Writing Through It: Depression, Anxiety, and Coping Mechanisms
We just moved. The whole house. Granted, it was only a couple of miles away. But it still sucks, it still interrupts everything, and it still makes writing just about impossible. Not that writing is always at the top of my list of things to do these days. I mean, in a perfect world it would be. But I’ve got kids and pets and family and responsibilities… and a house full of boxes. So. Many. Boxes. At this point I’m beyond the whole “write every day” thing which, when starting out, is super important. Of course. But reality? Yeah. I still don’t have a desk situation set up, so writing’s been slow (and, oddly, typing hasn’t been bothering me on the normal keyboard… I’ll pretend that isn’t weird or whatever). But it’s happening even if it’s slow. It’s 80,000 words of happening. Which is awesome. ::insert happy dance::
However, the world has been upside-down for weeks, now. We all got sick just as the move started. Just after we’d all been sick. Then the baby decided it was a perfect time to start walking. And, to save what sanity I have remaining, I also decided it was time to do something about my anxiety levels which, for the last few months, have been catastrophic. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve gone back on antidepressants, and so far it seems to be helping a great deal. I’ve had some truly great nights of sleep, which have been at the center of my struggles, and I’m grateful.
I won’t say that antidepressants make me a better writer. But they allow me to get out of the awful feedback loops brought about by anxiety. I’m not the first person to ever notice that writers suffer from depression seemingly more than non-creatives. And recently Jim C. Hines wrote a far better piece than this one on writing and depression and medication. The first time around, I had postpartum depression. While I did, indeed, have a baby about ten months ago, this instance is different. Because my relationship with my daughter couldn’t be better. To be candid, I’ve bonded with her in a way that I was never able to do with my son due to PPD. I was afraid of my own child, paralyzed by fear and rushing thoughts and anxiety when it came to my son. Zoloft mended some of that, but also left me feeling a bit distanced from the world. Eventually, I was able to cope without the medicine. I never thought I’d have to rely on it again.
But this time, it’s been something else. When I finally met with my GP, I was in tears and shaky. When I told her everything that’s been going on in my life–valid, awful, heartbreaking things–on top of the insomnia and anxiety, she agreed it was time for help. “You seem like a really good person,” she said to me. “Just take some time for yourself. It’s okay to get help.”
I’ll admit, it’s frustrating. Part of me feels annoyed that I’m on this prescription train again. I’m also annoyed that I’ve had some really hard days in spite of the medication. I want to be strong enough to power through things, but I know I can’t. Writing is my coping mechanism, but that doesn’t always work. When I can’t write because of anxiety and depression, the rest of me starts to fall apart. I remember talking to my psychiatrist when I was diagnosed with PPD and explaining, “It’s not even that I don’t have time to write. Because it’s one thing to be so busy you don’t do it. But I’m not even thinking about it. I don’t care about it any more.” Thankfully, I didn’t get to that point with the current project, but it was getting close.
Six years ago, medicine helped me focus enough to complete my second novel. Now, it’s giving me the focus to finish my seventh, and hopefully to edit my sixth. But the healing isn’t all in the chemicals. The healing is still in those pages, in the words. So, hopefully, in time, they’ll be all that I need. We’ll see.