Breeding lilacs out of the dead land

Spring is a time of unrest. The time changes, you can’t figure out what to wear, it’s raining and snowing and sunny all at the same time. There are national conferences and poetry month looming. You can’t justify lying on the couch watching Battlestar Galactica reruns anymore.

Spring often brings depression. I am no mental health professional, I leave that to the charming Bobbi. However, I am a writer and I have been diagnosed with depression and ADD. I take medicine for both of these things. Writers are tricky. They don’t understand their gift, they don’t know exactly where their inspiration comes from or what keeps them at their desk churning away at their manuscripts day after day.

Or maybe they don’t want to lose their “edge,” or maybe they think that medication will dull some kind of authentic experience of their lives. They embrace the darkness. They ask what would happen if Hemingway had been on Prozac, would we still have his fine writing?

I cry bullshit. Hemingway sought treatment for his depression, only the methods were crude (electroshock therapy; enough said). Whiskey, while tasty, is not medicine and will rot your liver and ruin your brain. Psychotropic drugs do not turn people into vapid happy zombies. And if they do, then you are on the wrong ones. They help your brain run more smoothly.

I am not weak. I am not refusing to face my emotions. I am taking what steps I can to sit at my desk every day to edit and to write. I am trying to be a good partner. I am still funny, bitter, and angsty. However, I did not cry today. Nor did I surf the Internet for 4 hours hating myself because I couldn’t settle down and work. I did not shout at DP over nothing. I have thrown nothing today.

Alice Bradley writes this post better than I do.

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8 responses to “Breeding lilacs out of the dead land

  1. Agreed, Indy. I also call bullshit. Imagine how much more Hemingway might have written if sustained by the right treatment and a longer life span. Imagine what David Foster Wallace might have written had he not suffered so. I certainly imagine how much healthier the women in my life (artistic or not) might have been with the right stabilizer.

    Last year I hear a young man ask Tom Perrotta about the issue of drinking/drugs on writing. Tom basically said he’d never write anything worth publishing if he was altered, that writing your best comes from having all of your tools available for the work.

  2. I particularly like Bradley’s second paragraph:

    “Because I am more wise than learned, I finally realized that I would never do any amount of research and instead would simply talk, as it were, out of my ass. From whence all my favorite opinions emerge.”

    Yes. And yes to feeling good and inspired. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  3. i truly believe that self-medication does more harm than actual medication.

    That hasn’t stopped me, yet, but the first step is recognizing that one is self-medicating, so there may be a problem for which meds might be of benefit. Right?

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