I have a confession to make. I suffer from depression. I suppose if I’d been honest with myself or been more knowledgeable, I might have recognized it earlier in my life and been treated sooner. But see, I grew up in a time when mental illness, or mental health for that matter, was never discussed. It wasn’t until I met First Reader that I discovered my mental health was not the best.
That’s because First Reader is a Psychiatric Nurse and recognized that what I thought was just a quirky personality, was really a symptom of depression. So, I talked to my doctor about treatment.
It took us a prescription or two to figure out which medication worked for me, but we found one. For once, I didn’t feel that Dark Spectre was looming in the background of my existence. The therapist that my doctor recommended didn’t work out, but the medication helped. I took the meds for a couple of years, got my headspace back on track, and slowly weaned myself off with the approval of my doc and First Reader.
In the years since then, I have been on and off the meds as needed for my recurring symptoms. I took them for a couple of years after my father passed away, again after my mom passed, and resumed after the 2016 elections. Most recently, I recognized that with the changes to my Visible Means of SupportTM, I once more needed help to cope.
I’ve become one of those types that hate taking copious amounts of pharmaceuticals (despite youthful joking about “better living through chemistry”), and even as I’m reaching the age that most people are prescribed more drugs, I fight to take fewer. I don’t want to have to take two extra drugs to treat the side effects of the one I really need.
Anywho, what does all this have to do with writing?
Well, I got to thinking last week after reading a rash of posts on the writing pages I follow on social media, that a lot of writers suffer from depression, and writing seems to be a catharsis for many—myself included.
First Reader mentioned to me several weeks ago that my writing here seems to be a form of journaling. I suppose that’s part of it. I’ve tried writing in a journal daily, but I never last more than a day or two before I put it down and don’t pick it back up for months (or years). The only other time in my life I wrote as regularly was when I was at University and had a weekly column for the school paper.
When I look back into the various journals I’ve started, put down, misplaced, replaced, and started over again, I see that, indeed, I wrote the most when I was sliding into depression and looking for a way out. Education and experience are beautiful things.
Nowadays, I write for a living. The Visible Means of SupportTM consumes more of my energy than I care to admit and when I get home from work, I find it hard to sit down at the keyboard and crank out creativity. So mostly I equivocate between playing video games that let me blow off steam by virtually killing monsters and trying to bring my characters to life on the page, sometimes killing monsters on the page. During the week, I’m sad to say, video games usually win.
Having grown up in a (very) nuclear family that traveled a lot, I didn’t always have a friend with whom to share my innermost feelings. So, I learned to stuff those emotions, and for a long time, I didn’t know how I felt. Even now, I have a hard time figuring out precisely what feeling I experience at any given moment—except anger, that’s the way most of my moods erupt. Writing lets me experiment with states of mind and outlooks that I might not otherwise experience.
I’ve spent almost half my life now trying to figure out how to define my emotions. And even now, when something upsets my internal apple cart, my first reaction is generally anger. But I’ve learned to step back and think before I explode with whatever crosses my mind. The epiphany for me was a diagnosis of impaired mental health and learning that medication was available to bring my brain back into balance. While I have to admit that I’m not always thrilled with the side effects, I’ve learned to cope. They are way more manageable than almost uncontrollable rage.
These days, I can tell when my brain chemistry is getting out of whack, and it’s more than just realizing that my teeth are on edge. That’s when I know it’s time to talk to my doctor again and have her prescribe a little something to get me back on track.
How about you? Do you find that your writing changes with your mood?