Saturday, July 26, 2014

Writer Blues

Why are writers prone to depression? According to Denise Mann and her video and article here on the subject, there are only a couple of causes: isolation, rejection and self-inflicted misery.

As a writer who has been dealing with actual, diagnosed clinical depression since my teens (search PBW with the word depression and you'll pull up a dozen or so pieces I've written about it) I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all explanation for the source. All writers are different, and while statistically speaking we may be more likely to deal with depression than non-writers, I think the causes are just as individual. In my case, depression has absolutely nothing to do with solitude, which I happen to like, rejection, which is just part of the gig, or misery via the writing. Being a writer fights depression for me, and the work has always helped to pull me back from the brink (and on more than one occasion, dragged me back out of the abyss.)

If you are a writer dealing with depression, you're definitely not alone, and there are a lot of options out there to explore. Many of my colleagues have gone into therapy and/or found medications that help them cope. There are also spiritual alternatives like prayer and group discussions that for some can be very effective. Nothing beats having a writer pal to privately vent to, either -- in the writing community, that may be the most popular form of depression self-help.

Aside from the work, I have a lot of weapons in my own organic arsenal against depression: walking, sewing, music, gardening, cooking, journaling, art and reading are the big guns, as most creative or outdoor activities are. Having arthritis limits me more than most people, but I've never let it stop me from pursuing what makes me happy (and doing something that uses your hands, according to this article, may be a very helpful way to battle depression.) For minor bluesy moments I have meditation, calming herbal teas or that relaxing hour of soaking in a hot bath.

I know I can change my mood through most creative activities, and I think it's a positive step to do something you really love, even if you don't feel any interest in it in the beginning. I can't count the number of times I've sat down to quilt when the blues had me wanting to do nothing, and felt immediately better within a few minutes. If you are struggling with depression, I think possibly the worst thing you can do is nothing.

What are some of the ways you writers out there cope with depression? Let us know in comments.

7 comments:

  1. Keita Haruka11:49 AM

    Music. Music and writing. I've found that listening to certain kinds of music can subtly shift those dark moments just enough than I can vent them though writing. Some of my most meaningful writing have come from those black moments.

    It also helps having my partner around. He also suffers from depression, and I cannot tell you how much it helps to have someone there who knows what it's like, who knows that it isn't something you can just "snap out of" or easily ignore and push through. That silent comfort, understanding, acceptance and tenderness very often either pulls me out of the pit, or prevents me from falling off the slope into it.

    Another thing that's helped me, counter-intuitive as it seems, was to "hurry it along". When it became clear I wouldn't be able to prevent myself crashing, I deliberately advance it by thinging negatively, listening to depressive music and the like. The quicker the crash happens, the faster I can recover from it. Using this method, I've sometimes managed to cut down on recovery time. Where it usually takes me a week or more to recover, I can reduce it to hours or days.

    For me, it's always been a case of managing it through self-acceptance, creative output, inputs from people I love and trust, involvement in their lives, and through various spiritual influences. Drugs have always been a major no-no. These techniques got me to the point where I'm happy with my life and wouldn't change anything about it.

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  2. Books. I also meditate, and have for years, but when I feel myself sliding into the pit...my therapy is to read. A book takes me outside my "self" and away from whatever's trying to knock me down; I can be someone else for awhile, be somewhere else. Though...I read constantly, so what does that mean, I wonder? ;D

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  3. Shiloh Walker8:25 PM

    It just depends. Sometimes I shut down and withdraw, which isn't good, but I tend to do better if I work through what's bugging me. Exercise helps, reading, spending time with my kids and my husband. Things got bad enough last year that I finally had to go back on meds, which I hate, but I'd been fighting it for too long and nothing was changing so it was time. A person shouldn't have to spend four out of five days... or what feels like 100 out of 99 days fighting the urge to scream or cry. Depression is an evil, soul-sucking monster.

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  4. I too was diagnosed with depression in my teens but have learned to to control it without medication. Playing my guitar, writing, photography, and being around animals help the most. Meditation can help but I find if I am dark and disturbed, then my meditation can be that way as well. Fantasy and sci-fi TV or movies take me out of myself, providing there is something I wish to watch. I'd like to say books but for some reason I find it hard to concentrate on reading when I'm really dark.

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  5. I've been lucky never to have had to battle depression but I've found walking helps deal with dark things like the death of someone close or a health scare. Sometimes I feel if I walk far enough I can walk away from whatever is troubling me.

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  6. Exercise and enough sleep are key for me. It's amazing how a bad night's sleep can color everything. Since I end up with too many bad nights (thanks small children) I work at getting the exercise in even when I feel exhausted. It helps that a writer buddy lives down a walking trail from my house. : )

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  7. I'm extremely lucky and thank God for it. I've never suffered from depression - not real depression. I've had dark moments, especially when my Mum died, but never like you and your commenters had. When I'm down, like all of you, music, books and family help, but the thing that helped most when I lost my Mum was going to church. I'm not OTT religious but I do believe in God and found that in church I could let go. I don't know if it makes sense, but sitting in a quiet church I felt free to sob my socks off without the need to be strong for others or worry about embarrassing people and I usually left with a sense of peace, a lifting of the spirit. You all have my sympathy in this affliction and best wishes for a "light" future.

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