Writers, or artists and creatives in general, seem to be wired differently than the average person. We have the innate ability to feel more deeply; to become fully immersed in the entire spectrum of emotions – from the fiery depths of agony to the glorious heights of ecstasy – then reveal our experiences in such a way that a mere whisper of our happiness, or a whimper from the pain, is as much as most souls can handle.
It’s a blessing that often makes me curse.
Take, for instance, my most recent struggle. I’m not prone to bouts of sadness, but after my mother died a couple of summers ago, my cheerful state of mind steadily declined until, last March, I finally dropped my basket. I slid into such a deep depression, I was unable to write much of anything – hell, do much of anything – for most of the year. It was the hardest period of my life.
I Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
Shortly after her death, I tried to avoid the grief, to soften the blow I knew would come. I joined a support group; it didn’t take. I’m too empathetic. Instead of coping with one loss, each month I lived the heartaches of a half-dozen or more. I lasted about four meetings before dropping out.
I sought paid, professional help and even considered antidepressants, but decided on a more holistic approach: mega-doses of Omega-3’s. I won’t sugarcoat it (or maybe I should have); that was some pretty nasty stuff. By month’s end, I was burping raw tuna and attracting stray cats. We considered other alternatives.
Next came a Mindfulness-Based Therapeutic Lifestyle course to combat the Emotional Logic (“I’m depressed, therefore I must be a wuss.”) that Jan O’Hara discussed so proficiently in her article here. I learned how to breathe. Deeply. And how to do the downward- and upward-facing dog. And be a beautiful lotus flower floating in the stream. But deep inside, I was drowning.
By the time March rolled around, I’d lost all ability to focus; to produce. My days were spent in and out of bed, either under the covers crippled by sadness, or pacing the floor riddled with anxiety. My stomach was a bundle of nerves and I couldn’t eat. I dropped almost thirty pounds. Enjoyment of all things was gone.