Managing Depression

Today is 89 days straight in which I have written at least one page of writing every day. The chain remains unbroken.

In the last week, however, I have noticed negative thoughts creeping in. The act of daily writing has largely staved off these thoughts for the past 3 months. The fact that I am doing what I want to do creatively gives my mood an enormous lift.

So why have the old thoughts been creeping in? Thoughts like, “What’s the point of writing? You’ll never be any good. You’ll never make any money from it. You’ll die alone and unknown and no one other than family and friends will ever know you lived. Just give up.” Deep inside, I considered it. I felt my resolve wavering along with the tree outside my window.

I used to want to find the answer. What was the trigger? Why am I feeling this way? Now, I say to myself, Who knows? I try to find ways to keep going. Maybe it was the anticipation of my hitting a milestone (90 days of writing). You can find out the exact reason all you want and, sometimes, it just doesn’t help.  You can’t go back and change the cause. All you’re left with is dealing with your mood and feelings in the present.

All my posts here get redirected to Twitter get redirected to my Facebook page. On that page, a friend suggested I read the memoir, “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” by Andrew Solomon. His first chapter, entitled Depression, talks about what it is and, more importantly, how it felt to him.

As I read his descriptions, I felt myself becoming increasingly morose and unhappy. The painful feelings and sense of oppression made me feel as if I had a two-ton weight pressing down onto my shoulders that would not quit until it ground me into the ground. I felt more pain, too, and it made me wonder if all this fibromyalgia pain is depression pain instead.

After running an errand to find seed beads and coffee, I settled into my writing place at Argo Tea on 26th St. and 7th Ave. I opened my memoir file and began writing, but felt like it would be too hard. So I decided to start reading about memoir writing instead.

I found a great article “How to Write a Memoir” by Scott Berkun and ordered it from the library. Reading his article about how hard it is to write a memoir, that it takes a lot of times that only you can invest, and that you have to write for your own reasons – not to make money. I think that was the lift that I needed.

Then I wrote this post a day early. I have been trying to spread out my writing – Blog writing on Mondays and Thursdays; memoir writing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. But today I knew I needed to write this today. Tomorrow couldn’t wait. This post is beyond blog writing.

Just for today, this post is about getting to writing again.

Three Reasons I Blog

Approximately six months ago, I began writing in this blog for a few reasons. Those reasons have not changed much, but I thought it would be good six month post to remind myself exactly why it is I continue to do this. For those readers who have joined along the way, this will help you understand what you might find in this blog.

#1: To Experiment with a Variety of Writing Styles

A well-rounded writer is a better writer, and blogging is its own special kind of writing. I wanted to explore this medium and expand my repertoire. No more would I write only for technical or school-related reasons! Instead, I wrote and continue to write in order to become better at this craft called blogging, and, by extension, with writing itself.

#2: To Write on a Regular Basis

When I first began my blog, I was not doing any other kind of writing. Blogging daily would keep me writing on a regular basis. Writing in my blog would test my ability to write daily, as well as my ability to come up with different topics that both I and you would find interesting. I posted a little reminder in a frame at my desk, “Singers sing. Painters paint. Writers write.”

#3: To Share My Life as Authentically as Possible

I write about topics that personally interest me: cats and volunteering with animals, personal growth and development, meditation, family and relationships. Most importantly, I write to share and possibly connect with others.

Nothing is verboten from my blog. I do not keep secrets, nor do I believe in keeping any. I do not have any topic that I would consider off limits for discussion. Having grown up in a fear-, guilt-, and shame-based household, I have worked as hard as possible to let go of all those feelings in any form. I refuse to take on anyone else’s fear, shame, or guilt as my own. I am against censorship in all its forms, most of all, my own. When I fail, I try to forgive myself and move on.

When that fails, then I write. In my notebook. And in my blog.

Struggling

Lately, I have been struggling to maintain a positive disposition. I have gone into a deep funk. Today, I felt sad for no reason. I think the fear of getting two fillings redone tomorrow overwhelms me.

Since it was Sunday, I decided to clean my desk and pile the crap into my inbox in order to make the rest of my week more productive. That helped for a while. Editing my short story brought me hours of peace. This evening, I shared the story with my writing critique group for my 6/14 workshop. So I’m not exactly holing up in bed and pulling up the covers.

Morning writing is still on hold. Maybe I will try again on Tuesday. This makes the second post in a few days, also a positive sign.

I wish I knew how depressed artists manage to be productive. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe they drink and drug their way through it because it’s unbearable any other way.

I feel like an engine stuttering to come to life after a deep freeze. Writing here kind of keeps me accountable. I no longer feel the need to write every day here. I justified it by saying I was doing morning writing daily, but now that’s not happening, either.

On Friday, I went to see a new therapist trained in EMDR (eye movement densensitization and reprocessing). I am hoping that we can work towards excavating the remaining negative experiences and traumas that are embedded in my psyche. I want to move forward and meet my dreams as they arise, hand in hand on the road ahead.

I’d Rather Be Reading

Blogging too late in the day can be a health hazard in the same way that writing late at night pages is not as productive for my health as writing morning pages. I call blogging at 9:15pm too late in the day for me because my normal bedtime is in the 10:00-10:30pm range. Even though I use f.lux for my Mac, I find that I prefer to have reading as the last evening activity before I go to bed. 

Sometimes, cats get in the way of my reading. Every day, my husband and I give subcutaneous fluids to my 17.5 year old cat Hunter because his kidneys are failing. Giving subq’s means more water in their system, which helps their kidneys function better and the cats to feel better overall. After giving the fluids tonight, I sat down to read a book on writing a romance novel, which is the type of novel that I am in the middle of writing. 

That’s when I saw it: a bright, red splotch of blood bed sheet that covers couch slipcover and on a corner of a hand-knitted throw. The needle must have caused some bleeding at the site where we gave him his fluids tonight. After lifting up the bed sheet, I saw that the bloody spot had soaked into the slipcover underneath it.

Noooooo! Slipcovers are great, as long as you don’t get them dirty. They can be such a pain to clean. I dug out my cleaning instructions, which recommends either non-water cleaners, foamers, or mild soap. Then, it warns that tap water can cause rings and advises using distilled water instead. Who has distilled water handy to clean the slipcovers?

I removed the bed sheet and the throw, and I asked my husband to throw them into the washing machine while I tried to clean the bloody spot. I got a damp paper towel and a dry one. I patted the spot with the dry towel to remove any wet blood on the slipcover. I then alternated wetting the spot with the damp paper towel and carefully blotting it off with the dry one. Eventually, I got most of it until I did a little scrubbing to dry it off. It seems to be OK.

Here I am now, sitting in the corner of my couch, pillow behind my back for support, and Hunter napping on my left side while I write my blog post. I don’t mind the sitting, the pillow, or Hunter, but I’d rather be reading.

Seven Waves of Cascading Creativity

Today marks my completion of Week 3 of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. When I first began the book, the end of twelve weeks seemed as distant as the top of Cannon Mountain from the base of the Flume Gorge.

Yet, with a hop, skip, and a slowly flowing pen, three weeks briskly washed over me and then buoyed me forward with multiple waves of creativity.

Wave 1

Sprang forth from my decision to blog every day so that I could get in the habit of writing daily. On most days, I discovered that I had at least one interesting story I wanted to share, typically about something I learned, or my writing goals.

Wave 2

Bubbled up  a renewed urge to create cards. I have made home-made greeting cards in the past, but not in a long time. I used Gimp to create images with photographs and phrases that I invented and then made the products available through Zazzle. I made a card and a mousepad. I ordered both and the production was excellent.

For my Artist Date this week, I visited a Paper Source store and bought card making supplies. I completed a birthday card for a friend’s birthday.

Wave 3

Sparkled a desire to make unique jewelry. Before we moved to NY, I purchased a lot of supplies from a bead store where I used to work part-time. After the move, I was low on energy and preoccupied with my father’s failing health.

Since January, I have made two pairs of threaded, beaded earrings, a pendant, a necklace with the pendant, and a matching pair of earrings.

Wave 4

Rapidly heaved up a memory of an old love: reading and writing poetry. I borrowed and read some poems by Audre Lorde that inspired me to write a poem that I shared on my blog. I returned the book, but I plan to read some of the poetry I have in my possession and to get more.

Wave 5

Floated up a desire to add the timed, sense-focused writing exercises from the Pat Pattison book called Songwriting Without Boundaries. A few days ago, I rescued the book from my bookcase and have included it in my writing warmups for the day immediately after my morning pages. The segue works well, and I am enjoyed the feel of mastering the artful pull of quickly recalling numerous descriptive, sense-bound qualities within a set period of time.

Wave 6

Cracked open a new idea rivulet: a Pinspiration board. Yesterday, I purchased a large cork board to replace the tempered glass shelf above the creativity area of my L-shaped desk. I plan to hang up my 2014 Life Goals list, a list of bodily senses to remind myself to stay focused when I am writing, pictures of family and friends, cards I have received, beloved poems, and uniquely outlined or framed (made by me) inspirational quotes.

Wave 7

Overcame by a wave of realization that, when I look back to all the ways creativity has sprang up in my life since January 5, 2014, I feel inspired and happy from the crest of my own accomplishments.

Having the perspective of (at least) three weeks helped me identify all the creative grooves that have been reawakened in me simply by going with the flow of what I desire, i.e. writing and making art, and a determination to make that happen.

Back to Basics

“Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artists than it is to do the work.”
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

When I began this blog in January, I vowed to use it as a vehicle to write every day. I was humming along until last Friday, when I took a webinar. The moderator discussed having fewer, more meaningful updates instead of posting every day. What my brain heard was, “Stop blogging every day. You will annoy your readers with your nothingness.”

I took a break over the weekend. On Monday, I posted a poem I wrote that was inspired by Audre Lorde. Yesterday? I did not remember to blog until I lay down in bed. Already, what I must I relearn? That if I do not keep my priorities in mind, I will get distracted and forget.

I hope that you, dear readers, will not be annoyed when I write daily, nor will you think that I am writing nothingness. I have old mental habits to break that blogging for 21 days will not solve. These mental habits run deep, and they are my single biggest obstacle to tackle.

Today, I renew my commitment to blog here daily about something meaningful to me and hopefully to you. People’s needs and interests change, so I understand if something that once drew you to my blog no longer engages you. I accept that. I only hope that along the way I have inspired you.

Thank you.

Writing Rituals

Since I began my daily writing in this journal on January 5th, I have struggled with getting my writing schedule squared away. I have attended to learning HTML/CSS coding, updated and posted my resume, been in contact with a recruiter, and applied for a few jobs. I managed to outline the story I wrote, but I feel I am in a sort of writing limbo.

I know what I would like to do next to work on my story: Write character arcs. Revisit dialog & remove anything that does not move the plot along. Fix internal logic errors that I noted while re-reading my story. Check for word repetitions. Remove cliches and/or update them in an unexpected manner. Remove boring backstory that I put in to get up to 50K words during NaNoWriMo.

More importantly, I need to start warming up with creative writing in addition to writing in this blog. I took three Berklee College of Music courses, two in creative writing and one in lyric writing. I still have the workbooks, rhyming dictionary, class notes and exercises, teacher and fellow student commentary, and some video lessons. My favorite resource is a pocket-sized book of Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I highly recommend this book. If you like this author, I also recommend her autobiography, Long Quiet Highway. 

I have been burned in the past by taking on too much. When time in a psychotherapy session, I was talking about all the plans I had for my life. He expressed surprise at the number of things on my list and commented that maybe I had too many things. I was deeply hurt at his lack of understanding for my need to move beyond the current confines of my life at the time and follow my heartfelt dreams.

Fifteen years on from then, I get his point. I tend to suffer from the “Ooooh! Shiny!” disease where the latest thing to catch my attention is what I do. This means a lot of starts and memories, but that’s about it. With my writing in 2014, I want to break out of ineffective habits and start new ones.

This blog is one of those new habits. I am about ready to add a second daily writing habit where I am engaging in creative writing and revisiting the old lesson plans (but not in any particular order). After that, I will start attending to my book. Looking at my story causes me to see all the things that are wrong with it, and I get depressed under the weight of the task.

However, I learned through my writing coursework that, in order to get good, you need to practice creative writing every day. If I do 10 to 15 minutes of warm up writing, then I think I will start to feel like I can write creatively in a way that will bring my story to life because the gap between what I think I can do and what I can actually do will get smaller.

I am happy to note that I have accomplished one goal of 2014 so far: Write every day. The great thing about this goal is that every day I get to celebrate it anew, with each word, each warm up, each story, and each blog post.