What it’s really like to have depression and be a writer.
I’ve been a creative person all of my life. Even as a little kid I was always imagining myself in whatever TV show I was into at the time. I also had a lot of action figures to carry out my own stories, be it GI. Joe missions, my own adventures of He-man, or whatever else I could come up with.
Becoming a writer was just a natural progression of that. I was good at coming up with original stories in school for projects. I always got decent grades going through school in writing-related subjects, even if my handwriting was terrifying and I knew nothing of fiction writing structure. By the time I was in high school I was writing fanfiction before I even knew what that was. I wrote three sequels to the novelization of the Mortal Kombat series before discovering Sailor Moon as a high school senior and starting my fanfiction series that ran for over a decade and involved over 160 stories. I only stopped when I finally decided to take the plunge and write my own original novel.
The other thing that has been part of my life for nearly as long? Depression.
Now I can probably guess that as soon as I wrote that some of you had one of two visions. A writer who suffers from depression will conjure up thoughts of some brooding, vampiresque, ye old bard scribbling down illusionary visions of “the pain” and “the darkness”. Or you think of some emo shut-in with too much black hair dye and eyeliner writing disjointed poetry no one understands while listening to The Cure over and over. Neither those are realistic of what a creative person with depression really goes through.
The first thing that I should say is that depression may be an illness, but it’s not like a cold or flu. It affects everyone differently. I can only speak for myself and no one else.
The thing about depression for me is that it is not a constant. There are good days, bad days, and really bad days. The moods can last weeks or months, or even just a day or two. Typically my birthday and Valentine’s day bring about bad moods no matter what, but by the end of the day, I’m doing better. During stretches of being in a good mood, I can write quite a lot, both articles and work on my next book. I not only have the energy to get things done, but I also believe in myself enough to think that what I’m doing is actually good. Those stretches where my mood is more negative however sees that disappear. I will only write what is asked of me from those that employ me and that’s it. Thre is no energy, let alone the belief in myself that anything I do is worth anyone else’s time. The idea that my depression fuels my creativity and my best work will come holding a knife to my wrist isn’t true. My best work so far came about when I had the willpower to get out of bed and function.
These spells of depression just don’t happen by themselves. Something has to come along and set me in a bad mood. A rejection letter from a publisher or potential employee, the end of a freelance writing project, lack of money, or being single for over 15 years (why Valentine’s day sucks), anything negative enough can have me miserable for months. You want to make me happy and get me motivated? Give me a writing project and pay me. You want to make me a shut in, crippled with thoughts of self-doubt and anxiety? End the project or don’t hire me at all. Want to make me fee like I don’t deserve to live? Break my heart. It happens more times than I’d like to imagine.
Depression also makes a hypocrite out of me. When any of the people I know online go through dark spells, I’ll be the first to try and find them help, no matter what. But when it comes to myself? No. I don’t bring in enough money for visits to doctors or therapists, let alone prescriptions for mood stabilizers or any of that. The closest clinic is over 3 hours away and when you don’t drive, that’s a problem. And heavens forbid the state of Maine help you. They deemed that being a writer was “a real job” and turned me down from getting Medicaid or another health assistance. Writing sometimes helps, if I can get out of bed long enough to actually write. It mostly serves as a band-aid and a distraction from the more serious problems. With that, writing has actually saved me once. Having visions of your own characters begging you not to go through with it as you are trying to suffocate yourself was a powerful motivator. Ended up staying in a safe house for a week after that one.
I’m not writing this to boo-hoo. I’m not looking for pity. I’m looking to give people a truthful look at what a creative person and writer who suffers from depression really deal with. It’s not glamorous. It’s not something to be fetishized or admired as being a “tortured soul” (pardon the pun). It’s a struggle. it may not be every day, but it will be there whether I feel it at the moment or not. So if you have friends that are creative people, be it writers, artists, cosplayers, or whatever and they admit to battling depression or other mood disorders. Don’t think that they are creative masterminds that use their art to heal the pain. Think of the struggle they are really going through and be there for them as much as you can. Trust me, they could always use a little help.
You can see my published work HERE
You can contact me on my Twitter HERE
and remember, I’m STILL a candidate for President of the United States in 2016!