I’m making myself write this.
It’s been seven days since I’ve written anything. Most of the time, I aim for three to four blog posts a week. Writing is my favorite activity in the world, but depression is taking it away from me. It reared its ugly head at the beginning of this month and wrapped itself around me like a straitjacket, squeezing a little tighter every day.
At first, I thought it was a lack of motivation. Maybe I was just being lazy about writing because I didn’t feel like it. Then I stopped to look at the condition of my house. One can always tell if I’m in a depressive cycle by the state of my home. Right now, there are dishes in the sink and laundry on top of the bed that I slept under. Hanging up clothes sounds exhausting at the moment, and frankly I just don’t care.
When I’m feeling good, my house is spotless, but now it’s a dump which makes me even more depressed. It’s also difficult to shower when I’m depressed. Some days I don’t, and then I feel even worse. It’s a never-ending cycle.
I’m more emotional than usual. It’s not like severe depression where I’m constantly crying and sleeping, although I’ve been there. Usually, the best time to write is when I’m emotional, but throw clinical depression into the mix and it’s another story. I’ve been sitting on my couch for a week with all these feelings and nowhere to release them. I can still do things like going to the grocery store and dropping my kid off at school, but I do these things with a weight of sadness I can’t shake.
It’s not always like this. My official diagnosis is bipolar disorder, so sometimes I’m manic. When that happens, there’s no stopping me. I can write five articles a week and keep up with housework and take my daughter to the movies. I may feel amazing, but there’s also no stopping me from overspending or forgetting to use my filter with people when talking or making rash and scary decisions. I’m also aware that the good feeling I’m experiencing will be short-lived. The cycle will come back around and bring the depression again. It’s hard when you don’t know who you’re going to be on any given day.
I take medication and try to practice self-care. It helps most of the time, but there are breakthrough episodes of depression that still pop up now and then. I’m a big advocate of people with bipolar always taking their medication. Many people stop it when they’re manic because they feel so good. I remind myself when I’m feeling the high of mania that it’s only temporary and I need to stay as stable as possible. Medication is the most important of all the tools I use to fight my mental illness.
I have goals and dreams for my writing career, but I also have an illness that doesn’t care about them. It strikes whenever it feels like it no matter what I have planned. I have read so many articles about how to be a successful writer. The first thing they always mention is the hustle of writing as much as we can, not to mention the marketing. I want to hustle, too. I want to be one of those people who write 2000 words in the morning and is social media savvy in the afternoon. Sometimes I find I can do it. I just never know when. Depression doesn’t wait until I’m ready for it. It comes whenever it wants.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember to use the tricks my therapist taught me when I’m in the middle of an episode. There are some that work well for me. One trick is to push through and force myself to do the things I need to get done. Yesterday, I made myself clean the kitchen. I haven’t done it in several days, and we didn’t have one clean plate to eat on. I told myself it didn’t have to be perfect, just enough so we had a few dishes and some silverware. Once I got that done, I almost subconsciously wiped down the counters and cleaned out the fridge and then threw in a load of laundry. Doing the very first thing seems impossible when you’re depressed, but even the smallest action can help lift your mood and propel you forward.
That’s how it is with writing. Sitting here, I’ve already written over 700 words so far. I didn’t think I’d be able to get past the first sentence, but here I am in the body of my article. I’m learning lessons even as I’m typing this about being present, showing up and doing that very first little thing.
Another thing that helps me is paying attention to negative thoughts. I used to have one bad thought and then let all the other negative ones pile on until they smothered me. This snowball effect makes my depression more severe and can send me straight back to bed weeping all day; however, if I catch the first negative thought at the beginning, I have a better chance of fighting it. I tell myself, “No, we’re not doing that right now,” and most of the time it stops there. I’ve learned not to surrender or believe the terrible things my mind tells me. Remembering that doesn’t cure my depression, but it makes it more bearable.
I want to do the things successful writers seem to do with ease. I want to be a hard worker and make my writing dreams come true. It’s hard to admit I have limitations. I know I didn’t ask for mental illness. I try not to beat myself up for having it or throw myself a pity party every day. It’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life, something I’ll always have to work around. If I don’t attempt to fight it, I worry I’ll end up with a life full of regret. That’s why I’ll make myself clean one dish or write one sentence to hopefully break through my despair and encourage me to do even more.
I’m proud of myself for writing this article instead of spending the day in bed. I’ll accept the grace I’ll receive from reaching my goal. I’ll live to fight another day.