Writers and Depression

July 17, 2015

 A writer with depression is common. The solitude, the substance abuse, the pressure to be good at what you do. It’s an easy pull.


Think about it, when the writings going well, the author has the perfect life. When it’s going badly, there’s no one else to blame. A large part of a writer’s success depends on how other people think of them or approve. Maybe this is one of the reasons why there has always been such a high occurrence of depression amongst writers.


Mind you, when you’re not depressed, it’s hard to take depression seriously. People who aren’t going through it, don’t understand it. Your self-estimation is at its lowest, you start thinking about yourself as a failure in subjects for which you never had any aptitude or aspiration. Yes, the Iraq War was your fault.


You feel like you aren’t even mildly competent at anything. Depression is like this big weight pressing on you. It just constantly whittles away at your self-esteem. However supportive the people around you are, ultimately you become very boring to them. What’s worse, you bore yourself.


My family is going through a lot. The move to Arizona is getting closer and everyone is struggling with their own version of the story. Mom and dad with how to sell the house, or rent the house, my sisters with the options of going with them or staying behind. Especially my younger sister who lives with them and just graduated college. 


Inwardly these days with all the stress, my diet has wavered. My lifestyle is changing and I feel myself slipping from that stable routine I once had. I feel disgusting. I feel fat and ugly and just totally not worth life these days. (I know I am, this is not about that.)


It’s not all negative, of course. The mood swings of depression give you insights into many states of mind, which in less stressed times you can really feed your writing. Emotion recollected in relative tranquility is a beautiful thing for a writer. 


And then again, putting words down on paper is probably the best therapy ever invented. Intense concentration of the creative imagination can completely shut out the problems of the real world. For a time. But, as with most mind-altering agents, when you withdraw from writing, it can leave you with a nasty hangover.


And you can’t write all the time.


Michael Ratcliffe once wrote in a Times review of Graham Greene, that ‘Writing itself, of course, is an ideal form of escape, unless you happen to be a writer, in which case there comes a time when you have to escape from writing, too.’


The man does not lie.


Eventually you’re going to have to get back to reality. Because, apart from sometimes being the most fun you can imagine, writing fiction is also the most exhausting activity you’re ever going to undertake. Which is why most times after the writer has finished a hard scene, a book, script, or just a project... we celebrate with a bit of bubbly. Or a lot. 


Drunkenness and depression have many symptoms in common, and for writers both seem to be occupational hazards. Both the depressive and the drunkard wake up feeling terrible, totally incapable of continuing life in any form. Both of them get through miserable mornings and maybe if their lucky perk up after lunch, that is, if they can eat food. And both start to feel better in the evenings, when the influence of company or more alcohol make the continuity of life seem more like a possibility. Then both wake up in the small hours, feeling worse than ever.


Luckily there is a lot of help available out there, whether in the form of therapy or pills. I’ve tried anti-depressants, which I find does help. It may take some time for you to find the proper chemicals to suit your particular metabolism, but there’s a good chance it’s available somewhere.


I’ve been on pills that made me even more moody, some that made my blood too thin, and pills that have irritated my asthma. I’m now on some that seem to work. And I’ll probably be on a daily dose of them for the rest of my life. I’d rather not be taking the pills, I mean, obviously no one wants to take any medication, but life with them is a lot better than it was before.


Just because I’m on medication doesn’t mean it’s an instant cure. The waves of depression still come, but now they’re more likely to last few weeks rather than few months.


I just stay positive, post positive and keep trying to get through it.


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