Writers are weird. We all know this. We voluntarily lock ourselves in rooms and write made up stuff. We are weird.
Statistically speaking, we are also often depressed.
I found out recently that, in addition to being an introvert, I suffer from depression. That puts me on the list with Stephen King, Mark Twain, JK Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath (guess everyone knew that one), and Ann Rice. It probably also puts me on the same list as some of you.
I’m not going to go into signs and symptoms of depression. There are lots of sites for that. If you’re worried that you might be suffering, here is a link to a site that can help.
What I am going to talk about, is what we can do about depression. I also want to talk about what you should do if you’re not depressed, but you have a loved one who is.
What can you do to help yourself if you’re depressed?
- First thing, get help. Find a doctor, get diagnosed, and get the facts right away. I put this off for longer than I should have, telling myself I was just tired. The problem is, just tired turns into I’m always tired. That turns into, maybe I’m just lazy. Then it’s ‘what’s the matter with me? Why can’t I just get it together and handle myself?’ Once I was able to understand that this wasn’t just me being unable to adult properly, I was able to make better, healthier decisions.
- Understand your triggers. For me, I can only stand talking to people face to face for so long. It takes energy away from me. I also can’t stand being alone for too long, or going too long without writing. Seriously, if I go too many days in a row without writing something, it puts me in a very dark place, emotionally. Clutter and mess also do this to me.
- Learn what can help you when you’re already depressed. Like a shower, or a long journal session. I’ve found listing reasons to be happy helps, if I’m not too far gone. I also pin animal videos on Pintrest, because they always make me smile, at least a little bit. Stuffed animals and origami help me, too.
- Learn what long term habits can help you. For instance, I’ve found that if I don’t think I look nice, I’m more likely to get depressed. So I don’t own anything I don’t like how I look in. I am super low maintenance with my make up, but a little grey eyeliner makes me feel better about my face. I also know that I feel light years better if I’ve accomplished something. So I plant little goals in among my big goals, for a boost when I need it. Healthy eating also helps me feel overall happier.
- Do not indulge in depressants when you’re not well. You all know I appreciate a glass of wine in the evening. And while I don’t enjoy the ‘Colorado experience’ myself, I’ll not judge. But I do not have a drink if I’m having a not healthy day, mentally. Because I know it won’t help, and with my family history, can lead to a serious addiction. And do I really need to go into the list of creatives who have died from drug overdoses? No, I bet I don’t.
- Build a support system. My husband is mine, but I’ve got some loving friends that I can call up too. You need people around you who don’t judge, but who can also help you make healthy choices.
- Have a pet. My cat Harper seems to know when I’m having a not good day, and she’s extra cuddly.
- Trust yourself. If you think you should call in sick, do it. If you think you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to exit a situation, do it. If you need to just be alone for awhile, make it happen. If you listen to yourself, you’ll know what you need.
Living with depression is kind of like living with a little bracelet on each wrist, that over the course of the day gets heavier and heavier, until you can’t move your hands or arms at all. Living with depression is like someone suddenly setting off a smoke bomb with no given warning. Living with depression is like someone else has the power to make it a rainy day when before there was nothing but blue skies.
Living with someone who has depression is hard on a whole different level. If you’ve got a spouse or child who suffers from it, here are some things you should keep in mind.
- It’s emotionally hard! Please, consider having a therapist yourself, or risk falling right down the dark hole with us. You know that old adage about putting your own oxygen mask on first? Remember that! Full disclosure, I have depression, but it’s mild. It’s incredibly mild compared to my husband. I spent a long time ignoring my own symptoms, and my own emotional well being, because I wanted to take care of him. That just meant I was in no fit state for anything, and failed him when he needed me the most, because I’d broken down inside mentally.
- Being depressed is like being physically sick. Don’t get mad at us, we can’t help this anymore than someone with the flu can.
- Know the difference between an annoying habit related to depression, and a dangerous one. My annoying depressing habit, spending three hours in the only bathroom in the house, soaking. My dangerous depressing habit, spending money we don’t have on worthless junk that doesn’t even make me happy and just lowers my self worth further, thereby making me feel worse for having wasted my family’s resources. Pick your battles, is what I’m saying.
- Make them go to the doctor when they’re supposed to. Make them take their medicine.
- Don’t take behavior that makes you feel bad. Yes, depression is hard, but there is nothing that excuses abusive behavior, either verbal or physical. Don’t use, ‘she’s depressed,’ as a reason it’s okay for your wife to say hurtful things to you.
Listen, the point is that I want all of you to live long, happy lives creating. I want the same thing for myself. Take care of yourselves. Stay clean, stay healthy. We don’t need anymore creatives to drink themselves to death, or committing suicide.
Finally, here’s a list of writing exercises that can help fight depression.
- Journal every day. It tracks your moods, and can help you see patterns in your behavior.
- List reasons you have to be happy.
- List all the reasons you’re sad, and then try to think of things you can do to fix them.
- Free write, about anything. Maybe, if there’s something that’s really bothering you, it will come out.
- Make a list of things that can make you feel better. Keep it near, for when depression strikes.
- Write about your depression, and if you can, be open about it. You’ll never know if you’re the person to tell another writer that it’s okay to feel this way, and it doesn’t make us bad people.
And that is the lesson I’d like to leave you all with. Depression is not a failing, it’s not a thing that makes us bad or weak. It’s a chemical imbalance, or it’s flat out PTSD from something dark or horrendous that happened to us. Either way, we are not to blame for our depression, and we should not feel ashamed because of it.