It's been a while since I found myself able to write anything on this post, but I won't apologise for the absence. Why? Not because I don't care about my readers or this blog, but because there were major personal things going on that made it impossible for me to continue like usual.
January has never been a strong month for me. I remember I always ascribed it to tests and looming mid-term grades when I was in school. Then, when I was in university, January was exam season, so it certainly wasn't the best month to be alive.
However, with university and school wrapped up, I still found myself more vulnerable to depressive episodes during this dark month of the year. Every year I am hit by a melancholia that usually holds a firm grip until the first flowers bud in March, unable to shake off the fatigue.
This year was particularly difficult, as I suffered from a rather sever bout of depression just before Christmas. I don't want to go too deeply into the details, but I have been reflecting on depression and read a lot about it, as well as consulted my favourite biographies of people who inspire me. Many of them are writers and I couldn't help noticing that depression and writing - in general, depression and creativity - seem to go hand in hand very often. Now, that's barely ground-breaking, there is plenty of research that indicates so. Among some of the contemporary authors who suffered from mental problems are J.K. Rowling, Marian Keyes, Stephen King, Cecelia Ahern, Isabel Allende, Philip Roth and the list goes on and on - and those are only writers of today, not including Sylvia Plath, Tennessee Williams, Enid Blyton, Virginia Woolf, and so on and so forth.
Clearly, there seems to be a correlation between writing and being more prone to depression, so at least we writers are in good company. One book that inspired me particularly is Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig, who also writes beautiful fictional stories for children and adults. Having suffered from severe depression and battling with the illness until today, he goes into his own life story with the illness, giving people who are just learning to cope with it not only a great insight, but also hope for the future.
I know that many writers started writing because they suffered from depression, and I can understand why. When I am trapped in a depressive mood, the world seems like a hostile and unwelcoming place and I feel like I am losing control over everything (many writers also love control, apparently). So what better way to cope with this powerlessness than to delve into a fictional world of your own where you can play God and have full reign over what happens and who is involved in what? It's a liberating escapism, but it can also go the other way.
I believe why so many writers are prone to suffer from depression may be correlated to writing be a rather solitary activity. In my work, I am at home all day long, there is no rigid structure in my day, opposed by workplace or others, and I am alone most of the time. Being alone, confined to four walls and only as structured as your discipline dictates, it creates perfect soil for obsessive, self-centred thoughts, anxiety and depression. Los Angeles-based psychotherapist John Tsilimparis writes in a blog post that "If every person in the world was temporarily stripped of their daily purpose in life — if they were torn away from their responsibilities and daily routines, like going to work, taking care of children, keeping house, doing laundry — in time there would be global pandemonium.".
So there seems to be a clear correlation between being constantly alone, having obsessive thoughts and developing anxiety because of it. He also writes that a purposelessness and lack of structure are the best two kick-offs for anxiety and depression. I can imagine that many writers feel a lack of purpose when you deal with constant rejection, have to pick yourself up everyday, and probably have difficulties coping with the adult world anyway because your inner creative child permanently gets in the way. Having to answer emails, doing my taxes or calling the bank are little pins to my depression board and they suck endless energy - I am just not good at being a "proper" adult (whatever that is).
Why am I telling you this? Well, first to explain my week-long absence in which I picked myself up (more on the entire story in due time, but for now I cannot say more), but also to share this dark time with you outside. Maybe you get low in January, too? Maybe the mental illnesses permanently nibbling on your mind have an easier pathway during such a dark month, so they hit even more ferociously.
So does that mean I should have become a lawyer after all? Would I be less depressed if I'd chosen a different career path? Well, I'd say yes and no. I don't think I am depressed because I am a writer. I think I am a writer because I am depressed. In other words, because I am so close to my inner workings, reflecting all the time and thinking about scenarios that could be - how unlikely they may be - I can whip up stories, but it sadly is also perfect soil for anxiety and obsessive thoughts. However, when I read through my babies, the many stories I have concocted, I want to think that it is worth it - I guess I don't really have a choice, so it's better to accept I will always be like this: creative, child-like in my mind, prone to depression.
It's nice to be back and I hope this blog can do for me what it's been doing for so many years and keep the next bout at bay, and I hope you'll accompany me for a bit on the journey.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.