Thursday, 1 December 2016

Writing Through Depression

Hi, I'm Jennifer Carole Lewis and I suffer from depression. 
(Okay, that opening is indulgent but it felt like the right way to begin.)  I've known that depression was a problem inside my head since I was a teenager.  In the last few years, I've learned that it's been a recurring problem going back generations in my family.  But no one ever talked about it, so I ended up going through it mostly on my own.

In some ways, I think the fight to keep going through depression also helped to prepare me for the struggles of a writing career.  I've had practice in dismissing the not-so-little voice inside my head which tells me that my failure is inevitable and deserved.  I've had to learn how to force myself to keep going when every emotional and gut reaction inside tells me to give up.  There is nothing which any critic can tell me that I haven't said to myself a hundred times over and far harsher.

I also think my depression is linked to my awareness of the difficulties in the world around me, which also drives my writing.  I don't believe I have a distorted view of reality, but I certainly find myself drawn to stories of injustice, struggle and determination.  Unlike in the pages of a book, real life doesn't offer any guarantees of a happy ending.  Sometimes it seems as if it gets caught in the dark moment without ever moving on.

So I make myself keep putting down the words, despite the chorus in my head.  I remind myself that I know these feelings are a lie, that they have never told me the truth of any part of my life.  When the world feels too dark for romance, I concentrate on the darker aspects of my plots.  I remind myself that if I give myself time, I will feel better one day.  And that day will be sooner than I can imagine when I'm caught in the middle.  If it's really bad, I give myself permission to have a break from the grind and I take care of myself.  I'll even ask for help from my friends and family.  They remind me that it's worth it to keep trying and their belief in me counteracts the lack of faith I have in myself.

Even in my darkest moments, I believe in a world that can be better.  I believe people can and do change.  I believe that love has the power to inspire and transform.  And I believe that stories are a critical part of what drives the human race forward.  Those are the four corners that I use to support myself when I don't feel like I can do it any more.

I know I'm not alone out there.  J.K. Rowling used her depression to create the Dementors in Harry Potter.  Melanie Rawn openly acknowledged her hiatus from writing was due to her own bout of depression.  I hope that maybe by speaking out, I'll make it easier for someone else to speak out about their own struggles.  Meanwhile, I'll keep fighting my own battle and trying to work the alchemy to transform it into something meaningful.  

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