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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Depression. Hatrack. Salvation. Thank you everyone.

   
Author Topic: Depression. Hatrack. Salvation. Thank you everyone.
Foste
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This is an account of how I dealt with depression and how Hatrack has not only helped me overcome it, but made me appreciate my life.

I used to discard the myth that writers are prone to depression and suicide. Every time the subject came up I rolled my eyes and chanted mental mantras which would prevent me from strangling the person who at great length postulates about the misery of writers.

"What the hell," I'd think, "writers are beings of beings of pure magic and sweet, sweet methadone. The equivalent of ninja unicorns. Sure, some like Hemingway had issues, but that won't happen to ME. I am beyond that. And I AM after all... a writer.

Well, the joke is on you, Stefan.

Four months depression hit me like a kitten-powered blimp. And everything changed.

I picked up smoking (Marlboro Reds, no less). Became a heavy drinker. Nary a day would pass when I wasn't drunk or high. Or some unsavory combination of both. I started missing therapy sessions solely because I was either wasted or miserable. I scarcely ate and ended up losing 6 kilos.
I swear there were enough beer cans and empty cigarette packs in my room to build a Taj Mahal. Never mind the fact that my place smelled like the aftermath of a Bob Marley concert.

But I kept myself occupied. Ohhh, depressives are the most effective self-entertainers out there, believe me. Once depression has you in it's "f*cking kung-fu death grip" (courtesy of Scott Lynch)you'll do ANYTHING, but the things you're SUPPOSED to. The NOW is important. The future is a scary place filled with despair, death and crappy b-movies.

I went on a reading binge. I aimlessly surfed the net, a modern, pathetic version of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner. I watched movies and anime. Read some manga. Even went out with friends when I was somewhat presentable. And ran home as soon as the panic attacks started. But I didn't write.

And I cried. A lot.

But the mind is a funny thing, you see. Your subconscious has numerous twisted ways to play with you, and if you ignore it, as I did, it will become obdurate.

So here's a fictionalized account of the being I'll be referring to as my muse:

Surely you have your own muse. This fickle little bi... being...
that ignores you most of the time, but sometimes sits on your lap and sticks her tongue in your ear.

But mostly she (or he!) is just a pain in the butt. And stubborn to boot.

So one day my subconscious, in the form of my muse (I like to think of her as Dany Targaryen with the mental setup of Annie Wilkes) barges into my room and roundhouse kicks me in the shin.

"What the hell, man?" she screams taking a careful look around the shanty that is my apartment. She crinkles her nose, her brow furrows and she lashes out at me,
"Why didn't you call? What is WRONG with you?"
"Nothing," I reply nursing my shin as I scramble on the floor for another can of Heineken. She, of course, proceeds to swat it out of my hand.
"Bull. You're a wreck.Cut the "Hemingway Defense" crap. Is this how you want to live your life?"
I look around searching for a new can of beer and answer in an off-handed manner,
"Aren't you supposed to be some kind of mythical being of shimmering awesomeness? Inspiration and such. Maybe we should make out."
She ignores me. "If you have a shave and a bath? In a hundred years." She heaves a sigh and rubs her forehead. "Look. I am stuck with you. You're stuck with me. If you hate yourself FINE, but live your life the way it makes SENSE TO YOU. Finish school. Apply for that damn interpreter's masters degree in Vienna. Buy a cello for all I care. ANYTHING," She casts a sweeping motion over my room "is better than this! Oh, and more importantly,"
She walks up to me the me with a dancer's strut. "Hey," I think, "maybe she changed her mind about making out,"

Well, the joke's on you once again, Stefan.

She grabs me by the scruff of my neck and screams at the top of her lungs,
"WRITE!"
"Whoa, wait," I start but she cuts me off, "No. Write. Remember that editor's letter? Wonderful writing and pacing? Lacks emotion? Well, you got a lot of hurt. Put that in your book. Your dreams and fears. Things that make you laugh and cry. Do it, and do it NOW. Get some post its. You'll need a lot of those. And a notebook. A good pen also. Start up your laptop. While your at it re-read Holly Lisle's writing books. And Stephen King's "On Writing". Oh and get some Cheetos."
"But I don't want to eat Cheetos now!" I protest.
"Those are for me," she says with a smile that is anything but benign.

So here I am. One week later. I shaved. Had a long soak in the bathtub. I quit drinking and pot altogether. I still have problems laying off the grits, but that will come with time.

I plastered my door with post its. Characters, scenes, plot lines... I guess this will be an urban fantasy. Maybe YA? Around 80k words? Hmmmmm.

I want to thank all you guys on Hatrack. This place helped me to get through a lot of things. We help each other, crit each other and cheer for each other. This is the best place on the internet. Period.

Thank you, anyone who critted my stories. Ever.
Thank you OSC for making Hatrack happen.
Thank you KDW. Your dedication to this place and drive is amazing.

Special thanks to Osiris and Merlion who advised me when I needed it the most.

Also a special shout out to redux who linked me to the article http://hollylisle.com/live-to-write-another-day/

I am still in therapy. This time around I'll take my prescribed meds. But first and foremost I'll be a lot more positive about my life.

Thank you, everyone. I am back.

P.S. I apologize for the expletives in this post. They are mainly there for comedic effect. I'll also come back to the crits that I owe people (hang in there Merlion and OWASM [Wink] )

[ January 19, 2012, 08:02 AM: Message edited by: Foste ]

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Osiris
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Stefan, I'm moved that you feel we helped you through this. You sir, are the captain of your ship, however, and it is you who ultimately navigated through these waters. I salute you for getting through it. [Smile]

Writing is such a lonely affair, it is great that we have a place like Hatrack in which to share our troubles.

I agree about positive thinking, we have a lot more control over our disposition than we realize.

In fact, I think you can extend this to the 'muse'. She's just a metaphor for creative inspiration, but ultimately, the inspiration comes from you. You control it, you are the boss. The muse just works for you, but you cut the paycheck. [Smile]

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pdblake
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Stefan, that is the best thing I've read all day. Well done mate:)
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MAP
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I agree with pdblake. Love the dialogue between you and your muse, very funny.

I'm glad you got out of your depression cause you got some talent. [Smile]

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redux
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Stefan - it's good to see you around! If I was of some help then I am glad.

So, you've been sucking on Cowboy Killers? Tsk, tsk.
My grandma used to smoke those - put that image in your head and maybe it will help you quit [Smile]

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wirelesslibrarian
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Welcome back, Foste. Don't worry about the grits. I doubt they're a gateway food.
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axeminister
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So... is the Muse hot?
I say you try to make out with her again. [Cool]

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mrmeadors
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LOL axeminister, you beat me to that question [Wink]

I'm so glad things are going better for you, Stefan. As someone who has fought on and off with depression, I know how freaking hard it can be, and good for you for getting help and "seeing the light." I'm glad your muse is such a b*tch. [Smile]

Melanie

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Rhaythe
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Not that I ever wish this on anyone, but I think you have to experience depression to truly understand it. Kudos to you, Stefan, for fighting your way back. You'll probably still have ridges to climb, but now that you understand there was a problem to begin with, I think the mountain is behind you.

Fair sailing and favorable winds, mate.

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MartinV
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After 2011, I can honestly say I know what you've been through.

I hope 2012 is better.

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Heresy
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Welcome back from that dark place, Foste. May the light and writing be your salvation, as it has been mine.

-Julie

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RoxyL
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Foste, your muse sounds pretty smart. Glad you listened to her.
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LDWriter2
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A little late here but I agree with Osiris. I would have said it differently but that's basically my thoughts.

I add that I'm glad you made it through.

And that your Muse reminds me of a movie quite a number of years ago, even though I don't think that muse would have kicked his shin. It's about a guy who fell in love with his Muse. Xandou I think was the name. Yours sounds like its part of your psyche,

And I'll also add I'll be praying for you. You are doing good and you have talent like most here it just needs to be developed a bit.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I have to disagree with you somewhat, O Blue-faced Lord of the Underworld. Muses are more than just metaphors and while no one is more an advocate than me of the idea that we all make our own choices and that creativity comes from within...I think we all need, deserve and get a little help in various areas now and again.

It's for the best, Stefan, that you didn't tell me about the drinking and smoking...I'd have been forced to come over there and beat you with a rogue Boomer till you saw the light. But, if you're having visions of ninja unicorns and kitten-piloted blimps I'd say your on the mend.

Bear in mind you don't have to do actual crits on those stories I sent you. Just thoughts will do nicely.

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Osiris
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Oh finger-wiggling wizard and advisor to Kings, it is a free country, and you are free to disagree with me, and I think we all do need, deserve and get help, too, I just do not believe in being fatalistic about it.

I've never had writer's block. I've been depressed and stopped writing because of it, but I do not consider that writer's block (I consider it an unfortunate imbalance in neurotransmitter production).
I think that is in part because I don't believe in 'the muse', and I don't believe I need to wait for some inspiration to write. I've discovered in myself how to 'call forth' inspiration. It simply entails thinking about a story idea frequently (say, on my commute to and from work for a few days) and twisting it this way and that, and the inspiration always comes. That doesn't mean I'll produce a good story, but it does mean I'll be inspired to write. Even when the inspiration leaves (often after writing the first few pages), I still write, because writing is work and work requires persistence.

But hey, every writer is different. If the muse construct is beneficial to someone, they should embrace it.

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Rhaythe
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So, tell us more about this Muse and what she...

quote:
So... is the Muse hot?
...dang it. Nevermind.
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Crank
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I've not posted much at all about my recent and continuing depressive episodes (mainly because I honestly didn't think anyone would care), but I found myself sufficiently supported and motivated by reading this post. Thanx, Stefan.

Your interactions with your muse sound like what I sometimes go through with mine. They must have known each other at some point. Oh...and mine still hasn't made a move to make out with me, either. [Big Grin]

S!

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Robert Nowall
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I've tried to examine the workings of the subconscious / unconscious process I identify as my "Muse," usually when it's not working, but I come up empty. (It's not doing anything now, but that's 'cause I'm down with a nasty winter cold here in sunny Florida.)

As for depression...I've been depressed over things, like, say, failure-to-sell-despite-years-of-effort...but of the type and nature (and response) of Foste's post, I've got to admit, I'm a stranger to it.

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Lloyd Tackitt
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I don't know much about depression in a technical sense, but I have lived with and around several people who have it (runs in my family). It is often a cyclic phase of depression and exhiliration (manic/depressive - bipolar whatever they call it now). Sounds like this might be a high phase of the cycle.

Watch out for the drop, be super prepared for it, and you have a good chance of ameliorating its effect. Staying on the meds is extremely important, and most of my experience has been that they get off the meds because they miss the highs and feel flat all the time. In time that goes away though and they had normal ups and downs like everyone else.

Consistent physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for it. You want to release the chemicals (that exercise releases) on a daily basis. It helps a lot from what I have seen over the years.

Start exercising now (running is good, but any exercise that makes you breathe hard will work) while you are feeling good, and keep going no matter what.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Staying on the meds is extremely important, and most of my experience has been that they get off the meds because they miss the highs and feel flat all the time. In time that goes away though and they had normal ups and downs like everyone else.
Not to contradict you, but this isn't true for everyone. My partner has been on many different antidepressants and such over the years and the SSRI types, even after extended use, tend to turn him into a zombie with no interest in life or anything...essentially, the very thing they are supposed to prevent. This is especially true at higher doses...base level doses aren't as bad, and the different specific medications vary but for some people, the medications can be as bad or worse then the condition...it just depends.
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Lloyd Tackitt
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Merlion-Emrys - nothing is true of "everyone". I assume it is understood that everyone's mileage may differ. In fact what is true for one person one month may not be true for that person the next month.
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Smaug
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Stefan, your muse wouldn't make out with you because behind your back, she's too busy making out with me. [Wink] Hey, I sure could appreciate your thoughts on depression and such. I'm glad you're coming back up out of the mire. I've been there. I think I stayed there long enough that I lost my emotions--I let myself become cold. It has taken a while to get them back.
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Foste
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Thank you for all the kind words, everyone. The Treehouse Alliance has done it again, eh? [Smile] I remember registering here and how self-conscious I was of my language, but those concerns faded away since I realized that I had no problems whatsoever communicating (snapper mistook me for an aussie once, actually).

(Oh, and for everyone who asked: the Muse is hot. But the slightest pat on the shoulder will result in a deadly judo-throw. Guess that makes our relationship a... platonic one? Beats me. [Razz] )

The internet can be a cesspool (anyone glanced at the pit of dreck that is the Youtube comments section?), so it's nice to have a select group of people to conserve with in a civil manner .


redux - Heh, guess I'll try that. I am actually smoking right now... Bah.

Crank - I guess they met in muse school? I swear the way they go for the shins... It has to be a trained skill one way or the other...

axeminister - You know, I would try to hit on her, but making out with her would mean that, I essentially, am making out with my subconscious, hence, with myself. That's far too Freudian for me, I guess [Razz]

Smaug - I KNEW IT! That wanton wench! [Razz]

Lloyd - I am actually anxious-depressive. Unlike bipolars I don't have "manic" episodes.

LDWriter - Okay, wow. Nobody EVER told me that they'd include me in their prayers. I'll have you know that I deeply appreciate that.

Merlion - I would have appreciated the effort, man. I mean crossing the pond just to pummel someone to death? Pure distilled love. [Wink]

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Merlion-Emrys
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Note that I said till you see the light, not to death. And when I say "rogue Boomer" I'm not talking one of those giant street-sweeper things, probably more one of the waitress models.

And while I have never stated so, you have also been in what could be called my prayers, though I'd hazard a guess they are pointed in a somewhat different direction than LD's. It could be said I've attempted to put in a good word for you with the mother of all muses (no I don't mean the Greek memory goddess.)

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A Yeatts
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So glad you're back! Depression sucks. End of story. But you did the hard part... 'fessed up to it and put it out there for all of us to see. Be proud of yourself. You're an amazing writer and the world will be a much brighter, unicorn-ninja-friendly place with more of your stories in it.

And you better send me something else to read! It's been too long! [Smile]

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