Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Life Inside the Bell Jar

All of my life, I've thought of myself as a writer. It's been both a descriptor and an aspiration.  It's always been a part of my identity. I don't think of myself as a writer writer. I'm not on the level of any published author.  I'm not on the level of my two friends, B.C. Mathews and R.E. Bailey, who write and are published or in the process of being published.  Hell, I'm not even on the level of that chick that turned that terrible fanfic into a terrible novel into a terrible movie.  For the past five years, I've had near zero output.  But I've finally started wanting to write again, wanting to create and finish something. 

Of course, my desire to create never went away; I just couldn't do it. If you have any experience with clinical depression, you'll immediately understand this feeling.  Because I have countless drafts comprised of four lines of an idea; I have pages and pages of draft material, scribbled on various online receptacles. And I have created and abandoned more story ideas than I could even begin to count.  But none of it has been finished.  

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2000.   Overall, my depression is just who I am, a reflection of my genetic history, exacerbated by circumstances or changing brain chemistry.  But this time, through all of its good days and bad days, started sometime around 2009. As I write this, it is the fall of 2015.  Six years. And even though I shouldn't have to justify my mental state so my depression seems warranted, I would like recount the events of this time period.

Production-wise, it's been pretty shitty since about 2010; you can almost trace my productivity along a graph of my life events.  For me, writing is an indicator of my mental state.  And it doesn't sound gross as saying "judge my depression by how gross my apartment is".  You can trace my mental state on this graph, the y axis telling of my productivity. And the curves you find would show the emotionally low periods and stable periods, with the plateaus being the closest I'd gotten to being content.  Once I reached the level where I lacked the energy and desire to even clean my apartment, writing became a far off goal, my own pipe dream.Things like laundry, eating, bathing, cleaning... they're things that should be done, and became the hardest things to do.   So this graph would also provide reference points for the times my apartment was dirtiest.  

In 2009, I knew my marriage was failing.  In the fall of 2010, we separated,  and in June of 2011, our divorce was finalized.  During the same period, my father started getting sick.  We didn't know the cause at that time, and couldn't fathom the outcome.  By October of 2011, just after his 60th birthday, he was too weak to keep working and retired.  Soon after, he was diagnosed with ALS.  After struggling with my impulse to just quit my job and move home to help, I gave notice at my job in May of 2013 and then moved.  In February of 2014, my grandmother died.  Not even four months later, my father died. And then after all of that, I started experience menorrhagia, i.e. nearly continual periods.  

Finally, after having time to heal (and a quick surgery to address my menstrual issues), I seem to be on the other side of it all, on an long-sought and well-deserved upswing.  All of my life, even before my diagnosis, I've been at the mercy of my depression and plagued by anxiety.  But now that this low point has passed, I feel like maybe things will be better.  For the first time in a while, I'm not just surviving; I have hope.


  1. Wow.

    This was well-written, moving, just . . . it made me want to know more about you, and how you view the world. It made me want to give you a big hug. It made me want to read more of your writing . . . hint-hint.

    Hell, I'm not even on the level of that chick that turned that terrible fanfic into a terrible novel into a terrible movie.

    No, you're not. You're much better than her. Much better. You just need to believe. And, of course, write.

    And even though I wouldn't wish it on you, at least I'm not alone in years long depressions that make cleaning and bathing optional at best.


  2. I heart you, Alice. Never forget that.

    The strange thing about writing is that sometimes you need time. Not just to write. But to process. To heal. To scar. In this madcap world, we're always told that if you're not reaching toward a goal at all times non-stop, that we're a failure. Writing isn't like that. And that's why I love it so much. Simply living is part of writing. Simply living through difficulties is part of writing.

    That one day, when your brain and heart and soul (or whatever you believe) is ready, you'll push out that funny-heart-rending-dark-fucked-up little story that's been percolating as the culmination of all your healing. And you won't even realize it until you're finished and you read back over it to say, "Huh. I wonder where that came from."

    I usually write everyday, but not all writers, even professional ones do. I can't wait for inspiration, because I'm never sure what the hell I'm writing until I'm writing it. Find out what works for you, what works with Real Life.

    And don't be afraid to share.