on writing and depression

writing-depression

I first discovered I was depressed at the end of summer in 2010. I was still licking my wounds from the deterioration of a relationship I couldn't fathom ending, even though it had been on and off for a while by that point. Ultimately, the relationship ended because I didn't love myself, though you couldn't have told me that was the reason why then. Or you could have, but I wouldn't have listened.

The day I found out I was depressed I also found out I had anxiety. I was at my gynecologist's office. I undressed alone in the room, the sun peeking through the blinds. It was so warm outside, Austin in August, but I had goosebumps across my arms, legs, and back. I fumbled with the paper gown. I couldn't figure out if the opening should go in the front or the back, and which way was up? Shouldn't robes have sleeves? And what am I supposed to do with this plastic ribbon? I felt like I had too many pieces and they all went to different puzzles and I was a frantic, hyperventilating mess by the time my doctor courtesy-knocked on the door and came inside.

She asked if I had ever experienced this kind of feeling before, the kind where I couldn't make sense or calm down or even breathe. I told her I had, but I knew this one felt like something more. This was my first real, full-blown panic attack. I guess I couldn't have been in a better place, at the doctor's office, with a doctor I really liked and trusted. After my exam, she sent me down to the lab to have my blood taken--another first--to find out if I had an issue with my thyroid, anemia, or something else that might be causing what she called Depression-with-a-capital-D and Anxiety-with-a-capital-A.

The tests didn't bring anything back, but by that point I had gone to see my general practitioner to find out what people who are Depressed-with-a-capital-D and Anxious-with-a-capital-A do to be...less those things. If that's even a thing people with those things can be. Medicine, apparently, is the most common answer. At least when you're dealing with capital D and A, and not just feeling depressed or anxious.

At this point in my college career, I was basically a poetry major. I was writing and reading poetry; breathing more poems than air and eating more poems than food. Medicine, from my understanding, was like a poetry vacuum. It just sucks it all up, doesn't it? Looking back, going on medicine was one of the hardest decisions I've made because I knew it would affect my writing. Writing was all I had, all I was good at, and all that made sense. But maybe with medicine, I wouldn't need to make sense of so much, so I went on it.

I would be lying if I told you the medicine didn't affect my writing. It was a long time before I was able to write anything I was happy with again. I don't believe in the concept of writer's block, but I have experienced a severe creative block directly caused by my medicine. It's like experiencing things in a Ziploc bag sometimes. I can see what's outside of the bag: full, deep feeling, and it's just barely out of my reach. I also know now that ripping the bag--skipping a dose-- in order to touch what I can't isn't an option. It's such a fast spiral down, and with the physical effects of being off the medicine, it's truly unbearable.

My meds help me feel more stable, capable, confident every single day. But I know that, realistically, they also keep me from something. I'm so aware of what I'm unable to experience, through emotion or writing. It's been such a struggle inside of me to know what I'm giving up in order to get through the day. I used to be so painfully passionate it was contagious. I looked ahead with dreams in my eyes and wishes overflowing out of my pockets. I don't feel that way now. I can hardly imagine what the end of the week is going to look like, most days. I look back on that part of myself with nostalgia and longing.

I've come quite a ways in the last four years. I've practiced. I've come to terms. I've even started to feel things more authentically again. But there are still nights, certain songs or poems, or life experiences where I can see the emotion I'm supposed to be feeling just out of my reach, so I'm left feeling something else, something lesser, instead.

10 comments

  1. I've dealt with depression as well and you perfectly capture why its difficult to go on medication.

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  2. Wow, I'm glad that you shared this, I can relate.

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  3. I feel awkward reading this, almost like I'm violating your privacy because it's so personal. Though I don't know you that well and our bond comes from a strange couple of days at the Capitol last summer, I feel I kinda know you much better because of your blog and the #pod. Thank you for letting people in. It's not something I tend to do so I always admire those who are comfortable doing that.

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  4. I've been through something like this myself. The medicine itself was so crippling for me that I found it harder to endure than the anxiety and weaned myself off of it. It wasn't an easy choice, and sometimes I wonder if it was the right one.

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  5. I just wanted to say, you are a beautiful writer and an inspiring young woman. You are doing a great job.

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  6. proud of you for sharing this & sending love always.
    xo,Maddy

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  7. This is really interesting. I battled and have mostly overcome depression and anxiety without the aid of medication. I thought about it many times, but never felt like it was the right choice for me. I think I get what you're saying in a weird way. I am very fortunate that my anxiety/depression is diet-related... going gluten-free has really changed me in that regard.


    ...I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts together right now, but I really get what you're saying and, in the ways it's different, I'm totally there for you. I admire your choices and the way you're thoughtful and introspective. I think that, ultimately, means you're in touch. =]

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  8. Your writing is so full of intention and honesty that it's really difficult for me to separate and compare the emotion your writing evokes and the topic of this post.


    Emotion and creativity are really weird things. I've noticed that when large-scale, emotion-evoking things happen (a graduation, a birth, a death) it's often difficult for me to feel right away. Sometimes, I just never feel the gravity of it at all. I know it's supposed to be an important event and I can see people crying or laughing all around, but I just don't feel it in the same way. These are the times I thought about while reading this post. It's always difficult, frustrating, and confusing for me. I can understand why this decision was such a difficult one.

    I love the clarification you and your doctor make with the capital letters. I think so many people are unaware of the severity behind Depression and Anxiety because the same words are used for a general, fleeting feeling. These posts are important. Thanks for always tackling things that hit the heart.

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  9. Awwww girl... I truly sympathize with you. I too have been depressed (all my life) I'm sure mine is just a chemical imbalance but I always have to keep myself in check. I'm off all medications now but it's a constant struggle. I think eventually maybe years from now you'll get that old passionate/emotional feelings back. Maybe it's also part of growing and changing though too. Whatever the case just keep doing what you feel is right for you. It's great to hear honesty in blog posts. I don't post about my depression, anxiety and health issues all that much because I'm scared and chicken.
    xoxo
    Taylor

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  10. Thank you so much for writing about this. I don't think I've ever been in the capital D zone, but I definitely go through periods where the lowercase d feels like it's sticking around a little too long. It's important to realize how you're feeling and what you need to do about it, if anything, and to recognize the impacts it has on you, to know what you can and are willing to give up for another thing, what you have to. I still see you with so many dreams, and you are one of those people who actually tries for them--with starting the podcast, and keeping up with this blog. Seeing you encourages me to have more sticktoitness, which I'm working on. You're lovely. Thanks for sharing.


    -Jen
    yourstrulyjen.com

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