Symptoms of Clinical Depression Are Not Romantic for Writers

“As a writer, I believe depression is necessary. By going through these dark places, we are able to come back and illustrate just how beautiful the light really is.”

I found this post on Tumblr and almost wanted to scream. The poster and I got into a spat and she tried to explain what she actually meant, but anyone reading the above quote is going to get the exact same implication regardless: that depression is being romanticized and only those who are depressed and heal from it can become truly great writers.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Do you want to end up like Van Gogh?

I don’t care that the writer told me she meant depressed writers should seek solace in writing and should not take the good days for granted to better their writing because that is not at all what she said in her writing. This is a lesson in writing, that you need to write clearly so there is no miscommunication between you and reader. Granted, even the most obvious sentences can draw miscommunication, but it is not my job as a reader to read your mind in order to understand what you actually meant.

In any case, let’s backpedal to the original statement. I wanted to scream reading this. I will admit upfront my depression influenced the latest book I am working on, but it was not worth being depressed for. I would have traded my depression for anything. However, I might as well use my past experiences with depression to create a story about a treatment-resistant teen that will hopefully inspire teens struggling with depression to seek help. But, again, I neither need nor want depression to create stellar story ideas.

There is nothing romantic about sleeping more than half the day, no longer having the ability to enjoy what you do, being unable to eat because you have zero appetite and can barely eat because your stomach can’t hold much, having breakdowns several times a week, wishing you were dead because the pain feels unending, existing with an unquiet mind that wants to destroy you, and having to work 100x harder than the average person to get anything done. It is grueling, and I would have been happy to give my depression to anyone who feels the need to romanticize it.

You don’t need to go through dark places to understand the light–that cliché bullcrap. You simply need to be sensitive with an honest mind and an honest heart.

When Stars Die did not come out of any depression or even past experiences with depression. Yet, that is, thus far, the best book I have ever written because I used my sensitivity and the humanitarian aspects of myself to create Amelia and her story. I am a naturally sensitive person. Depression has made me more sensitive, but that isn’t a good thing. It’s because I’m still raw, still healing, from being depressed, and depression itself is honestly traumatizing, so I’m still trying to shake that off. The only thing depression has done was inspire a story. It does not influence my writing or my ability to create a troubled teen. It did not make me a better writer or storyteller. It just gave me an idea. That’s it. And I’m pretty sure for most writers struggling with depression or who have struggled, they can attest that it neither made them a good story teller nor a good writer. It might have just given them a story idea.

So the above quote enrages me because now vulnerable teens on Tumblr are going to read that and think depression is somehow romantic.

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Author:

Also known as The Dancing Writer, she is currently working on The Stars Trilogy, among other works.

15 thoughts on “Symptoms of Clinical Depression Are Not Romantic for Writers

  1. Yes, I agree – well said. I studied two Irish poets for my PhD – one suffered from bipolarism, the other was a family man, pillar of the community type. I don’t have to tell you which one struggled with his art, with acceptance by mainstream publishing, turned to alcohol, broke up his family, and died young. His life might make a more interesting story, but the other guy is still here, still writing and bringing joy to readers.

      1. That was my thought, too. I try not to judge what other people are going through, but there’s feeling depressed, and there’s DEPRESSION. I don’t think anyone who’s ever gone through the big kind could say something like that. Whole different world, there.

        Feeling better is awesome, no amount of light is worth going through that darkness

  2. I totally agree with you. When I’m depressed I can’t write. It’s only when the depression lifts that I can write again. Honestly, I think I would be a better writer had I never had depression. Which is not to say that it hasn’t influenced me. Being on “the outside” has allowed me to see things in ways others have not. But there are other, healthier ways to get new perspectives.

  3. Depression is horrid. For me, it’s like being waded down by water- like a salmon swimming upstream, surrounded & pushed by other salmon when all the salmon wants is to stop swimming and drown.

  4. As another commenter stated.. I don’t think the chick who posted the original comment has ever gone through true depression if that’s her take on it. She sounds like one of those infuriating teens who wears depression like the latest clothing trend so she appears to have more depth than she actually has. That would be the angry teen in me talking. Like you, I went through severe depression when I was younger (and not so successfully tried to end my own life)… so people who try to make it sound romantic or use it as a badge of popularity really piss me off. I can’t imagine anyone having gone through real depression making that statement.

  5. I was fighting my mind, fearful that it would corrupt and destroy all the worlds that I created. Now I can’t even think about my characters or enter any of my stories out of fear that my mind will distort and pollute them. Although I don’t wish it on anyone, I would be tempted to give it away if it would mean I could live again and write.

    1. I’ve just learned to find solace in writing when I’m depressed. I don’t know how I did, but it happened. But when I’m manic or hypomanic, I am extremely terrified to write, because, for me, mania or hypomania is more unstable than being depressed. I am highly cognizant when I’m in any one of those states, but I feel like it’s dangerous for me to write when manic or hypomanic. I remember I did write when I was manic. 15,000 words in one day. Absolute garbage when I came out of the episode. I thought it was pure genius when I was writing it, something publishers would be desperate to get their hands on.

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