Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Dumps

On Mur Lafferty's response to Bloggess re: depression. Um, yeah. More so for writers.

I've been meaning for years to write about depression and writing, but it's a bit like trying to untangle that mess of cords behind the TV. Does this cord go to the muse, the depression, the superego, or... what does that one do?

In 2006, I would go to work in the special ed department of Inglemoor High School and get depressed around 9 in the morning. Thank God I worked with the kindest kids in the world, or it would have been even tougher. It lasted until right before I got off work, and when I got home and sat in the quiet, I felt so relieved that the black dog was gone... until I wanted to write or do something productive.

Then a different demon set in: The Why Aren't You Good Enough Beast.

It's my drunk superego, and he's a mean drunk. I would stare at a blank page, check Facebook, maybe doodle a bit, until it was time to cook dinner, then the Beast would scream about my worthlessness for an hour until my wife got home and found me crying into the chicken mole.

I would make unrealistic goals for myself, trying to jog my writing. Two thousand words a day! A story each week! Six stories this month! A novel done by a month from now! Pulitzers a-go-go! The redemption of the F word!

The ridiculous goals made me more depressed because I knew I couldn't meet them and the Beast was now screaming, screaming, screaming in my ear that I was supposed to break in (whatever that means) years ago, dammit!

I'd like to say that my writing is always an out for depression, a place to set my sad little soul free. When I lose myself in the story, I feel that way. I love to see something take an unexpected turn, to let a character do dumb things and write their consequences.

But it's just as often a source of the depression. My superego and id don't play well together. The superego is quite helpful. I am grateful for the type-A bastard and the stick up his ass. He makes me revise, he makes me submit, and he makes me keep some kind of goal, although I have to check his ambition.

I am grateful for the id, distractable little bugger that he is, and his stormy, gooey affair with the muse. He gives me the humor, the twists and turns, and the occasional moment of brilliance.

But both of them can make the depression worse, and they want different things. The id wants whatever the hell it wants at the moment--usually chocolate, the guitar, and old comics. The superego wants only to impress.

The clinically depressed tend to ruminate. We review recent events in our life looking for proof that we are worth something, and find only evidence that we are worthless.

For anyone who feels this way out there, you're not what your rumination leads you to believe. I mentioned the special ed kids. Some of them could only say a few words. Some of them were in diapers. But every day, they smiled at me and laughed at my dumb jokes and made it a little better. They won't do much for the advancement of society. Depression was a problem for them as well.

But they mattered. Don't fool yourself into thinking you don't.


  1. Dance like no one's watching
    Love like you'll never get hurt
    Write like your novel will never end up in the free bin

  2. Thank you Spencer. I have no particularly clever retorts (nice ones above), but appreciate you writing this so genuinely all the same.

  3. Very well said. 2006 . . . I went to your birthday party at the little house you and Chrissy lived in back then, next to the crazy lady. Depression aside, don't you miss those days? Isn't it strange we're not college kids? I miss the crazy people--they were everywhere in Provo.

    1. There are lots of crazy people here. Come visit us! We can find some.

      Yeah, the last bit of 2006, when we moved to Seattle, was a pretty rough patch. I remember that birthday party, with my drunk neighbor and all the video games. That was fun.