Friday, July 1, 2016

Let's go fly a kite

I've danced with depression. It's a demanding, crushing partner that doesn't so much lead as step all over your feet and then lay the blame on you. I was one of the lucky ones. It wasn't that bad. It didn't last that long. Zoloft cut in and two-stepped me off to a lighted area where I was with music and friends and people who loved me before the depression could sit me down over there by the dark wall with no one to talk to and not a song to be had.

I couldn't find statistics on how many writers suffer from clinical depression, but "researcher Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and author of several books, including Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament has reported that writers have depression or manic-depression more often than non-writers." (http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/why-writers-are-prone-to-depression-6709.aspx)

It is on days like today that I worry. When I wake with a sore hip and a strong inclination to stay in bed. When I eat for comfort instead of because I’m hungry. When I am irritated by things that I shouldn’t even notice. When the clouds in the sky—yes, there are usually clouds and/or darkness when I feel this way—bring me close to tears. Words are coming just fine on my WIP, but…you know, are they really okay words? On days like today, I wonder if my cranky dance partner is coming around again.

No, it’s not.

Because by this afternoon, I am better. I have laughed and talked and sung (although it is true other people wish I wouldn’t.) I’ve eaten, but not too much. Medicated my hip and hoped it is nothing. Stayed awake.

I’m only writing this because depression is a villain to be watched. It’s all well and good to kick it to the curb, but the slimy rat bastard might crawl back and attack when you least expect it. I have no medical or psychological expertise, but this is what I do. 
  • Take a walk.
  • Go to lunch with a friend.
  • Laugh at something. Anything.
  • Find light. And color. Latch on.
  • Talk to someone you trust. Just being listened to helps.
  • Find a song that makes you happy. (Mine today is “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.”) 

It’s not that easy, of course. You shouldn’t diagnose yourself. Read up on symptoms to look for. If you need to see a doctor, see one—mine was a godsend.

I know I haven’t said anything new here, but the Gems have discussed that our attic is a safe place to go, that we can vent or spill or rant or rail all we need to. Today I needed to. What about you? Have you danced with the partner no one wants? If you have—or are right now—remember we’re here for you; it’s not an opponent to be fought alone.

In One More Summer, the book of my heart, Dillon Campbell suffers a raging case of clinical depression. His best friend Steven travels to Paris to bring him home. I don't write guys all that well, I don't think, but I loved what Dillon said about Steven's arrival: “That’s something to come back to life to, a tall guy in a ponytail yelling, ‘Get off your ass, Campbell. I don’t have time for this.’”

We don't have time for it, either.


Liz

Did everyone see the article by Alyssa Day in the RWR on depression? It was great. Not counting my blog post, I've read three articles on writers and depression just this week. Makes me wonder if we're having a season of discontent. Thanks to everyone for your response to this. - Liz



40 comments:

  1. Thanks for that. I can't say I've been clinically depressed, but certainly went through some difficult emotions. I once had a person say to me "That's the work of the Devil inside." Gee thanks. That helped. It's a rough thing to go through.

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    1. I'm not going to say it's NOT the work of the devil (sure feels like it, doesn't it?), but being told that doesn't do one little bitty thing toward helping it.

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  2. Oh, Liz, I hope you (and others) find the light, the color and lots of things to laugh at today and every day.

    This might qualify as a subset of taking a walk, but it's nearly impossible for me to feel down if I play with/spend time with our pups. Uncanny as it sounds, black Lab Logan seems to know when I need a hug and always obliges.

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    1. My cats do, too, and I think there is actual scientific truth to pets helping depression. That's why so many nursing homes and hospitals have therapy animals--and I think it's a great idea! Thanks for coming by, Kate.

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  3. Great post, Liz. It's a hard topic to talk about, because I've found that unless you've suffered from it, it's a topic nobody wants to talk about. It makes people uncomfortable, so I applaud you for putting it out there. I suffered from depression for a long time, for a period of about 6 years. I have PTSD and depression and anxiety are among the biggest symptoms. It was getting a great therapist and adding Wellbutrin to my cocktail of meds that finally lifted me out of it. I've since learned the signs and while it does come back around from time to time (I had a touch of it recently), I'm stronger now and I know how to battle it. How not to let it defeat me. For me, it's partly a mind-set. Deciding that the emotional things behind the depression weren't allowed to take my joy. But the things that keep me sane are the simple things. Laughing with my husband (who, bless the man, likes to *make* me laugh), spending time with my family, or taking the dogs for their nightly walks.

    I do think a lot of writers suffer from it. At least, I've met a lot who have. I think it must be the price we pay for being the sensitive souls that we are. Glad to hear you can still see the light. Thanks for sharing this. :)

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    1. What made is so hard for me to accept was that I am the embodiment of a Pollyanna. I'm ALWAYS positive, nearly always happy. And then I wasn't. I was locked in looking out at myself and couldn't seem to connect. It was definitely a hard time. Thanks for sharing your story, Joanne.

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  4. I think everyone gets depressed at one time or another. It's the degree of the depression friends and family need to watch for. I 100% agree with music, walking etc but especially having a pet even though we don't have a fur baby at the moment. Great post.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. Not only the degree, but the hanging-on factor.

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  5. I've watched my dad struggle with depression and other mental health issues for most of my life, and one of the saddest parts is that he takes no responsibility for his mental health (won't take meds, won't talk to anyone, won't get out of the house, etc), and none of us kids know how to reach him any more. We do keep trying, but...Depression is an insidious beast...so glad you were able to overcome it.

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    1. It makes it all so much worse, doesn't it, when the "patient" won't or can't address the issue? I write about it every couple of years, I think to remind myself TO address it if it becomes a problem. Thanks for coming by, Kristi, and hugs on (and for) your dad.

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  6. Been there. For me, nature is what pulls me out. I get in my van and drive to the nearest wildlife preserve and breathe in the fragrance of life, aka, the trees and earth and water running over rocks. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, yes! We have some wetlands by the walking trail close by, and I can just stand there and draw new hope from it.

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  7. Liz - I think the depression goes hand in hand with a very creative mind. I'm happy you've found a way to curb it.

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    1. It might. I'm glad I had a doctor who assured me it didn't somehow make me less of a person.

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  8. My daughter started showing signs of clinical depression when she was about five. It started with insomnia. Over the years the condition has progressed. She doesn't like the way the meds make here feel fuzzy and disconnected. She chooses men who treat her badly, saying that's all she deserves. Since her three daughters reached their teens, it's been much worse. They blame her, saying she just wants attention. She was once baker acted after a suicide attempt. The doctors there treated her horribly. She told me that suicide doesn't seem selfish, like everyone claims, when you feel everyone would be better off without you. It's an everyday struggle that I fear I'll lose someday.

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    1. I am so sorry for that, Sandy, and you draw a much more real picture of clinical depression than I do. My "case" is more like a friend's son who got chicken pox and only had something like five eruptions on his whole body. Thank you for sharing this--it goes much further in illustrating the pain of it for all involved.

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  9. Liz, thank you for the honest look at a subject that makes too many people uncomfortable. I had an author friend who struggled with depression. When she finally went for treatment, the medication made a huge difference in her life. There's help available, but there's such a stigma still attached to reaching out for that help. She would discontinue medication thinking she was cured. Then she'd fall down into the valley of despair again. She's still struggling with the idea of taking the medication, but she's back on it again.

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    1. There is someone I love who does the same thing. I understand hating to take medication--we all do--but I admit to getting frustrated when people won't (or can't) do what is necessary to help themselves. I'm so afraid of losing the person in my life just like Sandy is, and part of what's frustrating is how helpless I feel--it seems as though there's just not a damn thing I can do for her.

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  10. I suffer intermittently from depression--despite taking med--like now. My WIP is stalled & I'm having troubling writing for my contract work. I'm going to take some of Liz's advice.

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    1. Please, please take care of yourself. One of my worries was that the medication I took would silence my writer's voice. It didn't. Changed it some, maybe, but didn't. Come back and talk to us--we're good listeners here!

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  11. 'Morning, Liz! How brave of you to take on such a subject, particularly when it's tried to take you on. I imagine doing this is like grabbing a handful of it and yanking it right out. I've never experienced depression that deep, but can only imagine how awful it must be. I'd say, post the cover of your favorite book of yours and look at it every day. Tell yourself, "I did that! At this moment somewhere it's making someone smile and be hopeful." I'll bet that works with photos of children, husband, friends. "I made those kids, or I made that friendship, and I made that man love me." Every move we make in life is so much bigger a deal than we realize. And God's there for us and He's bigger than everything else. My applause to all of you who deal with depression and make yourselves keep going.

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    1. Hi, Muriel! Like I said up there, I talk about it every couple of years because I don't want to forget--both how it felt and how to get "fixed." And I think you're right about reminding ourselves of what's good about ourselves.

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  12. Liz, great post. I had problems in high school and they said "anxiety disorder". Later I figured out it was depression. Had another bout after my first baby was born and they called it: "baby blues" Honestly it's good they know more now and have better treatments.

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    1. I remember the "postpartum depression." I was warned about it, and I only had it after one baby, but it was definitely bigger than I expected it to be. It wasn't something we addressed in the 70s, and it was hard to get past. It is good they know more now. Thanks, Roz.

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  13. While I've never been clinically depressed and rarely even mildly depressed, I have friends who suffer with it. I've discovered there's a fine line between being encouraging and giving platitudes.

    So agree that if you haven't walked in those shoes, you can't really understand it. When I see my friend sitting all day, staring at reruns of Bonanza and Big Valley, I it's hard not to push her to do something, anything. Then I realize if she could, she would. And I keep my mouth shut unless it's to invite her out to lunch.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It IS hard, isn't it? And I'm the queen of saying the wrong thing, so I'm even more inclined to say nothing. Good for you for inviting her to lunch.

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  14. Great post, Mon Amie. Your eloquence is surpassed only by your warm heart and your awareness of yourself. Thank you. <3 <3

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    1. Thanks, Nan. I think we just talked about maybe I have a little too MUCH awareness of myself. :-) But talking to friends who are accepting is such a help.

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  15. I think in this age of self-diagnosis and the search for instant gratification, too many call themselves "depressed" (a clinical term) when they're really overwhelmed and saddened by circumstances. Rampant misuse belittles the suffering of those with true clinical depression who need medication to improve or even survive.

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    1. I absolutely agree, but if there is anything you don't want to mess with, that's it. One of my fears was that instead of getting better, I would get worse. Again, though, I was so lucky.

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  16. Such an important issue, Liz. Thank you for sharing. I have a number of friends who struggle with depression. It's also important to remember that it isn't a failure or something to be ashamed of--it's simply one of those things that is and deserves understanding and compassion. Both of which you have in abundance. :)

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    1. Thank you, Anna. That's a good point, that it's not a failure.

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  17. This is a great post that touches on something many people experience. I have a "morning song," too that lifts me and starts my day. https://youtu.be/pjuKmk6H3Ko

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  18. Excellent post, Liz! Thanks for reminding us to be vigilant regarding our mental health.

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    1. Hi, Joanne. We do indeed need to be vigilant.

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  19. Great post Liz,
    Know that even if you're struggling if you still notice beauty and feel compassion for others all is not lost.

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    1. Thank you so much, Mariposa. Those are things to hang onto. Important things!

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  20. Nan summed it up so well I have nothing to add besides my own admiration of your shaeing.

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen. I appreciate that.

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