There's a discussion of depression and writing going on over at Kiwiburger.
A series of questions are proposed:
1. What is depression?
2. How is it different from just having a bad day?
3. What does it feel like on the inside?
4. What can it look like from the outside, ie from the perspective of friends/acquaintances?
5. In what way is depression a part of your life?
6. If you live with depression, how/when did you first realise it? Was there a formal diagnosis at some point?
7. What were some early experiences with depression that had an impact?
8. If you write, how does it affect your writing?
9. What have you found useful for coping? What's NOT useful?
10. What advice would you give to a young person, interested in writing, who's beginning to realise that depression will be part of their life?
You know what's really sad? That I feel like there's no point in my saying anything about it because Anonymous already said it all. I wanted to just reprint some of this comment, to excerpt it. The trouble was, as I tried to figure out what to cut, I couldn't. So, I will just reproduce it:
1&2) Depression is an ongoing battle with mood. It is not just a bad day here and there. It is something that starts small and grows. You feel like there is no way out of the cycle and even things that used to bring you joy feel painful to you.
3. It feels like even if the sun is shiny and you are surrounded by joy, your little corner of the world is in perpetual blackness, and as you try to claw your way out, you sink deeper and deeper into the dark.
4. OFten it will express itself as listlessness, an excessive need/desire for sleep, decreased interest in activities, snappishness, lethargy. A lot of ways others see depression can look like someone who just needs more sleep.
5. I was diagnosed with depression about ten years ago. For me, it is sort of like being an alcoholic, I've accepted that I will never be "cured" and that depression can only be treated.
6. Even though overall my life was good, I became suicidal. One day my husband (of about a year at the time) and I had a fight, and I found myself thinking about killing myself. He came back after storming out to find me sitting on the floor pulling my hair, banging my head against the wall, and saying, "I don't want to die" over and over again. That was the day I realized I needed help.
7. See #6. I had gone through therapy during high school, and by itself therapy didn't do much for me, so the doctor ended up prescribing Prozac. I knew another person on the medication at the same time and my experience was drastically different from hers. She talked about being happy all the time, and I was just happy to be (what I called) level. I no longer felt like I was trying to drag myself from a pit of despair, and while I was on the medication, I learned my warning signs that I was nearing the edge of the pit. I stopped taking the prozac after a couple years.
8. First and foremost, writing is therapy for me. It helps keep me from sinking into depression. Beyond that the depression allows me to tap into extreme negative emotions better than I think I could have otherwise.
9. I exercise a lot more these days. Writing is very therapeutic for me. Trying to find joy in little things (like the funny songs my kids sing) can bolster me. Getting out and about - I make a point of always having something I can buy at the grocery store, just in case I need an excuse to get out of the house. Talking to friends before things get bad. What doesn't help? People saying "it's just a bad day" or "don't worry, it'll get better". Depression doesn't get better on its own. It takes commitment and work.
10. I don't think being a writer causes depression, I think it is the other way around. But my biggest advice is that although writing is a solitary pursuit, don't hide yourself away. Join a critique group. Make friends online who you can chat with (about writing or other stuff). And above all, don't be afraid to ask for help. We all need help sometimes, depression or no depression.
I've never been professionally diagnosed with depression. I'm quite good at pretending to be happy, and it has become a reflex. I've found that people recoil from me when I tell them how I'm really feeling.
I've never been on Prozac. Getting to a place where I'm "level" sounds great to me. It's hard for me to imagine being happy, let alone being happy all the time.
These answers are so tremendously spot-on, and resonate so completely with me that I think it's time I got some professional help. Or at least got some exercise.