Depression and Writing
I love those days when the air is still, the sun is hot and you can smell heat that lets you know you’re in Australia.
As a kid in the 80s and 90s, those long hot days of summer were my favourite. The time when I was allowed to dream of my future. When the heat would bake into my skin and seep into my brain and I knew I was destined to be a writer, famous. I struggle to write when it's cold; it's like my words all go silent and my fingers refuse to form the shapes needed. My mum in particular encouraged my writing for the fun it gave me, but I still learned as I grew that becoming a writer was not an option as a career path; unless I wanted to be a reporter or journalist. Those jobs at least had regular paychecks. I don’t think anyone wanted to keep me from my dreams. They wanted to keep me safe. To teach me to aim for something that would remove me from a hand-to-mouth existence.
I held on to my dreams without doing anything to chase them through my teenage years. I wrote journal after journal. At last check, I have around 24 notebooks starting from the age of 15. At 40 I still keep one, but I no longer skive off class to write my thoughts for hours at a time. It was in my early 20s, in this new millennium, that I stopped writing quite so much. I went to university but somehow was too scared to chase my new dream of being a scientist. I was brave enough to move from Southern NSW to Central Queensland but became immobile at the thought of moving to a big city on my own to chase the dream. I settled. Found an office job, got married had a child. Life was “good”. On the surface. Outside of the home. Truthfully I didn’t notice that anything was wrong at home. I thought the constant yelling was normal, even though that was not what my childhood had been like. I had been a spiritualist for some time and on a spiritual enlightenment weekend, I realised I was miserable and in a toxic place. Leaving my husband was what I wanted and needed to do. Life was no longer “good”. On the surface or otherwise. Although after the initial month-long nightmare of discovering parental kidnapping laws don't exist in our country, at home at least life became calm.
I started soul searching, trying to find out how to become a human I could be proud of. Every day I would look in the mirror and list a host of ideal characteristics as if they were my own. Every day I lied right to my own eyes, out loud. I cried. I hurt. I screamed (only when I was alone, never where anyone could hear). The early days of this made me sick. I wanted to quit. I just wanted to stop. I don't remember when I started believing the ‘lies’ I was telling myself. Instead, I lived these new truths. I became brave (so brave I completely changed my name). Someone worth listening to. Someone who had something to say. I began writing again. Still only in my journal and never for anyone to read. I started to enjoy the summer sun again. I spent so much time outside that my skin darkened to the point I looked like I slept in a tanning bed. Under the heat of the CQ sun, I started to dream new dreams, believing still I would never be a ‘real’ writer (even though I wrote a full self-help book about learning Wicca). I studied life coaching and frontline management. I ran gatherings for the local pagan community. I embraced being a single mother. I dreamed that I would be excellent at my job and would be moderately comfortable (i had convinced myself to dream little, that it would be enough). I wanted to be someone - even if only in my small town.
Life was “good”. On the surface. At home. In the community. It was all “good”.
I opened my heart enough to try dating. eHarmony introduced me to the most wonderful man alive. We dated, went on small trips, and he played video games with my son and we spent time as a family before we officially were one. After we were engaged we took a trip to Magnetic Island, just the two of us. While we were there we soaked up the sun and the sea, scuba diving, swimming and planning the wedding invitations. I decided to take the plunge into writing a fiction novel. On the first of November, I committed to Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. I settled in beside the pool at the motel. Lazing on a pool chair with a drink and my laptop and started typing. The sun was glinting off the water, the breeze was just shifting the trees. The sun gently warmed my soul, and fingers and I began to type.
Within an hour I had to move as the sun was glaring enough to give me a headache and make reading the screen difficult. My sunscreen ran into my eyes and the slats on the chair dug into my back. Writing by the pool only sounds idyllic. When I finally found a comfortable spot I sunk into the beginning of a science fiction novel. I wrote 50000 words the month and promised myself I would finish it, even though I knew the novel was only about a third completed. 7 years later I’ve not written another word of it, nor have I participated in Nanowrimo again. I was distracted; by work, relationships, and by parenting.
Eventually, the seething mass of bleakness in my core spilled over and I stopped existing. The heat that allowed me to dream raged, cooled and hardened. I gave up. I lost faith. I am eternally grateful for the support of my husband. He weathered the bleak storm that blew through my soul with more grace than I deserved. He offered shelter to me and my son, distracting him when I was too sad or angry to be a mum, drawing me out with hugs and laughter when I allowed it.
Through it all, I grimly held on to those ideals about being someone to be proud of. I was still brave. So after finally having the shameful conversation with my doctor that I had been putting off for at least 15 years I was diagnosed with depression and started a year-long journey of ugly crying on my psychologist's couch. Oh and ugly it was. Every week I would pour out the poison from my soul and she would help me fill the crack with something clean. I wanted others to hurt as much as I was. I wanted to go to sleep and drive off the road into blackness. I couldn’t walk into any store where there were beautiful things without wanting to trash it all. I drank. I smoked. I focussed on all the ways I had been screwed over, all the ways I was disadvantaged. I kept the outpouring of grief and rage contained to those few hours on that couch so that no one else would see my shame.
I tried to anyway.
After all the poison was expelled I would remember I had the most beautiful son who needed his mum. I was not allowed to do anything but heal. I would sit at my favourite beachside coffee shop doing nothing more than enjoying the heat of the sun, tempered by the soft breeze of the ocean. I discovered the dark bitter joy of affogatos. I practised mindfulness. I learned to love who I am now and more importantly I learned to forgive myself for my failings. I still question the concept of faith. I don't believe it but I want to. The cold, hard steel is still there in my core. It will never leave me. I don't want it to. I’ve looked into the bleakest depths of my soul and I am at peace with what I’ve found.
I quit my corporate job, remarried and had another baby. A stunning little girl who is so different from her big brother that even without the 9-year gap I’m having to relearn an entirely new way of parenting. I am totally lost these days. I went soul searching again when she was only six months old. Who do I want to be? What do I want to be?
Now I am so close to completing my teaching degree I can taste it. The heat baked into my soul comforts me. I’m in no danger from the blazing inferno that burned me out before. I’m learning to temper the heat with peace. I’m letting people read my writing. I’m part way through 2 novels and I’ve won second place in a state writing contest for school staff. I am entering writing competitions and putting my words out there where they belong. I’m not ‘there’ yet. But I am no longer hiding in a cocoon. I’m emerging.
About the Creator
An adventurous woman, teacher and writer. I have a broad range of life experiences and a desire to connect. I'm passionate about telling stories about people. I'm currently working on a psychological thriller/horror. So many ideas!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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From SE Qld, I could feel your descriptions about the heat and feel. I very much identify with your battles with writing. I am similar. I haven't written for a few years, and have just started again. I have novels sitting for years untouched on my shelf. It would release parts of me to finish these.
The long journey through any mental health problem is a hard one. I went through therapy, and I've pursued my life as a writer and author which is what I always wanted. However, I still live with PTSD and memories, although I'm in a better place now than I have ever been. I am proud of you for making it through your journey, and for sharing your story which I can relate to.
Grieving for too long seems to cause depression. In my present grief, I am noticing certain triggers that give me that burst of negative feelings. I push through with "busyness". I'll wash the dishes, grocery shop, cook, sleep, and write. I find writing a great way to release the pressure, but I've always wondered: Is there a difference between grieving for too long and being depressed over a major loss in life? Enjoyed your memoir. It was very candid. Thanks for sharing.
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Such a beautiful and cathartic piece! Very relatable after going through grief. Moving through the darkness, owing it and finding solace and light through writing. This is my interpretation of the same topic https://vocal.media/poets/catharsis-lr5rih0nkb
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love it! very inspiring, and there's always hope :)
This was inspiring! Very well written, thanks for sharing.
Brilliant. I can totally relate to 'the seething mass of bleakness...' Thanks for sharing.
Totally could relate to your story. Writing and reading are keeping me sane since I was a child and along with music are sacred escapes. Nothing else could make me feel alive but my imagination and stories to be told.
Very good. Glad you kept your journals. I believe it is important to go back to them from time to time. Your life has given you some gold to work with and please keep posting on this site.
Thanks for sharing your story. It sounded honest.
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So honest and revealing and hopefully, cathartic. Good luck with your writing. Only going upwards from here.
Brilliant description of working through the pain, “pour out the poison from my soul…and fill the crack with something clean.” It is just so accurate, those cracks remain but we patch them up as best we can.