I’ve been considering posting about this. It’s not exactly the sort of thing that makes for congenial conversation, after all. But, it’s more important than being a fun person to be around. And then again, I’ve always been extremely comfortable telling complete strangers far too much information about myself. It’s like the acronym TMI was designed for me.
I’ve been diagnosed with severe depression. I’ve had symptoms of depression for as long as I have clear memory. I was about eight or nine when I first took a sharp implement in hand and thought about using it on myself and before that, in earlier years, I prayed for God to take my life.
I was formally diagnosed in college. I’m a psychology major — how ironic is that? Actually, I suspect many depressed people go into psychology both intending to do good and because they have this subconscious or not so subconscious thought of self-medicating. Well, let’s just say that didn’t work.
I was initially very resistant to taking medication.
It’s commonly accepted that writers are often depressed, that our creativity is inextricably bound up with the miasma, that it’s almost a badge of honor. I’ll admit to having owned a black t-shirt with dripping red font reading: “Tortured Artist: No art without the angst.” back in college.
So I was both afraid of losing what made me interesting and because I had this idea that I was a worthless piece of shit if I couldn’t pull myself up by my non-existent bootstraps and just get over my depression. It took me about five years to get over my irrational hatred of medication.
In the interests of full disclosure: I’m currently on Wellbutrin. I’ve had therapy on and off for years, finally culminating in 15 sessions at 350/hr with a therapist who first came on to me inappropriately and then pretty much called me irresponsible for wanting to stop therapy and then refused to pass on my medical information and continue my prescription.
Why this level of detail? Because it’s the
circle of life, ahem, interconnected.
My personal experience:
The Wellbutrin is also prescribed for people who have ADD. Which I also have. Not surprising, as depression is co-morbid with ADD and vice versa. Nothing like feeling like an under-achieving failure all the time to boost mood and self-esteem. I’d talk about the female version of ADD and why the public view of ADD is so damaging to women who have it, but that’s another blog post.
The medication always leaves me feeling just a little bit hyped up. By a little, here’s a transcript of my chat convo with my boyfriend the first day I got back on the medication. Skip the blue box if you’re not interested.
I just feel really …wound up.
coiled, about to explode
I feel like I want to bounce all over the place.
I’d stick with it for a while. These must just be the initial side effects
but…i mean, fish oil and vit D were also helping
bouncy bouncy bouncy
I feel like every thought in my head is just free-floating and …boucy bouncy bouncy
I’m not going to be any good for anything…
but you got a HELL OF A LOT of writing done on meds before
so I’m guessing that will return eventually
you can stop talking to me anytime
i find myself kinda annoying
but I can’t stop the twitches. and I’m actually typing them out
so I can’t imagine what you think
twitch twitch twitch.
I’m sorry. I don’t find you annoying if that helps. I’m just worried about you.
my body and meds
it’s like…this crazy whirling dervish dance, except not quite as reasoned as that
no cooking today…
no fire fire fire fire fire
What this means is that because it’s a stimulant and I react strongly to any kind of stimulant, I take it right before I sleep so it doesn’t keep me from sleeping later on. Even so, I find myself drifting toward a 2 or 3am bedtime and being forcibly woken at about 8:30am because the amount of stimulant has reached a point where I cannot continue to sleep. As a result, if I’m not careful, I drift toward a state of constant exhaustion since I need about 8 hrs a night to feel functional. The being exhausted and resulting feeling of being drunk means although I’m more productive on the medication because of heightened energy, I’m not actually as productive as I want to be. Inefficiency then threatens to keep me up too late, which in turn perpetuates the cycle.
However, and this is what’s truly important:
I prefer the me who is on anti-depressants. I have more spoons. I am more productive and I actually get things done that I want done.
I have never found a decrease in creativity after being on medication. I would, in fact, argue that I am a better writer than i otherwise would be simply by virtue of being able to write and therefore (hopefully) improve. Also because one is greater than zero. Zero being my output when I’m not on meds.
Editing is easier. It still feels like being drawn, racked, and quartered, but at least I don’t stop because it feels that way.
It’s easier to interact with people. The little voice that tells me I’m not clever, witty, funny, charming enough goes away and leaves me alone. It is easier to brush off confrontations and not have it turn into the mental equivalent of a tornado whipping through all my thoughts and defenses.
I suspect, were I to start querying, it would also make that process not quite as suicide-making.
There is always a price. I pay for being a writer with exhaustion, a racing heart, and the faint bitter taste in my mouth. i consider it worth it and then some. The price isn’t always the same for everyone. For every person who’s had medication stifle their creativity and their lives, there’s at least another person who’s had their lives turned around. And it’s important to remember that you may need to try a couple of different medications before hitting upon the one that provides the most benefit for the least evil. One of my meds gave me narcolepsy and pretty much killed my thought of going back to school for my post-grad. Another one made it so I couldn’t even think about eating. I gave it up after realizing that I wasn’t happy or productive whilst nauseated and starving. Yet another one didn’t do anything except increase my heart rate to an unpleasant degree. It wasn’t until I tried Wellbutrin that I actually had something work.
Being depressed isn’t necessary to being a writer. It’s not necessary to being an interesting person. It’s not necessary, period.