Sionnach Wintergreen

author of fantasy and romance


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Depression Feels Like…

I’ve been sort of beige and muffled lately, mildly depressed. I’ve been functional, for the most part. My mood is lifting, and I’m grateful. While I was sifting through some files today, however, I found something I wrote while in the midst of one of my worst depressions. A lot of people don’t seem to understand what clinical depression feels like. To me, if feels like this:

I feel numb. I get out of bed in the morning because I know my husband expects it. All I want to do is sleep. Everything seems difficult–little things like brushing my teeth and hair feel arduous. I don’t want to be around other people. I cringe from my friends. Just attending a social function physically hurts–I have to escape to another room or outside to make my skin stop crawling. I have so little energy that I feel like I could fall asleep standing, like a horse. Everyone around me seems to be moving at eighty miles an hour while I stumble through a sea of gelatin.

I know it wasn’t always like this, but I can’t remember feeling normal or competent or whole or anything. I can’t feel anything but the overwhelming numbness. I am a hollow tree or a frozen landscape, something empty and barren, something dead–a waxwork of the person I distantly remember being.

A few weeks after I wrote this I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My variety tends more toward Bipolar II, which is characterized by long, deep depressive episodes. The antidepressants that work so well for many people with unipolar depression can actually drive bipolar people into manias or suicide. I had tried different antidepressants in the past and none of them worked. I believed the fault lay somehow with me, never realizing that I had been misdiagnosed with chronic depression and that I simply hadn’t been given the right medications.

I still have low moods, but I rarely feel the level of emptiness that I felt in the throes of my worst depressive episodes. Medications are not for everyone, but I credit a combination of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications with saving my life.


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Writer’s Block or Depression?

Sometimes I get writer’s block because I’m out of ideas for a story, stressed and having trouble relaxing or focusing, or just need to get a better feel for the backstory. These are all things that can be solved rather easily through writing exercises, or simple things like mediation, bathing, or going for a walk.

However, for me, sometimes I have writer’s block because I’m depressed. It’s almost a warning sign that something is wrong with me. In that case, taking a quick inventory of what is happening in my life can sometimes help me track what might be causing the depression. Clinical depression is serious. If you think you may be clinically depressed, please seek help. I’m bipolar, so I see a therapist on a regular basis. I also see a psychiatrist periodically and take medication for my illness.

For me, the red flags that I’m not just having writer’s block but am sinking into depression are:

  1. Either sleeping too much or waking up too early.
  2. Not paying attention to personal hygiene. (Like wearing the same clothes several days!)
  3. Overeating (especially sweet stuff.)
  4. Withdrawing (more than usual–I’m an introvert, so I’m always somewhat withdrawn.)
  5. Not wanting to do anything, not being interested in anything.

Number 5 is where writing comes in. I’m interested in and passionate about many things, but writing is where my heart is. If I’m not writing–and maybe not even wanting to try some writing exercises–I know that’s a big, flashing warning sign that I’m not okay.

One of the worst bits of advice I ever got regarding writer’s block was someone online suggesting to take a break from writing and not write until you feel like it. Maybe that works for some people, but for me it sent me into a downward spiral of not writing that lasted over a year. Not writing led to more not writing, and I became more and more depressed. Once depression gets a toehold, it’s easier for it to get worse.

So, instead, I recommend being mindful of how your body is functioning and how you’re feeling. Make sure that your writer’s block isn’t a cue that something else is going on.