Saturday, December 27, 2008

Writing and Anxiety

no words...Image by carf via FlickrWell, as most know I've been away from writing on here for quite a bit now. Actually, I was kind of missing it. It is great to interact with people from all over the world and see what they have to say about the things that come out of my head.

I an not ashamed to say that I suffer from bipolar disease type II. This is not your typical manic depression because I don't have the traditional manic phases. Most of it presents as depression and anxiety. It was a pretty shocking diagnosis for me actually, but it does make a lot of sense. Embracing the diagnosis and following a treatment plan has helped my life in general tremendously. I see this as a disease like diabetes and cancer that requires treatment. There are ups and downs, but for the most part I am stable and functional.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Well, sometimes it gets in the way of my actually writing. When you are depressed, you figure what the use in writing when you will only get rejected anyway. That's a very sad place to be because there is so much more to writing than the acceptance and rejection side of things. That's profound. I need to remember it.

Anxiety is even more difficult to work with because you are constantly worried about will it get accepted or is it good enough or what will the neighbors think if they read this or does this plot work, is this character well written, is any of this going right! It's a challenge, as you can see.

The thing is, I think that many writers are faced with these same issues. I will say right now that writer's block does exist and its real name is anxiety. It is when you are blocked that you just stare at the keys and worry. Hemmingway is a perfect example of anxiety and writer's block. He worried that he had run out of stories, lost his talent/ muse/ whatever. I think most writers get this way -- if not all of the time, then some of the time.

Some of us are cursed with the anxiety most of the time and I am one of those. My troubles are compounded by the additional diagnosis that I have, so writing is so hard for me. It's hard starting, but once I am there, I am free. If I can get to the point where I don't have to think anymore, then I can ride that wave of creativity that characterizes my non depressed and anxious mood. Writing, for me, is a win, an act of overcoming a mountain of thoughts and feelings. It is breakthrough and release for me, but when I am feeling my worst, it is nearly impossible to achieve.

So, that is where I have been. I have been toiling in the trenches of anxiety and writer's block. It is getting better which is why I am here now and actually writing. It does feel freeing, getting the words onto the screen. Even if it is nothing of importance to anyone but me, it is helping me.

And maybe it will help others to let you know that you are not alone. For some reason, those of us who like to create and express ourselves do because our minds have so much excess to express. It is therapy and entertainment, agony and ecstasy, sound and fury -- sometimes meaning something but sometimes meaning nothing.

Outrun your anxiety today. I've outrun it for this whole post and am proud. Anyone else out there know what I'm talking about?
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  1. I don't specifically have any diagnosed depression, so I can only imagine. It's bad enough dealing with regular depression, which, as you say, makes you ask "What's the point?" Still, you write anyway, because you figure, "what the heck, I actually like it."

    I'm glad you're feeling more up these days. And Happy New Year.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I can totally understand what you are saying. I have never been diagonose but I suspect I have a similar condition. At times I find the depression helpful - there are many times when the only thing I could do during states of depression was write. Dark, twisted stories to save me from myself. But then comes the time when I am so filled with self loathing and lethargy that I can't pick up a pen (or keyboard). Everything turns to dust and I can't manage to write a thing, it seems so hackneyed and trite. I agree there are times when you can push on through and find the joy and release in wrting again as well. My sister is always telling me that she is sorry she doesn't have depression because she thinks you need it to be a great writer. I don't know about that,but it would be nice to think there are good points to the suffering.

  3. Thank you for the support, both of you. It's really important right now to know that there are people pulling for you. It is so hard for me to write -- and to read! -- right now because of constant worry. Not really even worry about anything in particular. Not sure if you needed it to be a great writer, but I do find tremendous relief in the creative pursuits I have WHEN I can actually convince myself to pursue them. There is actually quite a long list of people with bipolar who became great writers. Mark Twain in the only one who springs to mind at the moment . . . oh, and Dickens, I think. So, maybe there is something to it.

  4. I think creativity and depression are very much linked, not just with writing but with other artistic endeavours too. I'm inclined to think writers suffer more, but I guess all artists struggle with rejection and fear of it, and suffer from self-doubt and loathing to some degree.

    It must be very difficult for you, and for everyone else who suffers from it, but keep writing, keep blogging, and I hope 2009 will prove to be a happier (and very successful) year for you.

  5. Yes, I have the self doubt and self loathing and the need to express myself in some ways. I fear rejection, too. I think there may be a connection, but I sure wish there wasn't.

  6. Know that I'm rooting for you anyway Lynda! :)