Monday, November 26, 2018

Depression in Writers

Edgar Allan Poe famously suffered from depression, but he wasn't a rarity. Authors are among the most likely professions to have issues with depression. Yet we often dismiss it as being part of our creative process. Some even fear treating it in case it impacts their writing.


I've seen a trend as the weather changes to cold, with night falling earlier and earlier. Writing friends who've sunk into depression. A change in tone on their blogs, Facebook pages, and in-person interactions. Seasonal Affective Disorder runs rampant this time of year, and for those who suffer year-round depression, the change in seasons can deepen it.

I'm someone who suffers moderate depression all year, with severe anxiety and PTSD. I also come from a family in which Bipolar Disorder is common, though I have been lucky to avoid it, so far. After decades of learning and employing coping mechanisms, I finally went on a mild anti-anxiety medication to help with the side-effects of my PTSD after a downward spiral was triggered by a fairly minor incident related to the initial cause. I was incredibly resistant to using medication for this, which is why it took so long. It took feeling completely out of control of myself and my life, constant panic attacks throughout the day, and beginning a withdrawal from normal life events, though I kept forcing myself forward. In the past, I made it through a combination of PTSD and Postpartum Depression on my own, and I was proud of that, but why did I put myself through it in the first place?

I say all this so you know you're not alone. No one can tell you everything will be okay, but there are ways to get through the harder times. Sometimes it takes admitting there's an issue. Seeking out that one person who can reach out to you. Maybe it's a friend or family member. Maybe it's a doctor. Below you'll find some coping mechanisms and options that might help.

1. Get some sun. As writers, especially those of us with day jobs, small children, disabilities, or some other reason that keeps us out of the sun, it's important to try to get as much sun as you can. Even if it involves sitting on your porch, resting in front of a window (I know it's super cold some places), going for a walk around the block, taking a hike, or even driving around on a sunny day. If you absolutely can't get outside, maybe check out one of those natural sun lamps.

2. Journal. A lot of writers already journal. It can help vent frustrations, fears, etc. and get the poison out. It can also help you track it to see if there are particular patterns or triggers.



3. Exercise. A walk is good exercise. It doesn't have to be anything intensive. If you want more than that, you can join a gym, do home workout tapes, join an adult sports group or team in your area, or even find short workouts (including ones intended to be done at your desk) online. I love 30 Days of Yoga workouts by Bad Yogi, found on YouTube. Her yoga workouts are brief, usually about 10 minutes, give or take. The main thing is to get active and get away from your desk, even in short bursts if that's what it takes.

4. Socialize. Find a writer's group or an online community (if you're blogging and visiting other blogs, you're already ahead of the game on that one.) Attend workshops and writing social events. We writers tend to lock ourselves away from people to focus on our writing. It's a solitary pursuit. We forget to see our friends and family. We forget to get out of the house and do something other than work.



5. Tell someone. Find someone you trust to talk to. Admit what's going on. Seek help. If you don't have someone in your life you trust, consider telling your regular doctor and getting a referral to a mental health professional.

6. Positive Reinforcement. As authors, we often punish ourselves when we don't feel we're being productive enough. We talk down to ourselves. We judge ourselves. We try to harden ourselves against rejection, but it's hard to deal with constant rejection. Instead of beating yourself up or having unrealistic expectations for yourself, consider setting small, realistic goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them. You can reward yourself with a movie or an outing with friends, buy something small when you reach higher goals (like the Funko Pops I buy for each short story sale), treat yourself to a special treat or diet cheat day, etc. You know yourself best, so you know best what rewards will matter and what to strive for that's achievable, but somewhat challenging.

7. Consider medication. Only if you're comfortable with it. Do you avoid it because of a stigma attached to it? Things others said? Or have you researched it and it's not for you? I avoided it because I have severe reactions to medications, and I was afraid of what type of reaction that would be when it's for something meant to treat my brain. Every medication they put me on for the permanent migraine I have (I've had it 8 years now) had horrific side effects, and many of those medications doubled as treatments for ADHD, depression, OCD, seizures, etc. My rule was nothing mind altering. Nothing with severe side effects. Nothing that made me feel numb or caused me to shut down in any way.

If you can find something that helps you (or, most likely, a combination of things), it can help you through those harder times. As writers, depression can keep us from being productive. It can taint how we see our work. Sometimes small steps are all the help you need. Sometimes you need more intensive help. No matter where you are in this, I wish you luck, and hope you can find whatever helps you most.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is seeking fantasy, science fiction, myth, legend, eldritch, and fairy tales. 1000 words and up. Pays $.06/word. Deadline December 28.

Sigil House Publishing is seeking short stories of any genre or combination of them. 2000 to 15,000 words. Pays $10. Deadline December 31.

Carte Blanche is seeking short fiction, memoir, and personal essays. Up to 3500 words. Pays a modest honorarium. Deadline December 31.

Workers Write! is seeking stories and poems in educational settings for More Tales From the Classroom. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $5 to $50. Deadline December 31.

Allegory is seeking speculative fiction short stories. Prefer works between 500 and 5000 words, but will consider stories outside that range. Pays $15. Deadline December 31.

Zizzle is seeking stories for both young and adult readers. 500 to 1200 words. Pays $100. Deadline December 31.

Split Lip Magazine is seeking literary or mainstream fiction, poetry, and memoir. Word counts vary depending upon type of submission. Pays $5 per printed page. Deadline December 31.

Fireside Magazine is seeking short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 4000 words. Pays 12.5 cents per word. Deadline December 31. (Note: Does not open until December 15).

Horror Queen Media is seeking witch stories for Vex No More. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline December 31.

Have you dealt with depression? What have you found helps you? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Images:

Edgar Allan Poe: By Unknown; most likely George C. Gilchrest, Samuel P. Howes, James M. Pearson, or Andrew J. Simpson, all of Lowell, MA - http://www.daguerre.org/images/2008sympos/consignor4a-medium.jpg and http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=39406, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31269051

Aerobics Clip Art: CLKER.com, OCAL

Meeting Clip Art: CLKER.com, OCAL

Medicine Jar Clip Art: CLKER.com, OCAL

5 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about the issues you've suffered, and still suffer. It's so important to stay healthy as writers - we hear a lot about the physical side and getting away from our desk, but not so much the mental. You've given some excellent pieces of advice here. Personally, I like writing when it's dark outside because I feel like I'm cocooned, but I recognise it's a problem for many. Walking is definitely good - I take the dogs - and can also help with working out plotholes better than sitting down can!

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  2. Hi Shannon - it is a tricky and challenging situation ... we all have ups and downs - I'm just glad I'm on the positive trend side and am lucky in that way. Definitely exercise, lots of water and eating healthily ... take care and all the best to everyone - cheers Hilary

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  3. I have several friends who struggle with your issues (including the bipolar, which I hope you continue to avoid) so I understand the struggle. My husband and I exercise daily and it really helps.

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  4. As soon as the snow hit here I took a nose dive. I got a blue light to help because where I live can go days without any sunlight. This year is doubly bad since it's the first holiday season since my brother died.

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