With Mo*Con quickly approaching and with our main conversation centering on the issue of the mental health issues we writers may struggle with, I thought that I would encourage some guest posts from some of our guests, partly to raise awareness on the topic by sparking a dialogue and also to help de-stigmatize the issue. One of our guests of honor, Jim C. Hines, offers up this guest blog.

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Jim-WFC-Full

Depression

Guest blog by Jim C. Hines

About a year ago, I walked out of my doctor’s office with a prescription for Zoloft, an antidepressant.

I had put that appointment off for months, because I believed my problems weren’t that bad. It’s not like I was suicidal or anything. I told myself it wasn’t really depression. I was stressed, but there were real and valid reasons for that. I just needed some down time. I could tough it out. Eventually it would get better.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing things would get better. Life was about getting through each day. I wasn’t living; I was simply enduring.

I was a psych major, and I’m married to a licensed counselor. I’ve watched people close to me start antidepressants, and I’ve seen how much of a difference it can make in their lives. I’ve never thought of them as weak, or of antidepressants as a sign that they’ve somehow failed at life.

It feels different when it’s you. There’s a double-standard. I know perfectly well that depression isn’t something you can simply will yourself through. But walking into that office felt like admitting defeat, like I was conceding that this thing had beaten me.

I told my doctor what I was dealing with. A full-time job and a writing career. A special-needs son and a pre-teen daughter. A partially disabled wife. When I laid it all out, I could see why I felt stressed, but there were plenty of people out there who had it worse. I had so much going for me—a wonderful family, eight books in print from a major publisher, a stable job with good benefits—it felt like the height of ingratitude to complain. Besides, it’s not like there was something chemically wrong with me, right? This was just stress.

To which my doctor replied that yes, he thought there were plenty of external factors causing my depression. And what made me think that over the long term, those external stressors hadn’t had a real chemical effect on my brain? The point of antidepressants wasn’t to suppress emotions; it was to help me get back to a normal, healthy neurochemical balance.

I know antidepressants don’t work for everyone, but damn if they didn’t help. A month after that appointment, I was starting to feel like me again. I started working with a therapist, talking about changes I could make to try to better manage my life. I was fortunate to find someone I clicked with right away, and she’s helped me to improve my relationship with my family, to try to find a bit more balance in my life, to look ahead at my dreams for what I want my life to be, and more.

It’s not all happiness and rainbow-farting unicorns yet. I have bad days, and to be honest, they freak me out, because I’m still learning to distinguish between a normal crappy day and the return of the Depression. Nobody gets all good days, and I know that, but in the back of my mind, I start thinking that maybe the meds aren’t helping as much, or maybe the therapy hasn’t done enough.

Depression is like the Stephen Hawking of screwing with your head, and before I know it, I start thinking I’ve failed. If I were doing a better job in therapy, if I was able to better deal with the different parts of my life, the conversations at home wouldn’t spiral out of control. Stress over writing deadlines wouldn’t spill into other areas of my life. Things that made sense in the therapist’s office wouldn’t get all murky and messed up when I tried to apply them to real life.

In other words, it’s been a year. Why the hell isn’t this fixed yet?

When I write it out, I recognize that it’s a ridiculous question. This is a process, not a quick-fix. I’ve still got a relatively stressful life. The therapist and I both recognize that there are a lot of factors we can’t change, and we’re working on the things we can. And my life is better than it was a year ago.

I made the choice to talk publicly about this, and I was amazed at how many people came up to talk to me about their own battles with depression at conventions and other events. I’d like to tell everyone that once you take that first step, it’s all downhill, but that’s total goblin dung. Medications don’t always work. A fair number of therapists suck, or simply aren’t the right fit for you and your problems. Even when everything clicks, it’s still a process, and there are good days and bad.

I have far more good days than I used to, and most of the bad days aren’t as bad as they once were. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I’ve learned some things, too. Specifically:

· Depression isn’t about having a bad day, and it’s not something you can outstubborn.

· Depression is a sneaky, evil, manipulative bastard. The worst thing you can do with a dude like that is ignore him.

· There are people who will look down at you for admitting to needing antidepressants and/or therapy. Fortunately, at least in my case, the antidepressants and therapy have put me in a space where I can recognize that those people are dicks.

· Those people are also rare. Most have been incredibly understanding and supportive.

· I feel like me again. I missed me. It’s really nice to be back.
Thank you, Maurice, for letting me talk about this on your blog, and thanks to everyone for reading.

 

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Mo*Con VIII: The Mind and Spirit of the Artist

May 3 – 5, 2013.  Indianapolis, IN

Previous Guest Blogs:

Maurice Broaddus – Being Crazy, Christian, and Creative

Lucy Snyder

Doug Warrick

Jim C. Hines

Gary A. Braunbeck

Nate Southard

Delilah Dawson

Michelle Pendergrass

Steven Saus

Janet Harriett