It’s been a couple of months since I updated Webgoji’s Ramblings. As a matter of fact, I’ve pretty much fallen off the face of the planet. The reason is that I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and possible Schizoid antisocial disorder. Due to financial reasons, I wasn’t able to stay on my medication, plummeted and am now rebounding. But these ups and downs bring up an interesting issue …
Creativity and mental illness. On October 11th, the Journal of Psychiatric Research published the findings of a 40-year study concerning creativity and mental illness. If you have an account with them, you can view the article here:
Before I review their findings however I would like to take a moment to point out how mental illness affects my writing. Mental illness, be it my depression or possible schizoid issues, actually gives me focus for my “creativity”. I use that term loosely because people often only use that term for “art” when creativity is a necessary part of life … but that’s for another rant. My depression also gives me focus … no … fixation. I can fixate on a topic, such as a horror story, to flesh it out. Finally, as a horror writer, it lets me see a side of myself that, frankly, I tend to ignore normally.
So how does depression give me focus? When I am in thralls of clinical depression and want to be left alone, my thoughts become very inwardly focused. This gives me the mental strength needed to meditate on my thoughts. I can play with ideas mentally, toss out some malnourished plot bunnies and feed some of the stronger plot bunnies. Incidentally, I can also meditate better in general.
One thing about depression is that the victim’s brain tends to fixate on negative things and then blow them out of proportion. While this is definitely an undesirable affect, that ability to fixate also allows me to sit down and burn out over 3,000 words at a time when writing. The story comes alive in my brain. Of course then I go back to fixating on stupid personal things that don’t mean anything but make me feel bad.
Finally, depression is a dark place. If you’ve never been depressed, you can’t really understand the thoughts that cross the mind of someone suffering from that particular mental illness, but handled properly, those thoughts can become the seed for some pretty brutal horror. Obviously we don’t want to start acting out any of those thoughts or committing suicide or anything, but fixating on the negative and then letting those negative thoughts thrive can allow a writer to dump their inner demons onto the page, hopefully scaring the wits out of the reader.
So what were the findings of the study I mentioned above? Well interestingly enough, Bipolar Disorder was more common among people in artistic pursuits such as dancing, singing, etc. My wife can attest to this being bipolar and quite the musician. In addition, schizophrenia and depression were common among … wait for it … authors. Yep, writers tend to suffer depression and particularly often, schizophrenia.
So what does this mean for writers? Well first, it means GO GET TREATMENT!!! Seriously, my medication makes it hard for me to write. I can’t focus on my writing long enough to get a good idea fleshed out, but it’s far better than ending up dead in a ditch like Edgar Allen Poe. But the study points out that these new findings can help psychiatrists try to treat mental illness while also trying to keep the desirable creativity that tends to come with it.
The moral of the story is that if you suffer from depression, get help. Talk with your psychiatrist to find the best possible solution for getting through, but also feel free to talk with them about the best way to remain creative as well as happy and functional.