A little while ago, I published the article On Depression and Writing by Derek Haines on Writer’s Blog, as I found it quite an interesting piece and thought others might like it too.
Since publishing it though it has played on my mind – how this writer has found depression so enabling with his writing process – and I have been thinking: lucky him.
Now, before I get in to this I need to say I love talking about writing, and books, stories, the writing process, etc etc, but I do not talk publicly about my own struggles. However, in order to discuss my thoughts on this topic I have to open up about myself – so here goes:
I have struggled with depression for years. I don’t talk about it, most people don’t know about it, in fact, some of my friends and acquaintances reading this will be shocked to find out about it, because when I’m out and about I plaster on a smile and be as helpful and as enthusiastic as I can possibly be. But behind closed doors I am in a lot of pain. I don’t want to burden people with it or bring them down, so I generally keep it all completely to myself. Posting this is therefore the most un-like-me thing to do. But, I want to talk about depression and writing, of which I have an awful amount of experience, so I can hardly discuss it and not mention my own experiences.
For me, depression is completely debilitating. Amongst other things, I have been writing a novel now for some time. The thing that stops me finishing it – apart from the editor living in my head who won’t allow me to just “write a crap first draft” – is depression. It’s not just “feeling a little bit low” and something I can easily “snap out-of”, like turning off a lightbulb, it is a constant everyday battle with myself.
Every writer goes through that “I’m shit and no one will want to read this trollop” stage. But with depression, that stage takes on a whole new life of its own. It becomes “I’m shit, and worthless, and useless, and maybe I should just kill myself” and “no-one is going to want to read this trollop because who am I kidding, I should just give up right now!”.
Depression has been the one biggest obstacle to my writing above anything and everything else. Money is an issue, of course, but you can always do a bit of extra work or beg and borrow it from somewhere. No one else can save you from the games your mind plays on you when you are depressed. I can sit in a room with nothing to do but write, and depression will pop up its head, and I will just sit there and cry, or procrastinate by doing anything else to distract myself from myself that I can – music, TV, social media – you name it, but can I manage to write a single word: no.
And then what happens? I feel even worse because I’ve done nothing, achieved nothing. And so the downward spiral continues. I have endless amounts of both respect and awe for the writer Matt Haig, who has famously and openly suffered with depression for a long time and still been a successful published author. I just wish I knew how he did it. I’m guessing sheer determination and resilience, because I know personally that it takes a massive amount of inner strength to battle depression everyday and still keep writing.
It is my hope that one day I will make it, both as a writer and as a happy individual. But for now, I will keep on struggling forward a day at a time. If any of you reading this are saying – yes, this is me too, she gets it – then I hope this post encourages you to keep writing too, and to know that although it feels like it, you are not alone.