This post started as an email to Mr. Man about a guest on one of his favorite podcasts. Usually Mr. Man gives good suggestions, but I had to bail on this one.
Who the players are isn’t important. The conversation turned to mental health and the guest shared his experience being on anti-depressants. He said that he knew he had to stop them when he got some horrible news and didn’t react as much as he thought he should. The host chimed in with the typical argument about SSRIs making you numb. I raised an eyebrow, but kept listening.
The guest spoke about feeling his brain click on like a computer rebooting itself a couple of weeks after weaning himself off his anti-depressant. He felt good about this moment and the host agreed that you can’t hide from the lows in life because they make you appreciate the highs much more. At this point, I stopped listening.
I know what will happen if my brain reboots. It’s horrible.
Depression is not about feeling sad and it’s really frustrating when people think that’s why people take anti-depressants. It goes so far beyond having a bad day. That whirring that he talked about? Once it starts, it doesn‘t stop. It’s a constant voice in the back of my head saying shitty things to me. It never lets up. Ever. The second I crack an eyelid in the morning it tells me how much I suck. It keeps me from falling asleep because it reminds me of how much I failed at life that day. After an hour or two and six super stiff drinks I get to pass out. Rinse. Repeat.
Depression is the voice that tells me nobody would miss me if I stepped in front of traffic because I suck at life so badly. It drives me to be a perfectionist on steroids. I could be killing it at work and one little thing goes wrong so the project is all shit and depression tells me I’m shit for not catching the wrong thing. Depression tells me I shouldn’t bother getting out of bed because I’d probably fuck that up by tripping and breaking my neck.
Sometimes I can drown it out, but never completely. It’s exhausting. Unrelenting. Like a zombie horde.
So along comes this little yellow pill. People talk about anti-depressants making you numb. It’s not numb. It’s quiet. The little yellow pill makes it quiet so there’s space to have thoughts other than how shitty I am at life. It allows me to make a mistake and not think I’m the worst person that ever lived. I really don’t think those who haven’t experienced the constant negativity and mind fuck of depression can understand how having that little bit of quiet space changes everything.
Depression was wonderful for my writing. At my lowest point a few years ago, I cranked out eight first drafts in a year. I could enter the writing zone for hours at a time with ten thousand words to show for it. For long periods of time I could turn the constant parade of negativity outward and focus it on the story. Thing is, I couldn’t do anything with them afterward. See, depression’s a bitch like that. I would start editing and that voice would start in on me harder than ever. I wouldn’t ask for help with editing or critiquing because depression convinced me the writing was shit and I shouldn’t waste people’s time like that. Depression told me no one wanted to read my work, much less buy it. Self publishing? Did I really want to put myself through that?
The little yellow pill has not been great for my writing. It takes longer to reach the writing zone, and it’s much more difficult to stay there. Without that constant voice demanding perfection, it’s easier to get distracted by other things. Like a marathon of the Saw movies on Netflix. I’m still working on getting productivity back. Earlier this year, I tried to force a book to market that wasn’t ready. Before the little yellow pill I’d still be beating myself up over that failure. I definitely wouldn’t be working on another story.
It’s been about two years and I’m still learning how to balance the little yellow pill and the big D. It’s a constant struggle. Some days depression wins. The difference between now and then is that the little yellow pill helps me dust myself off and try again.