On Depression and Writing

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Writing | 5 comments

I really wanted my first official post to be quirky and upbeat, but that’s not the world I’ve been living in lately. I’m guilty of vague-Tweeting and skirting around the subject on my own blog. I’ve publically broadcast that I’m having a rough time. With recent posts by Libba Bray and Megan Whitmer circulating around regarding depression, I thought it was time I contributed as well.

For the last three months, things have really sucked. Sucked isn’t the best work for it, but I have yet to find one that speaks accurately. I spent most of my days driving my grandparents between hospitals and working on books in waiting rooms. It was a constant back and forth from standard check to readmission. About three weeks ago, my grandfather died. I knew that morning when I got up that it would happen. We got the call that afternoon.

I mourned. The memorial was postponed because my dad had to fly out on business (it was his father). For three weeks, I was stuck in a sort of suspended animation. I began to readjust, only to have it all torn down again at the memorial service. I tried to distract myself by writing and found I was unable to get more than a handful of words down, most of which I then deleted.

Now, I don’t have seasonal depression. I have been to therapy. I try to keep a shine on social media and end my blogs with a quip about refusing to give up, even when I want to. It comes and goes, and on occasion, the writer’s emotional cycle contributes. We all feel that we’re worthless at some point in our writing career. We wonder why we’re not better, comparing our rough drafts to everyone else’s finished piece. We wallow. We think about quitting. Eventually we claw our way back out.

It’s twice as hard to be okay when Real Life is there, kicking you in the teeth. I managed to finish the first draft of my second book, but I have written nothing in weeks. I try to treat myself; I buy me a chai latte and sit myself down at Starbucks for a writing date. Sometimes it works, and for an hour, maybe two, I’m a functioning human again.

I’m at the stage where I can talk about it. I can tell my friends I’m not okay, and we talk and we figure out my next move together. However, I can’t help but feel I’ve let myself down by not enjoying the thing I love most.

I keep telling myself that this is okay.

I need to honor how I feel. I need to accept and experience these emotions. I need to acknowledge that yes, I am depressed, but I will eventually beat it. Again.

I’m not a published writer. I don’t have deadlines, I don’t have contracts or written obligations. There’s no time-table expect the one ticking in my time-bomb brain. I’m rewriting my first manuscript, and it’s like another death, but one I’m committing on my own. I’m depressed and I’m in the pit of writer’s low.

And I will make it out again. I will dance around to Panic! at the Disco (because I accidentally discovered that I like them), I will make a costume and attend a steampunk gala next week, I will make notes when I can’t write, I will talk to my friends, and they will understand if I’m reluctant or all-out refusing to leaving my room.

Depression is different for everyone, but the inability to function is something we share, to varying degrees. This time I could get out of bed, and brush my teeth, and go to work. I’m trying to regain my ability enjoy my writing.

I took a dry erase marker and scribbled one of my favorite quotes across the mirror in my bathroom:

“The only way out is through. The only way through is art.”

Robert Frost meets Amanda F*&^ing Palmer.

If you’re suffering, reach out. To your family, to your friends, to the collective community of the internet. We’re listening.

About Meghan Schuler

A fan of Edgar Allen Poe, she allows the beauty of the dark , and the romance of long ago year to enter her literary worlds. She’s an avid reader, sometimes sketcher, antique enthusiast and rock concert goer. She also spins fire and contact juggles.

5 Comments

  1. Poignant, but you are right. Someday you’ll feel a little better. It might take a long time. Use your art in the meantime. Write about your pain and you might find it helpful.

    • Talking in general in helpful. I have a habit of hermiting myself away in my room, binge-watching Buffy or Sailor Moon and hoarding enough energy just to make it to work. I eek out what creativity I can and bit by bit I get back to myself.

  2. I went through depression in college and beyond. Cleaning up my diet and sticking to a sensible sleep schedule helped. And now I use a lightbox in winter because I have SAD; most of the rest of the year, I’m fine.

    In September last year, I suffered a miscarriage. And it was hard. Really hard. I went to my doctor and told her I felt depression closing in. I was stressed about it. I didn’t want this, any of it.

    She told me that while depression may always loom for me, when you’re mourning, it’s natural to feel “the depressed feelings.” And my hormones were a wreck, so that didn’t help.

    To me, it was almost like I was an alcoholic who fell off the wagon. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just power through this?” And those thoughts would send me into another spiral. Her words helped make it OK. Like this isn’t forever and it’s not falling off the wagon to be depressed in times of your life when you “normally” feel sad.

    And it eventually lifted. If it didn’t, I was prepared to seek help. Being prepared, understanding our triggers, and being proactive are how we cope with this thing.

    • My first major depression started in college as well, after my grandmother died. I felt invisible, and a comment from my mother really set me off. She told me, after the funeral, that she was “surprised I was crying.” I dropped so fast, I didn’t know what to do. It ended with me sobbing in a corner of my room on my 21st birthday, an exacto knife in hand. I carved up my nightstand because I couldn’t bring myself to cut up my skin. I went to therapy. I began to understand and learn ways to cope and handle it. I hurt more because it hinders my ability to create, but slowly I’m coming back to myself. I’ll get there. We’ll get there.

  3. Explore/reexplore the journey of ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’, for example like a book by Thomas Moore, exploring archetypes, his based on Carl Jungs writings. The negative is not about being negative. I always wondered why Edgar Allen Poe’s writings stood out by far in its effect on me reading his stories as compared to any other writer. I sought to find writers like him. None can compare. Later I found out about his psyche condition and thus from whence those powerful close to the skin writings came from.
    Clinically (therefore coldly) speaking, grieving is a process, stages to be moved through. Allow for it. The mind/psyche has its way of dealing with things, processing, purging, understanding…thus its richness as a resource for the colors and movements of your words on paper.
    Step into the colors of it, emerge with a canvas. It is too simplified and disrespecting to just say, ‘I am down today. I need to be up’. We are not confined to just being down and up. When you’re in the valley, there is terrain to explore. When you are on the mountain, also terrain to explore.

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