Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Mental Problem

As some of you may know, I suffer from depression. Serious depression. Some days are good, others are bad, and if it wasn't for medication it's quite likely I wouldn't be alive.

It affects each sufferer differently, and to different degrees, but there are similarities that we all suffer from

  • An inability to do the simplest things, even though you have time. This could be tidying your bedroom, doing the washing or even making a sandwich.
  • Anxiety over small things, even though you know they are irrelevant.
  • There are some days you feel everyone's out to get you, the doctors aren't trying hard enough, or people are having a go at you for no reason.
  • Isolation. If no one understands, you have no one to turn to.

When you are a writer, a lonely profession at the best of times, these things can stack up and overwhelm you. I have a full time job and write in the evenings or at weekends, so I don't get out much. While this is not helping, I have to add that when I do go out I'm not keen on the places that are open and the people that inhabit them. Pubs for instance.

The increasing number of shops, cafes and restaurants that play loud music also jars. Since when did Tesco's think it was a good idea to play loud rap music in the local store? And chemists?

So, as a writer, how do I cope? Most of the time, not very well, which my not-very-reliable scribblings on this blog go some way to showing. The only thing I can reliably do each week is my Friday Fun blog and even that is hard sometimes.

What gives me a lift, sometimes, is knowing that there are biblical characters who had the same issues. Noah, getting drunk after the flood. His reasons are unknown, and it could have been an error, but I can't help but wonder if he was disturbed by the memories of the voices of those who drowned while he and his family lived. Did they knock on the door pleading to be let in, or at least to take the children?

Elijah cried out that he was alone when on the run from Jezebel, Joseph was cast into a pit and sold into slavery, and how miserable was Judas that he felt the need to kill himself. Not forgetting the anguished cries of Jesus when he felt that his father had abandoned him.

What writers need is a close friend. A spouse, partner, sibling or even someone you can meet with for coffee every so often who not only understands you're a writer, but also how lonely it can get. If you have that, feel blessed. Not all aspiring writers have that support on tap. Facebook, phone calls and texts are a substitute, but a relatively inhuman and distant one. The ACW page is a help in some instances.

On the positive side, the health issues have enabled me to understand humanity and observe it in greater detail and depth than people who are relentlessly happy. My best characters tend to be those who are overlooked by others or who have been treated badly, yet I find I can also write about happiness. Maybe the absence of it for so long has taught me to treasure it more.

Depression can be a killer, but, if you survive, it can inform your writing and give it an aspect that many others cannot convincingly match. Maybe it's no surprise that a number of great authors and poets have suffered mentally or physically.

For those of you blessed enough not to suffer any severe mental health problems, read about those authors, or even some of the accounts from non-authors. I promise you this: You will learn a lot about humanity and our weaknesses, far more than people watching will ever teach you.


  1. This is a thoughtful and moving blog. Thank you for writing it. (And goodness, what an awful image for poor old Noah! That story that adorns the cover of every children's Bible is really not at all nice, is it?)

  2. Thank you for this. How good it would be to snap out of it! Apathy is one of the things I find hardest to overcome. I just don't care about anything. But I'm grateful to all who understand and I hope my writing is helped by learning more about depression. Do you think Paul's 'Thorn in the flesh" could have been depression?

    1. Shirley, that is a question I often ask myself too. When I was in the early years of my Christian walk I had an experience. I was unhappily married, one day whilst complaing to a friend at a coffee morning another lady Interupted me and shoved her hand in front of my face, saying. She was gardening the day before and now she had this thorn in my Hand. I was a little surprised, she moved off and I....continued to grumble. Suddenly a different lady approached me with the exact same scenario and words. Yes, then I was stopped in my tracks. I knew somewhere in the Bible there was a thorn in the flesh story.... more to his story obviously, told in my memoir, Angel in the Pepper.

  3. I had ten years of depression. I was able to function OK for three out of four weeks and then it would hit me on the fourth and I would change my whole personality. I didn't recognise myself. Because I seemed competent and upbeat for three-quarters of my life, people found it hard to understand/accept when I hit the down times. I tried to hide it which was very stressful. Those ten years taught me a lot about people: feelings, responses, motives, mental process, etc. I'm sure it has helped my writing, especially creating the characters and their behaviour in my novels. Thanks for being so frank and brave. Bless you.

  4. Thank you, Martin. See my comments on Facebook.