I decided to write about the impact mental illness has on my writing because sometimes you have to confront the monster under the bed. This is not all doom and gloom. There is positivity here too.
Where I Am Now
I have recovered from major depression. I’ve had incidences since I was in my early twenties. I live nowadays knowing I’m not mentally ill per se but it clings to my mind and body, letting me know it’s there. This is not a defeatist attitude. This is realism.
I know depression and anxiety have taken a lot from me. They have changed me. I will be honest in sharing that my greatest fear is that depression will return. I try not to live in fear of it. I have to embrace the good days and well times.
I am looking after myself. I exercise regularly and have found running to be a surprising part of my mental health treatment.
I’ve accepted I will probably be on medication for the rest of my life and feel no shame in that. I used to. I know now that I am not weak for taking a pill.
The Good Writing Days
Thankfully I have more good writing days than bad. That most certainly wasn’t the case when I was depressed. It makes me so much more grateful for the times when I feel productive and my imagination is firing.
Good writing days are like a gift. It sounds a bit airy fairy but I see them as something to seize.
My mind is still fragile sometimes. Life can batter me hard. When I feel motivated, strong in mind, and creativity is brimming over, I take it.
It’s sad that I feel like I’m writing against the storm. This may seem pessimistic to some but my truth is that I know mental illness has depleted me. This may not sound like an advert for a mental health warrior but to be honest, I never said I was one and I feel strong in knowing who I am.
I know that I have to be kinder to myself. By not putting restrictions and heavy expectations on my writing I can be more productive. This hasn’t been easy. I’ve often felt guilty because I cannot always spend hours writing. I once bought into that bollocks that we should be writing every day and especially if you’re a full-time writer, every day. This is damaging to any writer, let alone one who is susceptible to mental illness.
A good writing day for me varies. I could be writing, revising, editing or researching. I could be writing a blog post like I am today. They may be small things and not for many hours but nowadays it’s about quality rather than quantity.
A good writing day makes me feel accomplished. I look back on the day and know I’ve done the best I can for that day. I try not to think about tomorrow. Tomorrow may not be the same.
The Bad Writing Days
Tomorrow might be a bad writing day. These are days when everything feels impossible, let alone writing. These are days when my mind will not play the game.
Today I am writing this blog post on a bad writing day. Every word I’m writing feels like it could be wrong. I wonder if you’ll read this and think it’s crap. I am battling with my mind, telling it to stop spiraling downwards.
It’s January. This is the worst month for many of us. Unfortunately so much more is added to it for me. I have two major death anniversaries and the birthday of my deceased mum.
I detest January. As soon as the end of December comes along I try to fight the darkness of January. I don’t often win so I have to employ self-care.
My second novel’s first draft is written. I just can’t seem to go back to it ever since January hit. It’s so hard because the writer in me that loves this novel feels like I’m letting it down. The compassionate part of me knows I wouldn’t do it justice to try. I would see the novel as a punishment and I wouldn’t give it the full attention it deserves. In my heart I know I will get back to it. For now I have to look after myself.
Bad writing days when my mental health isn’t the best consist of an ever increasing circle of guilt, shame, frustration, annoyance, anger, pain, and bitterness.
I want to write. I love writing. I have finally found the thing that I was always meant to do. When my mind is fragile and I find even doing necessary household chores is winning, writing cannot happen. The thing that saves me also taunts me when I cannot do it.
I will sit on the sofa, feeling the gnarly claws of depression trying to swipe my mind back into its cave. The fight to keep myself in a well place can be exhausting.
Life events will happen that rock my fairly stable world. I try not to let them shake me and I hate myself for being so vulnerable.
I compare myself to others who can do all the writing and do all the things. I set the bar far too high for a well person, let alone someone who has been battered by mental illness in the past.
The laptop sits on my desk. On occasions it feels like it’s taunting me, telling me I’ve failed because I haven’t been near it. Other times it feels like I’m apologising to it for not working on it. One chink in my usual robust mental health armour can lead to further breakages.
Bad writing days due to mental health are exhausting, even when I don’t actually write.
How Mental Illness Helps My Writing
I will never be one of those people who is positive enough to say they’re thankful for having mental illness because it makes them stronger or able to enjoy the good times.
There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the good times because of the knowledge we have of the bad times. I get that. However, I will never say I am grateful for having depression and anxiety in the past.
If I could erase those dark times I would do it immediately. My heart hurts when I think of the absolute devastation and cruelty mental illness wreaked upon my body and mind. I cannot change the past so I have to look to right now.
Mental illness has helped me too. I cannot delete it from my life so I have to work with it or even be stronger for it.
I decided to write about my experiences of depression both in this blog and for ‘The Mighty’ website. If I can help others who are going through it or emerging from it I feel that nothing has been wasted of what I went through.
I am passionate about writing to shatter mental illness stigmas. No one does that better than someone who has been through it.
My heart and mind may sometimes falter but they are empathic, compassionate, and able to read people. I am who I am, mental illnesses and all, and I must make the most of that; in life and my writing.
My writing is a major feat in a fight against the mental illness demons that want to drag me away from it. Every word written is a battle won. Every person who enjoys what I write and tells me so is a celebration of my mental strength.
Tomorrow I may not be able to write a thing but I will still be a writer because it is what I am. Mental illness is not me.
Over to You
Are you a writer with a mental illness or recovering from one? Do you want to share your experiences in the comments to help yourself and others? I’d love to hear from you.
How do you manage being a writer along with mental illness?