I had to work yesterday. Not writing, although I do that when I get home from work, but work, at a job, outside the house. I started it 2 weeks ago, and am quite excited about it. It’s a retail job, nothing special or different, just something to get me out of the house, and interacting with real people more often. I’m not going to lie and say the money from it won’t be nice, but I will tell you the money isn’t the main reason I went looking for a job outside the home. Depression is.
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with depression. The Dr. prescribed some pills, and recommended seeing a therapist. I took the pills for about three days, and saw the therapist once, but that was it. See, I was raised to believe in mind over matter. That you could do anything if you set your mind to it, and that included ‘thinking yourself happy‘. I’d told my Mom, who is my best friend, about the pills and such when it happened, and we talked about it.
We talked about how I’ve always been a pretty moody person,(creative/artisitc people often are, right?) and how I was always happier when I was working out regularly, and traveling, and keeping busy. And she’s right. I have always been happiest when I’m busy. Having two or three jobs, was normal for me, and that had changed after I moved to Alberta. Anyway, I didn’t like the headache the pills gave me, so I stopped taking them, and moved on with my life. Keeping busy and focusing on thinking myself happy.
It worked, for a while.
When I quite working to write full-time, things changed a bit. I live alone, and I’m single. I’ve always been single(90% of the time anyway), and I’ve always loved living alone. This was no different. I wasn’t working three jobs, but it didn’t matter because I was writing a lot. I mean, a lot. (as in three or four books a year, as well as short stories.) I was busy.
The obsessive part of my personality paid off in building the career, but worked against me when it came to my health. I was super focused on writing, to the exclusion of almost everything else. I stopped going out with friends, and since I live alone I basically became a hermit (Although I did make many online writer friends). I stopped going to the gym, and I gained a lot of weight, and soon… I started to hate writing-especially sexy romances when I felt like I might never have a man in my life again. I burnt myself out.
So I took a break from writing and went back to work at the pub. But it didn’t help like I thought it would. I felt different, I was different. I was a 39 year old woman working with a bunch of 20 year olds in college. I had fun, but I didn’t feel able to connect. My writing friends slowly but surely disappeared because I wasn’t writing regularly, even though I was totally open to critique for my partners still and talk writing.
I have to say that really hurt. I’d thought of many of them as true friends, not just co-workers, and it was sobering to notice that when I took a break from writing/promoting/selling, they had nothing really to say to me. It didn’t happen with everyone, but it was the majority.
Last year I tried to get serious about writing again. I left work, to stay at home and write full time. It worked for about two months, then it slowly became clear that no matter how many deadlines I gave myself, or how many promises I made to get something done, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get my health back on track, or my writing. And it was frustrating, because I had no other real pressures or job or anything.
Two casual writer friends, who, strangely enough, were not super-close friends when I was on the bestseller lists or ever critique partners, and I got closer. They were having some issues of their own, and we talked a lot about the industry and market and pretty much anything. We formed a bond, trying to help each other get ourselves back on a track we wanted to be on. It was those two who pointed out that I seemed to be struggling more than I should, and that maybe something was wrong. At the beginning of 2012 I was once again diagnosed with depression.
This time, it was a relief. This Dr was a blessing. He talked to me quite a bit, explained I’d been depressed for a while-as in years, and that it wasn’t a “toughen up buttercup” type of thing. It was chemical. It was physical. And if I didn’t deal with it, it would continue to get worse. I started taking anti-depressants, and it was like flipping a switch. Seriously, if nothing else could convince me he was right, it was that.
Things are slowly, but consistently, getting back on track for me. I went job hunting because it was time for me to get myself back in the world physically. I’ve become a hermit, and it’s not a natural thing for me. Anyone who’s met me can probably attest to the fact that I am a people person. I love to chat and hang out, and just be with people – which is also why I love to live alone…for that ‘me time’ everyone needs. However, having ONLY me time, isn’t healthy.
So, while I’ve blogged about health issues of writers before, and I’ve seen others do it too, I’ve yet to see someone talk about the mental health issues of the job. Sure there’s stress, like any job, but we joke a lot about living in our own heads so much, but I know I can’t be the only person who’s had to deal with being a bit overwhelmed by it.
Let me clear though….Writing did not cause my depression. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that even though we toss around words like “balance” and talk about how important physical activity is because this is a job where we sit so much, these things are important to more than just our creativity. These things are important to our mental health….and our mental health is important to our life…and our writing. It’s so very easy to narrow our focus so much that only the work matters, and I just thought I’d share this part of my story to show that if you narrow your focus too much, losing your way can become an issue.