Mental Health and Writing

This may seem like a strange place to begin a new set of blog posts, but it feels important. I (Loz for this portion) have suffered from depression since, well as long as I can remember. But have had an official diagnosis of clinical depression for my entire adult life, resulting in very low moods and suicide attempts for a dozen years.

You may wonder why I’m bringing this up in relation to writing (or at all, as I know it is still a slightly tense subject for some). I do, because writing can cut both ways. To begin with writing dragged me out of a very dark place, and because I initially embarked on online role playing, gave me a safe social outlet. Essentially somewhere I could shut the lid on pain, or explore my darkness without physically harming myself.

However, do not misunderstand me. Creativity, especially when it is released to a wider public – critics, agents, publishers, readers, even fellow players – can be hard and horribly destructive. You can feel judgement. Not getting a reply, getting knocked back, or simply struggling to think can be ridiculously hard.

Also people who say ‘writer’s block’ doesn’t exist should be shot at dawn.

I remember, I got very ill (I am rarely completely well for long periods) and I was unable to do anything. I would sit with a document open, the cursor blinking at me, and nothing happened. Not a word or a thought made its way down my fingers to the page. None came through the fog. So, trying to help myself I read articles on trying to break ‘writer’s block’. Not just one, but several, told me that this feeling was my fault. That I should just listen to some music or re-read a favourite novel and I would instantly fix. That my salvation would return. I did each and every thing. Nothing worked. I grew terrified that a huge part of what made me who I was, and gave me a huge number of my closest friends, was lost.

To loop it back. I came back, with medication and a lot of love and support from those friends – particularly my best friend and writing partner, Michelle. I came back. Writing came last and slowly. I rarely draw on my mental health issues in my writing. I know it inside out, but it may always be too raw and dangerous to pull back to the surface and use. Don’t see that as a failure either. You have a right to protect yourself and not pick the wound. Sometimes writing what you know (which we will return to at a later date) is not the best answer. Sometimes we need to escape what we know to heal and re-programme.

Remember, creativity in all its forms can be a huge release, but it is the same as everything else. It may falter, it may even feel like it has failed you, but instead of using it as another stick to beat yourself with, let it rest. Give yourself time and allow your mind to heal. If deadlines need to stretch to give you peace then let them, until the joy that illness can take away has returned. Talk to people who love you. Give yourself a break.

And don’t trust Google.

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One thought on “Mental Health and Writing

  1. Getting rejections or notifications we haven’t been placed in competitions certainly can feel like a judgement on far more than that particular piece of writing. They aren’t of course, but it can be hard to remember that at times.

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