I feel the chains pull me down as I sink into the dark. Fighting it with fear pulsing through me till despair claims my heart, I can't get out, I can't move, I'm trapped in depression. Writers and depression: not a good combination.
Hey everyone. I'm back, and it's been three more years since my post on self-doubt. Two years, but I've been writing so I guess it's a victory of sorts. However, it has been the hardest thing to keep going.
Through those two years, I've found out that I have anxiety and depression, had to move away from home with no resources, and come to terms with the fact that my childhood was filled with passive aggression and emotional abuse. It has been the hardest thing I've ever had to face, and I now find it affecting my writing.
Writers and Depression and Anxiety: An Endless Cycle
Some people might shrug that off—anxiety, depression, who cares? Just stop being anxious or depressed. What they don't realize is it’s not something you can shrug off. Heck, if you could you’d have done that a long time ago. Why make yourself suffer if it was that easy to get rid of? It affects everything, and for me writing was hit the hardest.
Every time I pick up a writing piece or think about what I want to write next, it comes like a thief in the night to stab me with doubt. “What are you doing? Haven't we already confirmed this? You aren't a writer. You can't do it,” it says and laughs at my pain, my anguish, as I clutch my wounds and try to keep walking.
I am wrapped in chains as the depression follows, each thought adding to my already impossible weight. It's not too long before the wound and weight make me fall, leaving me motionless and alone. I can't get up, and even if I could the effort is too much.
My anxiety and depression watch me and laugh, dancing around me in glee. Everything within me wants to give up, give in, and vanish, but one spark remains in my heavy heart. I focus on it and somehow keep moving because of the spark that got me into the game, the spark that tells me I can't give up. And so, I trudge on with great effort, one step at a time.
Anyone who’s been in it knows the cycle. Rinse and Repeat. A endless cycle of paralyzing doubt, fear, and hopelessness. And yet here we stand, still here, hollow survivors.
Some days it's hard to even get to the writing point, some days it's hard to wake up, and some days it's hard to go to bed. I push on. The only way to fight it is to do what it says you can't—a task so heavy and so great that it is almost bitter sweet.
Sure, you could write something and banish doubt for a time, but it's bound to return when you look at it again. When you start to see the imperfections. The only way to fight it is to keep going.
Writing Through the Pain
Pain is powerful. It breaks us, tears us down, leaving behind tattered emotions and shredded dreams. It’s hard to face; it’s just easier to let it stay, hidden in your soul. Oft times we smile it away, but deep inside it remains.
That is my everyday now. Most days I can't write. Most days that fact drags me deeper into depression. And when depression takes a break, anxiety comes right after, using its sharp knives to convince me to cower from the page and not write at all.
When I get like this, the only thing I can do to break the cycle is vomit on the page. I never know what's going to come out, and starting to write is the hardest part. My pain spews out on the page like blood. I let the words flow; I refuse to look at them.
Sometimes you just have to write.
It doesn't have to be published, it doesn't have to be in a piece you're working on. The point is to get the doubts on the page, and only then can you start to counter them.
Fear Flees From Action
I can see your eyes rolling. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. I can see your yes buts. It’s okay. Action is hard. A four-letter word that makes you shake and curl up inside. Fear so powerful that it’s a presence on your shoulder—how could it just go away?
I’ve been there. I never believed the stories that it fled from action, at least not consciously. Till the one day it just hurt too much to not write. It had been a rough day, anxiety and depression pulling me to my wit's end, but I hadn’t said a word. I was trained out of communicating painful things, but this time it was just too much.
I didn’t want to open a blank page; I didn’t want to start writing; fear pulled at me—but my pain spoke louder. I opened the doc and with trembling fingers started writing. It quickly became nearly gibberish as I wrote with tears flowing down my face, but it felt so good. Anger frustration grief all being taken off my shoulders and thrown on the page. Fear completely gone from my mind within the first paragraph.
I'd like to urge you guys to write anyway. It's going to be hard, it's going to hurt, and in some cases it'll make you cry. Write it anyway. You can't fix a blank page.
Once you write, reward yourself. Anything from watching a favorite movie, to eating a candy bar, or treating yourself in any other way. This is important. Because if you don't reward yourself the doubt can just as easily say that what you made was a fraud. By rewarding yourself you acknowledge that you did something good, something worthwhile.
Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about a job well done. You earned it.
You Can Do It
I’m not going to start this saying it’ll be easy. It won’t be. It might be the hardest thing you ever do, but of course facing fear is always scary. It was hard to let myself accept what my parents were, and harder still to realize I had anxiety and depression. But I’m still here, still fighting the fight. You can too.
You can take control back in your life. No matter how deep you go, you can make it through even if you're not out yet. You have the power to get up anyway. No matter how many times you’ve done it before, you can do it again and again.
Even if your body gives up on you, even if you’ve had enough, even if it takes all your effort to get out of bed. You can do it. As long as you don’t give up on yourself, nothing can stop you. Even if you don’t believe that and only long to, that is enough. You are enough. All it takes is one step, one choice, one word.
All you need to do is start.
Have you ever experienced anxiety or depression in your writing? How did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments.
For fifteen minutes, I want you to vomit on the page everything that is keeping you from writing, whatever project you are working on. Or, you can simply describe your experience with writing and mental illness. Don't stop to edit; just try to write as much as you can. I won't make you share that piece in the comments if you don't want, although you're more than welcome to. Happy writing!