Writing and Mental Illness
I’ll be honest, I’ve not only put this topic off for a while, I also sat here staring at my screen before I started writing, wondering just what the hell I was supposed to say exactly. There are a number of reasons for my hesitance, one of them being that I don’t like talking about my troubles mainly because the topic of mental illness is so misunderstood by so many people. But I thought it was important to say something about it, at least once, because I know for certain that I’m not the only person who writes and also suffers from some type of disorder or another.
Sadly, this means I feel as if I’m putting myself out on a very thin limb due to that same misunderstanding I’d mentioned above. The misunderstanding of disorders such as depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and several others isn’t a problem limited to strangers or acquaintances, but in most cases, involves close friends and family–which is even more painful to deal with. I most certainly have family members who don’t understand exactly what I go through everyday, and sadly, I typically get a negative reception whenever I try to explain it.
So I stopped trying.
But recently, I’ve been attempting to learn more about networking and building an author platform, and in speaking with a few people to see what they have to say, many of them have all pointed out the method of “putting yourself out there”. Most times, this refers to social media and interacting with others, which is easy enough to accomplish from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have a commute to make, a schedule to keep, a wardrobe to plan, or any of those typical concerns that come with meeting new people or speaking in groups.
But sometimes, “putting yourself out there” does call for that type of social interaction–and that’s a terrifying prospect for some people struggling with mental illnesses.
This may be due to social anxieties, or it may be due to the fact that you simply can’t get yourself to attend some type of event or social gathering due to x,y,z reasons. Scheduling might be a problem, or driving, and like many a person who struggles with whatever debilitating sense of anxiety and fear they have, you resort to telling a “normal lie”, such as “My alarm clock didn’t go off”, or “I’ve been running back and forth to the bathroom”. In other words, you do whatever it takes to get out of that meeting without looking crazy. I mean, telling someone “I can’t drive ten feet down the street without having a panic attack” doesn’t always go over well. Or maybe your excuse does sound normal, such as “I couldn’t sleep,” but then people don’t seem to understand that this problem is actually attached to a mental disorder with a long history, or just how much anguish it’s caused you.
“Go to bed earlier,” they might say, or “Get someone else to drive you,” never realizing that their suggestions are things you’ve probably tried a million times, and it simply doesn’t work.
In my life, I’ve realized a very sad truth is in play when it comes to the treatment of people suffering from mental illnesses and how those who don’t understand view them. They say, “Stop making excuses,” and then proceed to come up with their own reasons–hence, excuses–as to why you simply shouldn’t feel so bad, or why “this, this, and this” would work for you. They typically think the afflicted are just eccentric, dishonest, irresponsible, and/or unreliable, and while there are mental illnesses that do cause erratic behavior, most of us are trying our damned best to cope and function in a way the rest of the world might deem acceptable.
So what does this have to do with writing? Many people suffering from these disorders write to escape the realities of their everyday heartaches, then learn that, if they actually want to make a name for themselves, they have to do something they’re not sure they can actually accomplish. Perhaps at this point, someone might be thinking, “Then you just don’t want to be successful badly enough,” but, and before I blow a gasket because that kind of attitude really pisses me off (sorry, not sorry), let me explain that I don’t mean “they need to face a fear and overcome it.”
What I mean is that they are physically incapable of getting out of their home, just the way a person who’s bedridden can’t easily get out and travel. When I was 18-19, I was stricken with a case of severe depression to the point that I was physically ill. I recall laying back in a recliner with a blanket over me, feeling for all intents and purposes like I had the flu. My entire body ached, and I’d had no idea depression could make someone feel that way before, even though I’d been diagnosed with OCD when I was 14-15 and had a lot of experience dealing with mental disorders by the time my depression started.
Overall, this is an extremely difficult topic for me to talk about, not only because of the potential nuances involved and how many cases differ from one another, but also due to my own personal history dealing with mental illness. Perhaps it seems like a strange topic for this blog as well, but it’s one I think needs to be drug out into the light. People shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. They deserve support in their efforts, and that won’t be easy to come by unless it’s being talked about–even if we have to deal with the misunderstanding that’s very likely going to come along.
Thanks so much guys, and I hope you’re having a great week! <3