#MentalHealthAwarenessMonth: Depression In Writers & Why It Sucks

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October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s a subject that is deeply personal to me.

I wish I could say that I wake up every morning smiling from ear to ear. I wish I could say that I have an infectious laugh, a bubbly personality, and skip everywhere I go.

I wish I could say that winter weather doesn’t affect me and that COVID didn’t affect my mental health. I wish I could say that I don’t mind isolation, that I can celebrate everyone else’s success with a huge fucking grin on my face, even though all the while I’m feeling like a big fat failure.

I wish I could tell you that my beaming personality is a magnet that draws everyone to me. I wish I could say that I can sleep soundly at night without struggling with insomnia. I wish I could say that accomplishing goals is enough to make me feel less fucked up inside.

Depression sucks.

Depression is a shit feeling that stubbornly stays with you no matter what you do. True clinical depression is with you when it’s bright and sunny outside. It’s with you despite accomplishing goals and tends to be more prevalent in creative people. After having my son, I’ve been very depressed. I don’t know if it’s a combination of hormones, having a whole new schedule, the stress of a new baby, or what? It could be a combination of everything. Working from home is great, but it can add to the feeling of isolation compounded by lengthy lockdowns, especially in California. While we’re semi-back to normal, none of us are really the same. COVID has changed us all. Regardless, genuine clinical depression sufferers who have always had it know that the black cloud is always present—with the pandemic or without it.

I’ve learned to exist and write through my depression. But there are times when it’s just so damn hard. After completing two manuscripts (duology) and finally revising them, my depression has gotten worse. So, I’ve tried to come up with a new idea to help myself out of it. Yet depression can sometimes fog the brain and cause writer’s block. It can magnify self-doubt, and it doesn’t help that we can’t expect any sort of praise. It seems that the only time writers do get a shout-out is if they’ve landed a book deal or are selling well, etc. When you’re a nobody, and you have a manuscript like millions of other nobodies wanting to break in, gushy flattery doesn’t happen often. Regardless of color, creed, or social status, we’re all in the same boat. Us nobodies require thick skin to process rejection after rejection after rejection. The nobody camp very rarely gets any sort of ego boost, even if we desperately could use a pep-talk.

The publishing industry is a super tough road that can often make those of us with depression and anxiety have to work extra hard to get through it.

So, what the hell can you do if you’re a writer dealing with depression and it’s affecting your writing? I’m no expert, but here is what I’ve been doing this week.

  • See A Therapist: I’ve had to talk to my therapist twice this week, and it’s helped. Talk therapy can only do so much, though. Even after two one-hour conversations this week, I still have had a tough time being unable to rid myself of this cloud.
  • List Out Scenes: If depression is making you unable to write, I suggest writing out a list of scenes that you know you need. Don’t worry about putting them in any order. Just write out what you do know. Sometimes using plotting and writing software such as Plottr and Scrivener puts pressure on you to know all of these plot points, details, and which order everything should go. When you start writing down simple one-sentence scenes/beats you need to hit, you get it down on paper. This process of brain dumping/brainstorming on paper can actually help to unblock you. This is especially true if you’re working on a brand new concept and the same with forming new characters. If you don’t know every tiny detail of your story, don’t worry about it. Write down what you do know. Do a character sketch and write down the basics. Get your basic beats down and those scenes you know you need.
  • Talk To Someone Positive: Do you have a special person in your life who is very positive, has a great outlook, knows how to flip bad situations into something good? If you’re lucky to know someone like this, he/she can be a valuable asset. Friends, in general, can be beneficial during this time. I had a friend text me today to ask me how I was doing. The text came at the perfect time. I told her that I was battling depression again, and she asked me what she could do to help. It really made me feel better knowing that I wasn’t alone. We now have a scheduled play date with our kids.
  • Turn To Self-Help & Motivational Material: Today, I saw this below Tweet from an account that I follow, and it was just what I needed to hear. If you’re dealing with depression, try reading a self-help book, listening to a positive podcast, or turning to your higher power (if you have one.) Reading uplifting material can and does help.

Originally tweeted by Tiny Buddha (@tinybuddha) on October 14, 2021.


The Bottom Line

Regardless of being a writer, artist, or just someone suffering from depression, you’re not alone. Depression can be all-consuming. It fucking sucks. It’s not fun to walk around feeling terrible while everyone else is seemingly happy. But you never know what is truly going on behind closed doors and outside of someone’s “perfect” social media profile. If it’s been a long time since someone has reminded you how special you are, I’m going to tell you right now that you’re wonderful, you’re amazing, you’re unique, you’re a bad-ass, and you deserve happiness. I do, too. We need to be kind to ourselves during these dark nights of the soul. Writers with depression, let us keep dreaming our dream. Let us keep writing. Let us not allow depression or any other mental health diagnosis stop us from realizing who we were meant to be.


17 thoughts on “#MentalHealthAwarenessMonth: Depression In Writers & Why It Sucks

    Jack Eason said:
    October 15, 2021 at 6:47 AM

    Like most serious writers I know i’ve lived with the aftermath of a total mental breakdown and the subsequent endless bouts of depression. All I can tell yousweet lady is your not alone. 😉 xx

    Liked by 2 people

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 15, 2021 at 9:16 AM

      Hi Jack, thank you for your note of encouragement. I’m sorry to hear about your mental breakdown. It’s very easy to slip into. I’m taking one day at a time, that’s all any of us can do. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    chrisr74 said:
    October 15, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    Being in a funk is an understatement compared to what depression is but even then it can seem impossible to snap out of it. Trying to be positive can be just as difficult. When writer’s block results, oh my. As you said, all we can do is take things one day at a time and not get too far in front of ourselves. That and try to harness our feelings and use them in our art.

    Liked by 1 person

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 15, 2021 at 11:18 AM

      I liked that phrase – “harnessing our feelings and use them in our art.” I think that’s really the key. Depression, like many other types of mental health issue, can be a powerful tool and motivator if we can channel it.

      Liked by 1 person

    Maria said:
    October 15, 2021 at 11:46 AM

    Depression is so tough. All of these tips are really great! I have found meditation to be very helpful as well. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 15, 2021 at 11:47 AM

      Oh yes…I forgot that one and should put it on my own to-do list! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    macabeliam said:
    October 16, 2021 at 9:01 AM

    I really enjoy your style and frankness. The voice of each blog seems to resonate with me especially when discussing mental health and creativity. I get it. I’ve experienced terrible depression and still do. I needed to read this today. Thanks S.Z.

    Liked by 1 person

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 16, 2021 at 9:05 AM

      Thank you, and I’m sorry to hear about your depression. I can completely understand it. I hope you have friends, loved ones, a therapist, healthy habits, and hobbies – to get you through it. A good support system is so vital with mental health.

      Liked by 1 person

    stephaniechongmin said:
    October 16, 2021 at 9:12 AM

    I don’t have immediate family nearby and can so relate to this post! I feel like it makes depression and even occasional low moods much worse for me. I do have close friends and loved your ideas as a writer to write out scenes if you get stuck and not worry about the order. I also loved the idea of talking to a positive person in your life. I’m not the bubbly, smiling from ear-to-ear type either, but I have a friend that is and she tends to be a good person to turn to when I’m experiencing self-doubt and depression.

    Liked by 1 person

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 16, 2021 at 9:19 AM

      I’m sorry you don’t have family nearby Stephanie, that really sucks. I know the feeling, I don’t have family nearby either. But that’s great to have good friends, even if it’s a couple of good ones you can rely on when you hit those low moments. Writing out one-liner scenes/beats in a brain dump helps me. Thanks for reading and hang in there. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    Jack Eason said:
    October 16, 2021 at 10:04 PM

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Depression – the writers constant companion.

    Liked by 1 person

    johncoyote said:
    October 17, 2021 at 8:48 AM

    Hello dear poet. I lost two brothers to suicide. One in 1988, one in 1989. It taught me to quit talking and to listen. Not lecture, be the kind voice and open door. Everyone struggled. Once I held a rifle to my head. I was saved by love. Strong and worthwhile words and thoughts shared.

    Liked by 1 person

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 17, 2021 at 8:52 AM

      Oh wow….John I’m so sorry to hear about your brothers. I can not even begin to imagine that sort of loss and pain. Depression can really make our minds not think clearly because all we want is to not feel this way anymore. Often times, it does go away when we sit with these feelings and walk through them. But some don’t make it on the other side of it. Thank you for sharing your story and for bringing us hope that you’re still here and was saved by love. We’re all touched by your poetry as well, which I love to read. Have a blessed week and thanks again for reading and sharing. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

        johncoyote said:
        October 17, 2021 at 8:55 AM

        Thank you dear friend and have a fun and safe weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

    joylennick said:
    October 17, 2021 at 9:32 AM

    There’s no easy answer, I’m afraid. I had depression and suffered claustrophobia in my menopause years through grief (partly hormones I believe.),. after four close deaths to family members and friends. Two doctors were unsympathetic ;the third, a dear man, said, “It’s not logical. Try and flow through the fear and anxiety. Say a mantra each morning, if it helps Think of a funny situation or uplifting experience and,whatever you do, KEEP BUSY, EVEN WHEN TIRED OUT. Give yourself little treats and be kind to yourself and make a list of all your blessings. When some people say”Pull yourself together!” as they sometimes do, they should have it FULL ON for 24 hours. I wish you a full recovery, and just remember WE ARE ALL UNIQUE.AND SPECIAL! You’ll get there!. Sincerely. Joy x

    Liked by 1 person

      S.Z. Estavillo responded:
      October 17, 2021 at 1:18 PM

      Thank you Joy for sharing. You’re right there really isn’t an easy answer to depression. I’m sorry to hear about the deaths in your family. I had an uncle and aunt both die of cancer recently. Thanks again for reading and sharing. ❤️

      Like

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