The other day I finally admitted to some members in my writer’s group that I cope with depression. I’ve had it for years, almost killing myself in my early twenties in a moment of deep despair. I clawed my way out for a time, only to find myself unable to endure on occasion. I won’t get into the causes of my depression, being too personal, and although I often write as candidly as I can, I don’t feel a blog merits the grueling opening of old wounds.
One member of my group wrote “Nope, depression is not allowed” in the attempt at light-hearted humor. I pointed out that I’m in good company with many great writers; Earnest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Leo Tolstoy, and many other writers suffered through depression. I think there’s something very integral to the creative mind that incorporates a sense of depression or a level of insanity.
Depression is treatable, although I have doubts there’s a cure. I see a therapist every two weeks and it helps tremendously to talk to someone who puts things back into perspective for me. I entered counseling on the first day telling my therapist I had no desire for drugs or that I had expectations she’d fix me. I stated plainly how I sought coping strategies. She, in turn, was surprised at my candor and helped with what I asked for. I can talk, even cry, without shame, and often times she listens with a fair balance of putting things in a more rational light for me.
Writing offers a cathartic outlet. One of the most powerful exercises I realized was to focus on positive writing. This meant to stop ranting, more importantly stop wallowing in my self misery. Instead, I’d mark the place to stop in my journal, then find something- anything- that was good in my day. No matter how mundane or stupid sounding, I’d write that down instead.
I soon found myself finding more and more to be happy about. I still had troubles, but I could still recognize the good in each day. I think it helped reprogram my way of thinking.
Writing also helped tremendously with depression because I learned with plot that conflict is not only inevitable, its essential to good story telling. As with life, you need conflict and troubles to meet those challenges to be a living, breathing human being. Its unrealistic to think you’re entitled to being happy all the time.
Now problems strike me as challenges. Instead of wallowing, I refocus to find resolutions to the problem, even if I don’t particularly like my choices, I see that I have them.