dollar Listings. On the other hand, your brain sometimes encourages you to buy a timeshare, consider several scoops of fudge ripple ice cream as nutritional because it's dairy, and binge watch many episodes of Million Dollar Listings. And then there are the times where your brain takes a sharp turn and sends you into a spiral of negativity, anger, hopelessness, and urges you to push away all your friends and family so you can wallow in your aloneness.

I'm talking about depression. It's something I've become familiar with since diagnosed a few weeks ago, though it looks like I've been dealing with the symptoms for years. Every morning I would wake up and have a hundred pound weight strapped to my back that seemed to get heavier throughout the day. It made me fatiqued, irritable, and full of guilt that I wasn't doing enough to support my family, my writing, and the general world around me. At one time in my life I could pull out of these episodes and return to something normal. But after a stressful summer where I didn't have time to breathe, the depression became never-ending and somewhat debilitating. I knew I was it was getting serious when the crying jags began and I didn't want to get out of bed.

Yet, my writing didn't suffer during the worst of the depression. Over the summer I was able to finish editing Paradise Not Quite Lost for the publisher, produce material for my critique group's upcoming fiction anthology, and create regular material for the magazines and websites I write for. I could even joke during the critique meetings and other writing events. I think it had to do with compartmentalization of the writing side of my life. The love I have for the gift propelled me to get things done and, at least temporarily, push through the cotton bandages covering my brain. In the end, I believe the writing helped keep the depression on the mild side. Without it, I'm not sure what would have happened.

Thanks to medicine and therapy I feel better. The hundred-pound weight I used to carry is now off my shoulders and my head is the clearest it has been for ... well, I don't know how long. I spend more time with my family instead of running away from them and can deal with crises without getting angry or feeling immense guilt. The best part is I now have more energy and initiative to accomplish tasks, though making the time to do them is another story.

I decided to reveal this personal story to you not for sympathy but as a subtle warning. Don't let the pressures of life get to you like they did to me. Take a breath, decompress, walk away from stress if you can. If you start feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you can't clear the cobwebs in your head, take care of it in any way you can before its too late.

For more information on the signs of depression click on this link from WebMD.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Rich. I get what you're saying, and I'm really glad you're feeling better.

Shannon Baker said...

It sounds like an interesting series. I will check it out

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Anonymous said...

I admire you for being able to write through depression. I find that writing can lift my mood when I'm depressed, but it's fiendishly difficult because I lose motivation to the point where brushing my teeth and going to work is a victory. (For the record, I've never sunk so low as to quit brushing my teeth.)

Sometimes, too, I find that there is something I need to retrieve from those dark moods that I can use in my writing. Once the hundred pound weight lifts, I can strip away the self-pitying pieces of it and use what's left.

Lisa de said...

I don't know Rich now that you're feeling better you'll lose your edge for writing from a place of unrelenting misery. I am not going to let that happen, kidding. I wonder if all writers suffer from depression, except for those annoying authors that write 'Happy & I Love It' books, probably a ruse anyway.
In fact just today I was wondering if most people that are in the arts suffer from depression.
Anyway thanks for sharing welcome back to the human race and sorry you had to go through that.

Lynn said...

Thanks for your courage and honesty. It seems that the really funny people too often suffer from debilitating depression (like Robin Williams and other comedians). I tend to attribute it to an overall sensitivity rather than a tendency toward depression.

Writing has gotten me through a lot of hard times, maybe that's the case for you as well.

I'm glad you're getting help for the depression. I'm completely confident your creativity will survive and the increase in energy will result in our looking forward to even more writing from you.

Theresa Jewel Pinkston said...

Wow, You describe depression so well! Yet, you were able to write your way through it.

How did you manage to get out of bed, take a shower and/or brush your teeth while depressed? I'm finding these VERY difficult to accomplish!

My writing only comes in spurts, definitely not often enough for freelance and my fiction suffers from too many "info dumps", "telling instead of showing," and more.

Are you willing to tell me what medicine and/or other treatments you are taking?

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