Writing Through Depression

This post is brought to you from a slightly sticky patio table at the town Starbucks. The world has entered the month of December, but like pretty much all of us these days, the weather is confused about what exactly it’s supposed to be doing with itself. The sun is shining, the sky’s clear, and the temperature feels more reminiscent of an early spring day than two weeks from the winter solstice.

I decided to work outside the house today to get a change of scenery. After daylight saving time ends, I always struggle to not feel isolated in the face of shortened days and chilly weather. The pandemic, of course, has made socializing harder than ever, so I’ve activated my anti-depression plan through a range of methods recently:

  • Writing outside the home more frequently (My work stations include coffee shops, libraries, and wherever else I can find a seat.)
  • Taking classes at the YMCA (My first-ever cycling class kicked my butt the other day!)
  • Participating in community events (I’m getting my Hallmark-vibe on by attending a small-town Christmas parade and tree lighting.)
  • Spending more time outdoors (Whether it’s through hiking groups or chill time with Queso, I’m trying to be out in nature a bit more in the colder seasons.)
  • Volunteering (I’ve picked up a weekly volunteer shift at a local used bookstore run by a nonprofit. It’s hard to be sad around stacks of books on their way to new homes.)
  • Watching cute movies (A Castle for Christmas, anyone? I did in fact enjoy watching Brooke Shields and the guy from The Princess Bride roam around in an idyllic Scottish landscape while pretending to not like each other.)

If you’re a writer, you likely already know that trying to write when you’re feeling down is one of the hardest tasks to complete. With many other jobs, you can turn your brain off to a degree when you’re not feeling great, but having to generate thoughts coherently and then translate them into written words is a massive undertaking, even for the simplest project.

Here are some things that sometimes help me move past a momentary mental obstacle:

  • Being open with my struggles. None of us like to feel like a drag or a burden on the people we love, but I’ve realized voicing my problems makes things easier. I feel like I can talk about what’s going on and the people around me know what’s going on when I don’t seem myself. My husband is incredibly supportive and so are my friends, which makes life much easier. I’ve actively sought to remain connected with people who add joy to my life, and that support group is invaluable.
  • Learning from others. It helps me to know other people have similar struggles. Often, they’ve thought about things in ways I haven’t. I stumbled upon Timothy Ward’s YouTube channel the other day, and his videos gave my mood an instant boost. He talks about his own mental health as well as his desire to live a nontraditional life in terms of job choices and living situations.
  • Giving myself a break. I try to not fall into the trap of feeling constant guilt when I’m not operating at 100%. I wouldn’t beat myself up over taking a day off work if I had a fever, so why should I for mental health? Reminding myself that a day, or even a week, of rest is sometimes necessary. No guilt needed. The world will still be out there after a few days.
  • Doing what I can. Facing an enormous pile of tasks when you’re struggling can feel like you’re dealing with the impossible. Picking the simplest item from my to-do list and finishing it typically kicks my mindset back into gear. It’s like a gentle reminder that no, I haven’t lost my ability to do everything overnight.

NaNoWriMo was last month, and I made it to 35,000 words before I cycled through “a mood” that interfered with my progress. My word count was 15,000 less than my goal but 5,000 more than my previous attempt, so I consider it is a small improvement. While I’m feeling a bit disappointed with myself, at the end of the day, I have 35,000 more words than I did in October. So isn’t that cause for celebration?

I wish everyone a happy and healthy December! Feel free to comment with any of your tips for staying positive and keeping up your writing this year!

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