depression mental health real talk

on writing and depression


I first discovered I was depressed at the end of summer in 2010. I was still licking my wounds from the deterioration of a relationship I couldn’t fathom ending, even though it had been on and off for a while by that point. Ultimately, the relationship ended because I didn’t love myself, though you couldn’t have told me that was the reason why then. Or you could have, but I wouldn’t have listened.
The day I found out I was depressed I also found out I had anxiety. I was at my gynecologist’s office. I undressed alone in the room, the sun peeking through the blinds. It was so warm outside, Austin in August, but I had goosebumps across my arms, legs, and back. I fumbled with the paper gown. I couldn’t figure out if the opening should go in the front or the back, and which way was up? Shouldn’t robes have sleeves? And what am I supposed to do with this plastic ribbon? I felt like I had too many pieces and they all went to different puzzles and I was a frantic, hyperventilating mess by the time my doctor courtesy-knocked on the door and came inside.
She asked if I had ever experienced this kind of feeling before, the kind where I couldn’t make sense or calm down or even breathe. I told her I had, but I knew this one felt like something more. This was my first real, full-blown panic attack. I guess I couldn’t have been in a better place, at the doctor’s office, with a doctor I really liked and trusted. After my exam, she sent me down to the lab to have my blood taken–another first–to find out if I had an issue with my thyroid, anemia, or something else that might be causing what she called Depression-with-a-capital-D and Anxiety-with-a-capital-A.
The tests didn’t bring anything back, but by that point I had gone to see my general practitioner to find out what people who are Depressed-with-a-capital-D and Anxious-with-a-capital-A do to be…less those things. If that’s even a thing people with those things can be. Medicine, apparently, is the most common answer. At least when you’re dealing with capital D and A, and not just feeling depressed or anxious.
At this point in my college career, I was basically a poetry major. I was writing and reading poetry; breathing more poems than air and eating more poems than food. Medicine, from my understanding, was like a poetry vacuum. It just sucks it all up, doesn’t it? Looking back, going on medicine was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made because I knew it would affect my writing. Writing was all I had, all I was good at, and all that made sense. But maybe with medicine, I wouldn’t need to make sense of so much, so I went on it.
I would be lying if I told you the medicine didn’t affect my writing. It was a long time before I was able to write anything I was happy with again. I don’t believe in the concept of writer’s block, but I have experienced a severe creative block directly caused by my medicine. It’s like experiencing things in a Ziploc bag sometimes. I can see what’s outside of the bag: full, deep feeling, and it’s just barely out of my reach. I also know now that ripping the bag–skipping a dose– in order to touch what I can’t isn’t an option. It’s such a fast spiral down, and with the physical effects of being off the medicine, it’s truly unbearable.
My meds help me feel more stable, capable, confident every single day. But I know that, realistically, they also keep me from something. I’m so aware of what I’m unable to experience, through emotion or writing. It’s been such a struggle inside of me to know what I’m giving up in order to get through the day. I used to be so painfully passionate it was contagious. I looked ahead with dreams in my eyes and wishes overflowing out of my pockets. I don’t feel that way now. I can hardly imagine what the end of the week is going to look like, most days. I look back on that part of myself with nostalgia and longing.
I’ve come quite a ways in the last four years. I’ve practiced. I’ve come to terms. I’ve even started to feel things more authentically again. But there are still nights, certain songs or poems, or life experiences where I can see the emotion I’m supposed to be feeling just out of my reach, so I’m left feeling something else, something lesser, instead.
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