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A Writer’s Depression

To date, I believe my boyfriend has explained my depression to me the best. This is what he told me one day: “Living exhausts you to the point of depression. Where others may just get tired or frustrated due to an event, they will return to baseline after a night’s rest, a good conversation, or a relaxing activity. You, on the other hand, encounter a bad or tiresome event or series of events and plummet into a deep despair that can last anywhere from a few days to weeks. You think yourself into a hole that you can’t come out of.”

 

Here is a real example that happened to me just the other day:

There was no food in the fridge because I had yet to go out and get groceries. Therefore I went out without eating. Before seeing Avenue Q I ate half an order of mac and cheese and a half order of eggplant chips at a nearby bar. On my way home from the show, I realized there was still no food in the house and I did not want to spend an hour cooking nor did I want to go to bed hungry. I also needed to do my hair for work the next day. I decided to make veggie dogs to solve the food problem. Destin and I get to the supermarket at 11:30PM. We get the veggie dogs, some cereal, ice cream and other things. A total of 15 minutes. The only cashier made us wait 20 minutes to check out our things because the person before us decided not to buy any of the items she rang up for him and she needed to reverse the order item by item. She finally checked us out and she forgot to ring up the veggie dogs- the very item we went to get. I then had to use my card twice instead of once. We then had to walk home in the cold with heavy bags. By the time we get home it was after midnight. I still had to do my hair. I had yet to eat. By this point, I was exhausted and overwhelmed so I curled up on the couch in tears.

 

In these episodes I have little to no energy or zeal to do anything. I sleep or watch Netflix trying to escape the feelings of sadness that linger long after the events have passed. I also have a tendency to space out and withdraw from whatever I am doing for long periods of time during these days.  During this time, simple tasks like waking up and getting out of bed or smiling, take massive amounts of effort.  The last thing I want to do during all this is write. Summoning energy is difficult enough, conjuring creative energy is nearly impossible.

I get “overwhelmed by life” would be how my boyfriend phrases it. Granted, this is better than “I just get sad sometimes,” which is my go-to answer to the ever frequent question: “What’s wrong?”

 

In the preface of Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, Bradbury talks about why it is important for writers to write every day by explaining what would happen if we do not write daily. He writes:

 

“What would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

 

When I read this, I thought this is an excellent way to describe depression for writers. For myself, it is a very accurate statement. Life has caught up to me and poisoned me so much I have no strength to reach for the antidote. In a reality full of work, cooking, rent, groceries shopping, and an overwhelming sadness that consumes it all, where could I find the time to write every day?

 

I kept reading. Bradbury writes how his book is about “Taking your pinch of arsenic every morning so you can survive to sunset. Another pinch so you can more than survive until dawn.”

After reflecting on Bradbury’s preface, I made it a hard rule for myself to write every day. Not when the world was gracious enough to give me the time to, and my depression was kind enough to give me the moment of motivation. I wrote when I was fatigued and tired and should have been sleeping, and I wrote when I was so far away from myself and the world that I couldn’t feel my own tears. When I couldn’t feel I placed myself into my character’s world and my character’s feelings. I wrote myself back to the world of the living.

 

I am tired daily, since I sleep less now that I make time to write before bed. Yet, I somehow have more energy to face the day in the morning. As tired as I am those hard smiles are easier to come by now.

 

I am not saying writing cured my depression, as depression is a serious issue. But writing is a comfort and an understanding companion when there is no other.  You do not need to explain because you have no energy for it, and you do not need to. Instead of asking questions, it gives you the reprieve from the world you need to put yourself back together so you may face the world that takes its joy in breaking you apart.

 

In the wells of depression, it is easy to forget this. I forget plenty in my fits of depression (usually all things that can help me get better/comfort me). So, I write this to remind writers who have forgotten, we are writers because we are readers, because we are dreamers, because we are passionate, because we have things we need to say and want to see, but we are also writers because we are happiest when writing.

 

For those with depression, happy is hard to reach and to maintain. But when I talk to my brother and my boyfriend of the logistics of my fantasy world, and my beta readers about what works and what doesn’t, I am the closest I’ve been to “happy” than I have been in a long time. I am a human who happily lives in fiction as I try to outrun the world that tries to poison me.

 

Disclaimer: This is a personal account of how depression and writing impact my life. Know, that every case of depression in unique to the individual.
I would also like to give a special thanks to the amazing  Jody McNeese Keene who took the time to look over this post before it went up!

 

 

The Demon

The law may not understand why my recent actions were vital- nevertheless warranted- but here is something the law and you yourself in turn can understand, I am a learned man. I have earned my PhD in psychology. That alone should assure you that I am a rational source. Let me further go on to tell you that I was put on this earth to help suffering souls. When I get out of jail- and I will get out of jail, because the devil can only hold the innocent temporarily- I will proceed to become a man of God. Only then will I be able to safeguard my soul as well as the souls of others. But before I go on to tell you the plans for the future let me tell you the tale of how I arrived in this jail cell by putting myself in danger to selfishly protect the lives of those around me.

Before I found my pious calling- when I was still employed as a private psychiatrist- I acquired a new client. Her name was Lenorah. She was the embodiment of beauty and grace. As a psychiatrist, I was prepared to see every type of degenerate and all forms of broken people, but I never expected to see a person as sweet as Lenorah in my office every week. During the course of our meetings I fell into pattern of referring to her as the lovely Lenorah, or simply Lovely, because she truly was. Her seemingly perfect disposition aroused and nurtured tender feelings toward her in my heart- but I never allowed my feelings toward her to interfere with my professional evaluation. From our discussions she appeared to be the least disturbed of all my patients- her only concern was that she did not know how to extract joy from her own life. She even went far enough to say that on the days she did not feel completely devastated, she felt like an empty shell of a person. My heart reached out toward her because I- being the learned man that I am- could see that at her core she was a good person.

Our sessions continued and- as I knew it would happen- the fated day came when I realized her fatal disease. It was the day after my sister had sent me a package of rich chocolate-those were what I was delighting in during my session with Lenorah. Because I am not impolite and because I was very fond of Lenorah- at this point- I offered her a piece of chocolate. That was when she uttered the sinful sentence- I do not eat chocolate- and instantly I understood. I became even more concerned with her than I was previously because I knew just how dangerous it was to lead a life without chocolate. This became the primary topics of our following sessions. She was not lactose intolerant or allergic to any other ingredients in the recipe. She had no valid reason not to ingest her daily doses of chocolate. I pleaded with her to begin making it a regular part of her diet- I begged her- lamented- but nothing availed. She refused. Her only reasoning being she did not like it. A chilling terror for her rose up inside me.

Any educated man fully understands how essential chocolate is to humanity. As I am sure you already know, chocolate is a vital part of a person’s happiness. It is proven that consuming chocolate in large quantities is best because it not only increases happiness but also kindness and good will.  No wonder Lenorah felt her life lacked any sense of joy and she felt like a shell of a person. As educated as I was, I knew not what Lenorah was making herself susceptible to by holding fast to her resolve not to consume the holy food.

The changes that I knew would take place came sooner rather than later. Then, I still knew not exactly what was ensuing. As our sessions continued I watched the transformations slowly consume her perfect form. As the changes became more apparent in her I could barely bring myself to look at her. She morphed into a hideous being. I could hardly believe this was the same person I called my lovely Lenorah. She had become a beast. A demonic, undead thing plaguing the earth.

Then the especially horrid day came. She had tears in her eyes and a violent spell overtook her deformed body- She reached out to touch me. My blood ran cold as I tried to keep her sickness from infecting me. She was speaking but I heard no words I only watched her sick mutilated form. I pondered if she felt pain in her state. My eyes fixated on her pearly white pristine teeth- teeth that should never be so white- so foreign to the occasional cavity. That was when I realized she was not my Lenorah. She did not breathe, feel happiness, sadness and she would not feel pain either because she was not my Lenorah. What I beheld before me was a demon possessing my sweet Lenorah’s body. Moved by grief for my darling Lenorah and fright for my own safety I attacked the thing before me.

I pulled out her ungodly teeth. A thought overtook me then- I might have a chance to save Lenorah’s soul. I grabbed packages of chocolate- I had an abundance around to prevent her condition from infecting me- and forced her to eat them. However, the devilish form that was not my Lenorah was still before me. Perhaps I am too late– I thought. Then another thought came to me what if there is no time for the chocolate to make it through the digestive system? I had to act quickly and drastic measures were necessary. I melted down the rest of chocolate I had and injected it into the inhuman skin. I was desperate to cure Lenorah of her condition and bring her back to me so I kept filling her with chocolate.

I succeeded- as I knew I would. The demon was gone from Lenorah’s body-fiendishly it also took Lenorah’s life on its way out. I watched Lenorah’s innocent form lay before me. If only I had begun treating her disease sooner, maybe then I could have saved her life but alas she was taken from me forever. It saddened me that someone so beautiful never knew true happiness. That was when another brilliant idea came to me. Since she was unable to experience happiness in her life I would surround her in happiness in her death. I proceed to melt down my stores of chocolate and dip Lenorah into it. Her fingers, toes, ears, eyes, lips, heart, I encased it all in chocolate. When my task was done I packaged Lenorah in the finest chocolate packagings I had. I left the packages at her favorite places in town.

I returned to my office tired but incredibly satisfied because I did what I knew to be right. I tried to get through some work that I had piling up on my desk done but I was making insufficient progress because the death of the lovely Lenorah still weighed on my shoulders. I decided to delight in a healthy dose of chocolate to rejuvenate my spirits but the chocolate felt- and tasted- peculiar. I looked at the packaging, the ingredients and the chocolate itself, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was my standard prescription of chocolate. I continued to eat it and the chocolate continued to behave strangely. I held several pieces in my hand looking for the cause of the abnormality. Then I found it. There in the palm of my hand, I felt a pulse that was not my own. The chocolate was beating like a heart. The demon! I thought. It plagues my workplace still! It goes without saying that I put the possessed chocolate down. I immediately went out seeking protection at the nearest respectable chocolate selling establishment.

I purchased a standard package of milk chocolate and started to devour it. Still, something strange proceeded to happen in my mouth. I was not simply eating milk chocolate. A vile liquid that was not chocolate filled my mouth. I spit the contents of my mouth into my empty hand and my palm was filled with blood. A cold sweat found me in my frightened state. I felt all the blood rush from my face. I looked at the milk chocolate in my other hand and for a moment all was fine. Then it proceeded to behave like the chocolate I had in my office. It began with a faint pulse then went on to have a steady beat like that of a beating heart. Terrified I crushed the chocolate in my hands in an attempt to stop the sinful demonstration. Blood. Blood oozed from the crevices between my fingers.

I could bear the hauntings myself no longer. I went to the honest store clerk for help with this demon that was plaguing me. I begged him to help me but he couldn’t seem to see what I needed help with. I looked down at my clenched fist coated in blood. I pry my fingers open to show him the horror but he still refused to see. I looked back at his face to see if there was something wrong with his eyes and I saw the honest man that I was desperately seeking help from also had the face of a demon. “How!” I screamed at it in horror. “I expelled you. I sacrificed the sweet life force of Lenorah to be rid of you! Tell me why. Why are you still plaguing me?” The demon had no answer for me.

 

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This was my final from my Edgar Allan Poe class in college. We were challenged to write a story imitating his writing style. Let me know how I did! This was so much fun to write, because as dark as it is it is still very comical. It did, however, make my friends who do not eat sweets very wary of me. I originally wanted to call it “Death By Chocolate” I found it very fitting to the story and I loved that it is also an ice cream flavor, but my professor at the time did not have the best sense of humor so I decided to name is something more Poe-esque. Let me know how you enjoyed it!

Why Working Artists Should Think About Getting Sick This Season

I have always hated the sniffle and sneeze season. Without remorse, I am that person on the train watching for the sneezers and coughers so I can avoid them at all costs. After all, with a full-time job, bills to pay, household chores to complete, social circles and relationships to maintain, and an artistic craft to invest in, who has time to get sick?

As much as we do try to avoid the season’s new plague we are not infallible. This season, I got sick. The whole nine yards too; fever, chills, coughing, an overflow of mucus, aches, sore throat, sneezing, you name it. Tissues were my best friend. I was so good at getting sick that I had to take 3 days off from work. I did not realize it at the time, but this was a great thing. It gave me the staycation I did not realize I needed. It gave me the time that I wish I had every night and whined about every day.

I work as a concierge in a luxury boutique New York City Hotel. It’s a great job for an aspiring writer. I get to meet and interact with people from different countries and backgrounds. There is an abundance of various characters and I have an excuse to people watch without being awkward. But like every job, it takes a lot out of a person.

It’s not easy for my body to turn around and then say, “Yes, I have the time and energy to write right now!” After I eat, do laundry, and all the other necessities of life, I want to unwind. This usually results in me watching Netflix or reading until I fall asleep. When I wake, it’s time to repeat the day with too many necessary tasks and not enough hours.

However, being stuck in bed for three days gave me the excuse I needed to focus on my craft. This is not the same as just taking the sick time (or the vacation time) and having an actual staycation to work on your craft. I like to be busy, learn new things, and explore. This is what I probably would have done if I had just taken the time off to work on my writing.

Being sick makes you sleep long hours. When you wake up (still feeling miserable and cranky because you’re sick) you don’t want to go back to sleep because you have been sleeping all day. That was my moment. I was too achy to move, and too sick to go out and explore the city. I was not working all day. Now I have this store of energy, even if it was just for a few hours, to be awake, in one spot, with my laptop.

I did not watch one episode or movie on Netflix for the duration of my sickness. Because as good as I am at procrastinating or relaxing, I love to be productive. Without going to work for the day or the day before, I was seething with this energy to get work done. And I did. In these three days of being sick, I got more writing and story building done than I had in the previous month.

I would wake up in the late afternoon, drink endless tea and ginger ale, and begin to write. All the while I was coughing and sneezing, yes, but I was working. It made being sick fun and I felt so good about taking the time off. Yes, I was physically getting better and not contaminating my workplace, but I was also emotionally getting better. Writing for those three days dissolved a lot of the stress and negativity I was feeling about not writing as much as I should.

Now that I am feeling better, I am maintaining that momentum that I developed while I was sick. Instead of watching Netflix I continue to work on my work in progress in my free time.

Could this have been achieved without actually getting sick? Perhaps. In my case, it was just what I needed. As a busy non-stop New Yorker, I needed something to get me off of my feet and my schedule so I could reset my weekly pattern of productivity and distribution of energy.

If you are one of the not-starving-because-who-actually-wants-to-be-a-starving-starving-artist, who works so hard and lives so fast that there does not seem to be time or energy to work on your artistic form, you might want to think twice before you swear you will not be one of this season’s common cold victims. It worked wonders for me. When I recovered I recovered as an artist as well.

Nurse Barbie

“Well, you see…”

Her eyeliner was a smooth inky line with just enough smudging from a blurred tip to make her eyes look smoky and alluring. Her eyeshadow ascended from an earthy cinnamon to the tint of the sky nearest the sun at the beginning of sunset. Her black frames did nothing to hide the meticulous time and detail she spent on her makeup this morning. Perhaps her glasses were just for decoration- to make her look studious. Her pristine glossy finished bubble gum nails discredited the effect. Three dainty handpicked gold bracelets adorned her arm, well above the sleeves of the white lab coat over her scrubs.

I saw her blink and twirl her hands around as she spoke so I knew I could not be watching  model in a magazine ad. Perhaps what I was looking at was an actress portraying a character. In no part of my mind could I believe I was watching a doctor.

“… he is very sick,”

Whether it was the beginning, middle, or the end, she managed to  cram that phrase into each of her sentences like it was an excuse.

“…so that could be the cause.”

Of course, he was sick, That was why he was hospitalized. What were they doing about it? Why was he worse now than when he came in? Why would’t he wake up? What was wrong now? She did not answer any of our questions. All she knew how to say was “He’s very sick,” as if it was some sort of apology for her incompetence. A magical sentence that would fix all, or at least stop us from asking questions like “if the side effects were this drastic why was this the only option? Why was it okay for them to do this to him  and not know how to fix it, and not have a plan of action, and not even apologize for it? Why didn’t this live action barbie have the decency to look into my uncle’s condition with the same care it took her to get dressed this morning?  Or dare I say a little longer- or at all, so she could at least tell us why he was dying.

It was clear in his condition, and she couldn’t even tell us that. They sent her over to answer our questions and put us at ease, she failed in both respects just as she had clearly failed my uncle. She left us with the tart smile of an impatient superior mind talking to infants, with the smile of a student that thinks they were able to convince the teacher that she knew what she was talking about. She left us alone to lick our wounds and try to put our worlds back together as she went to perfect her messy bun. How does a world without a sun, an orbit, water, survive? How is a daughter to live without her father, a brother without his only brother, a niece without her happiest kindest uncle?

She left us to answer these questions ourselves.

 

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Catption: My uncle Romould is in the center of the above photo with his sisters on either side of him and my parents below.