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!