I’m a writer. This means, for me, that I put words on a screen or paper that tell a story. Some times that story is short and leaves the reader with more questions than they had at the beginning. Other times, the work is longer with the aim of completing a character arc. It’s not unlike how we interact with other people in our lives. Some people get to experience each other’s arcs, blending their stories. Most of our interactions, though, are brief and, by the end, leave us wanting to know more. Of course, that largely depends on who you’re hanging out with. You may very well end up with the question, “How do I avoid assholes like that again?”
Writers often put some of themselves into the work – a bit of their own physicality, or perhaps components of their emotional selves. That can be scary because it ends up being a little bit like therapy – you might uncover something about yourself that you don’t necessarily like. I have found this to be true in my own work. Artists, not just writers, are always advised to be honest. Tell the truth through the work. That statement only really makes sense when you start making your art and when you start to see yourself in the work. Writers see themselves in the words and actions of their characters. Photographers see themselves in the faces of their subjects. Painters see themselves in the shapes and colors of their landscapes. And so it goes.
Through the fiction (or rather, the lies) that I have written, I’ve faced my own demons. I’ve not liked what I have found, but have been slowly learning how to deal with it. The it in this case is something that many artists live with: depression. It neatly rounds out the acronym “F.E.D.” (Frustration, Exhaustion, and Depression), and it inhabits a lot more of my life than I would prefer.
It’s a subject that I have not spoken about much outside of my immediate family and closest friends. But, it’s one that affects so many of my decisions and my day-to-day thinking that I would be remiss in not talking about out loud. Do I have A LOT of things to be happy about? You bet! An amazing wife, terrific kids, a solid day job with benefits, and so on. Ask anyone with a clinical-level depression and they (I) will tell you that none of that matters. The specter of depression doesn’t respect those things – doesn’t respect boundaries. It doesn’t care that I am desperately driven to create art – it only wants to disrupt my thoughts and actions. Depression often builds a wall that is impenetrable, and makes your decisions for you. It keeps you from enjoying time with the people you love. This is especially cruel because it can make you behave in such a way that people don’t want to spend time with you either, perpetuating the cycle. It makes work difficult. It makes cooking and eating difficult. It is especially frustrating when you are intellectually aware that your thoughts are being driven by your depression but you are unable to change those thoughts without a great deal of effort or medication. To be clear, I’m not breaking ground here – I’m just giving you a glimpse into my own experience. My familial history leads me to believe that I should probably be more open to a medication, but I am opting to do my best to fight the good fight.
While my depression keeps me from being as creative as I want to/can be, it also provides a motivation to work that much harder because it can be defeated – even if it’s only temporarily.
So, back to work. Back to creating. That means you, too! And if you find yourself struggling with depression, too, I recommend that you (at the minimum) find a therapist that you can work with for a positive outcome. Note that you may need to go through a therapist or two before striking a balance. There are also a number of services that can help you find help in your area – there are too many to list here, so Google is your friend in this instance.
If your struggle is serious enough, you may find it necessary to call for immediate help. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Their website is: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Don’t be too proud to call. Don’t let your fear get in the way.