Writing and Therapy

I know, I know, you guys are totally sick of hearing about my mental health and lack thereof, but bear with me. Or you can go and keep your rage unexamined and kick a bunch of kittens. Your call.

I was highly pleased to read this post by Alice Bradley. She says that she has heard a lot of writers, in particular, say that they are afraid of going on medicine because it will make them lose their spark. She iterates that if you feel this way you are ON THE WRONG MEDICATION.

I’d like to second her arguments. This fall I’ve taken a small range of psychiatric drugs. I had never taken any psychoactive drugs in all my thirty-mumble years. I am still myself. I am still cranky on the blog. My husband no longer wants to kill me and I can see through the goddamned fog in my head to work. I see nothing wrong with this.

Another claim is that writing is therapy. And getting talk therapy will ruin your self-destructive, brilliant, writing edge. Writing is about getting shit on the page. Therapy, in my experience, is about dealing with the shit in a practical, constructive way once it’s out there. And therapy will help you understand your motivations more. And that will make you understand others’ motivations better as well. Ad this will make you a better goddamned writer.

So, writing and therapy. Have you done it? Discuss.


9 responses to “Writing and Therapy

  1. No, never been to therapy and I have no experience with psychoactive drugs (well, other than weed, does that count?). I can absolutely understand why people use them and I’d never presume to discount their benefit, but for some people it’s almost as if therapy and medication are the only way to get through life. I had a friend who became depressed after his father died, and decided he needed medication. But I was depressed after my father died. Because MY FATHER DIED. That’s a normal human emotion; it’s not an illness or chemical imbalance to feel sadness and loss after the death of a parent. It’s a natural, appropriate reaction. I think people conflate true illness with temporary circumstance, which worries me.

    • (Weed might count.) That’s always the question, right? I had a hard fucking time after my father died. Medication wouldn’t have been necessary, I don’t think, but therapy would have done me a crap-ton of good.

    • This worries me too. I come from a background of folks fighting life altering anxiety, mania and depression. Drugs literally were/are a lifesaver for them. Night and day and all that.

      When my kids were little I belonged to a mother’s group. It seemed every third woman was at the doc’s getting a prescription. I’m not downplaying anyone’s anguish, but mothering small children is hard. These woman gave up careers to stay home full time. One day they were analyzing financial reports, the next they were smeared with puke and baby crap and hadn’t showered for two days. Unfortunately, the job of stay at home mom can be boring and thankless. No matter how many times you do the dishes, there’s more and really, who likes doing dishes? Then there’s sleep deprivation and isolation. It was always my understanding that drugs were for chemical imbalances and wouldn’t affect circumstance, but pills were being handed out like mommy candy. It was kind of scary.

  2. A friend of mine, his wife was a psychologist for kids with autism and ADD. Nothing would set her further over the edge then hearing people discuss ADD as a bullshit diagnosis. She would start presentations with a slide projector flipping slowly, common images thrown up to view on the large screen in front. She would speed up the images until the audience would just have time to guess at each picture before it was switched again, leaving a sort of vertigo.
    That’s ADD. Imagine living your life like that.
    One has to be fortunate to have the luxury of critisizing the use of meds in treating mental illness.

  3. Forgot to answer, no I’ve never gotten prescribed medicine.
    I remember the last conversation with a dear friend of mine. He was in his late thirties and manic depressive. He tried everything, electric shock, prescription meds, psychiatry, psychology, therapy, and was considering a lobotomy because he coudn’t take the pain.
    He died of a drug overdose, but it was the pain that killed him. The rest was just a technicality.
    Judgement is for the priviledged, the innocent.

  4. It seems that none of us are taught that it’s okay to hurt, that hurting is part of living. Lord knows I wasn’t taught that. My mom let me cry but it hurt her so much that she did everything she could to protect me from anything ugly. While I sympathize with that approach, it does more harm than good. We’re all going to come across ugly at some point and we have to know that it’s okay, that it’s not only important but also healthy to express our reactions to it. If we can do this, we learn that ugly has zero power and that’s what sets us free.

    • I think there’s natural human pain, which is a valid emotion we cannot and should not get around. But there is also crippling depression, which is an unnatural pain. My impression is that the right medication does not keep you from feeling emotions, but rather the unnatural pain. (I don’t have crippling depression, thank god, I’m just speaking from what I’ve read/heard.)

      Therapy has been, for me, a process of figuring out when it’s OK to be hurt; figuring out what things that were said to me were unacceptable, and figuring out what things I said in turn that were unacceptable.

  5. I think therapy can be the most wonderful thing. For dealing with circumstances, both recent and not.
    Medication, I wish I could find what works. I’ve tried so many, and they’ve ranged from no effect to minor side effects like headaches to major side effects like I want to kill me now. No meds have helped my depression except the very strong pain killers I’m currently on, and once I have my back operation it is not an option to destroy my physical health by staying on them.
    I am bipolar, but the problem, apart from being unable to take meds, is that the depression and mania can both be present at once. Shall we talk about mood swings ? Spare a thought for my lovely girlfriend. I can be up, down, and back up in under an hour. And up’s not a nice up, though I think it is… and down’s a horrible down.
    And then there’s the ADD… Lyra’s description of that is not far off, and it’s an added stress that my relationships and I could all do without.
    So, after all this chatter, to the subject… when I write, sometimes it is the most beautiful thing there is, I float and dream and fly, and I am a free thing, and none of those other things matter, because they are not there enough to matter, or because they are there FOR me, and I am living the part of life where I’m truly at home.
    So for me, writing is therapy, but also, the therapy with the wonderful doctor kind of saved my life enough so I could actually be here to write, and it’s made the writing more real too.
    Ha, I hope this makes sense, I’m on way too much of these pain meds tonight.

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