Writing with Depression

It feels like forever since I last wrote anything about Windmill Keepers. There’s been a backlog of tiny disasters in my life that finally banded together in the form of a giant monster. I haven’t slain it yet, but I’m armoring myself for battle.

It’s no secret that I struggle with depression. The whole soul-crushing hopelessness is something of a family affair. I know for a fact that both my grandmothers had it, and possibly my parents as well. I’m not sure when they developed it, but I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t feel overwhelmingly sad out of the blue. Even as a child, I remember this heavy weight that would settle over me like a thick fog. Sometimes I fought my way out. Sometimes I just waited for the sun to come back.

I’ve tried different tricks to force myself to get better. Upbeat music, long walks, exercising, writing – nothing really works. And that’s the difficult part to explain to people who don’t suffer from it. You can’t just make yourself happy. Emotions don’t work that way, especially not when you’re depressed.

Little things seem like a big deal when you’re in a rut, and big things seem impossible. Getting up can be like climbing a mountain. But sufferers still do it. Each day, I wake up for work, get dressed, and then proceed to ignore eight hours worth of frustration. Unless it gets really bad, no one even realizes I’m fighting an uphill battle whenever I need to do the dishes or run errands.

As strange as depression is, it’s even stranger when you’re a writer (and stranger still if you write comedy). Unlike Poe, most of us are writing more then just sadness and despair. We’re telling stories with characters that go through difficult times as well as great ones. A hero that cries for three hundred pages isn’t very interesting, after all. We need depth.

In Windmill Keepers, I had to try and write a scene where my characters are victorious and in joyful disbelief. What I ended up writing was the most muted celebration since the invention of the earmuffs. I had to go back and redo the whole scene on a better day. Ironically, when I had to write about a funeral, it was a sunny 80 degrees in the Florida Keys and I was having a fantastic day. I tried to dampen the mood with shades and songs about death. It didn’t work out.

Writing is already a complicated matter, but when you add a dash of depression, it’s doubly so. About the only benefit I see to it is when I’m writing sad scenes on down days. Those are some of the most accurate and honest moments I’ve ever created. Still, I’d trade them in an instant if I could make my chest stop hurting for days at a time.

Here’s the odd thing: I’m an optimistic person when it comes to others’ problems. A few months ago, I spent an hour giving someone the greatest “life gets better” speech in my personal history. But I couldn’t talk myself into breakfast today. I had a supervisor tell me I needed to be stronger. He called me weak. What he doesn’t get is that I’ve had to be twice as strong as my peers for twenty-six years. I’m not superwoman. I’m bound to stumble from time to time.

I think everyone needs to remember how hard we try. People with depression don’t need talks on what makes them happy. And we don’t need people calling us pathetic. People with depression need support. We need to know there’s someone out there, waiting for us to make it through the storm.

My surname has a motto. Lucem Spero. It means “I hope for light.” Even in my darkest moments, I try to hold onto that. After everything my sister and I have been through, we’d be foolish not to. That tiny bit of light at the end of all our dark tunnels has been the only thing pulling us through. No matter how bad it gets, I will always have my family. They’re my flickering beacon at the end of this storm. If you are brave enough, then be someone else’s.

Now, it’s time I got back to battling that monster. I’ll see you all again when I’ve reached that light of mine.

-A. Kemp

One thought on “Writing with Depression

  1. A., thank you for talking about your depression. You are achieving so much by getting out of bed and putting real clothes on. I’m so impressed that you can go further and write! Hang in there and keep fighting.

    Like

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