I have chronic depression. (Starting on a happy note, right?) It started in my freshman year of high school, receded about halfway through college, stayed away for several years, and has recently made a reappearance.
Suddenly, I remember why I hated high school so much. It wasn’t just because of the petty drama, or the stress of starting a new school, or the fact that I was pretty much always failing math…although those were all factors. But the depression didn’t help, either.
It sucked. A lot. It still does, but at least now I know how to handle it like a #boss. (Or at least handle it like a #midlevelemployee.) When I was fourteen, though? I didn’t have a clue how to cope with depression.
Why do I bring this up? Because despite how much it sucked, something good actually came out of that high school depression: I fell into the habit of writing every day.
I’m already introverted, and depression makes you crazy tired. I didn’t have the energy to hang out after school. I just wanted to be alone, think about something other than my arch-nemesis (geometry), and recharge my batteries before starting on my homework.
So, I started writing. Every day after school, for two hours, it was me and a huge mug of tea, sitting in front of the old computer and tapping away at my latest Twilight fanfiction.
Yeah, yeah. Like every other girl my age, I wrote Twilight fanfiction. And you know what? I stand by it. Fanfiction is a great way to start writing—but that’s a different post that should be saved for another day.
It was an ideal escape. Every day, for a whole two hours, I could disappear into a little fantasy world without actually having to go anywhere or do anything. And that, I think, is the essence of why so many writers are tortured: We need a way out. And unlike a trip to Aruba, writing is instant and free.
Writing doesn’t make you sad. You write because you’re sad. Or angry. Or stinkin’ depressed. Writing when you’re happy is fun, but writing when you’re unhappy is necessary.
Mental illness is by no means a good thing, and I’m working hard to kick my depression back to the curb where it belongs. In the meantime, though, I’m trying to focus on the ways that I can turn a bad situation to my advantage. I may not feel good right now, but I am being hella productive, and the fact that I can work with my illness to produce something good is a real blessing.
I would never ask someone to share their mental health history on the internet, but if you feel compelled to share a story about how you’ve used writing to overcome adversity, I’d love to hear it.