On not romanticizing my anxiety disorder.

A few years ago, when I began on antidepressants that worked for me, I went through a transitional period from being mentally unwell, with O.C.D and depression, to being mentally healthy – in that neither of these illness dominated my life anymore.

Being on medication allowed me to gain control over the anxiety and depression, but it didn’t ‘cure me’ magically. I still needed to adjust the way I saw the world to this slightly altered, less debilitating, perception of things the medication awarded me.

Off the medication, the O.C.D in particular would make me feel trapped in cycles of thought. I felt compelled to follow strict daily routines and was stuck in my ways. Not only did I repeat actions, I would repeat life patterns and find myself in the same situation over and again. I felt too anxious to embrace uncertainty and take risks and as a result, I never took on many of the challenges necessary to building a life.

My shrink would say that what we were attempting to do was ‘unclog the works’, meaning allow my brain to develop, learn and adjust.

The most beneficial thing the medication did for me, was that it allowed me to start socialising again. One thing I discovered in socialising was that a lot of the emotional needs I was hoping to seek from becoming a writer, were actually ones I was better off seeking from other people.

I always thought, insanely in my opinion, that if I didn’t get published my life wouldn’t be worth living. I’d pegged this as the ‘fix’ to everything in my life. Once I got published, everything would be perfect.

Getting published, means you get a lot of praise, which is easy to buy into. Telling myself that I was ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’, meant that even if I exercised potentially damaging actions – sleeping too much, isolating myself, drinking when I was feeling anxious, stopping my medication against medical advice – as long as I wrote novels I could tell myself it was simply the uniqueness of my ‘genius’.

By reaching out socially to others, I quickly felt accepted and loved even without any novels published. A lot of the things I’d fantasized would happen after I got published – such as being able to talk confidently with others and feeling accepted and validated for who I was – happened when I started socialising.

In realising that my happiness would always depend on the people in my life, becoming a writer became far less of an imperative. As a result, writing felt less romantic, but became more enjoyable and in my opinion, my work became more readable.

Before I began on the medication, I wrote all day, but un-readable stories. And I didn’t read at all, a deep regret, because I found it hard to concentrate. So, I never progressed with the craft.

Being on medication, awarded me the simple ability of being able to sit and enjoy a book. And as a result, the quality of my writing improved dramatically. It was at this time, that I reflected on the way in which I’d been romanticizing my mental illness in the past, in that I’d always seen my anxiety disorder as ‘necessary’ to me being a writer.

I’ve since discovered that this is quite a widely held notion. Even my shrink, whom I possibly idealise a bit much, once said that my anxiety made me suffer, but it also made me creative. Although, I know he could have just been reflecting my own thoughts back to me.

It’s difficult to say why I feel compelled to write. And, like many things, just because there’s a question doesn’t mean there’s an answer.

However, one thing I can say with certainty, is that my mental illness does not contribute positively to my fiction in any way. Anxiety and depression, for me, feel very different to thinking creatively. Writing, in the past, has certainly helped me manage my anxiety and depression. But, being anxious and depressed isn’t the reason I wrote.

I know this, because even though now my anxiety and depression is at a manageable level, I write more than ever. In my opinion, I write better than ever. And, most importantly, I enjoy it more than ever.

110 thoughts on “On not romanticizing my anxiety disorder.

  1. I absolutely agree with you. The commonly held assumption that the more unhappy/ mentally challenged you are, the more creative you will be is, I am sure, a misapprehension. As a sculptor for twenty years, a cognitive psychologist for fifteen and a writer for the last ten, both my experience and my studies support your discovery. Most people work best – at anything – when they are on an even keel and can concentrate and enjoy their work. Great post.

  2. I am pleased to announce that you have been awarded the Shauny Award for Blogging Excellence! :)

    Here’s how you collect your prize.

    1) Follow the link: http://westutterandwedontcare.wordpress.com/awardsnominations/
    2) Copy and paste the image into a post and make a list.
    3) Once posted then send a comment to the bloggers on your nominations list sharing the award.

    *Note I just followed the advice of the person who nominated us, since this is our first award.

    Warm Regards,
    James

  3. I know a lot of people who do this, including myself… many people I know romanticize the more negative aspects of what they think being a writer is about — being poor, drinking, smoking, mental disorders, despair… but it’s very hard to get actual work done when you’re in that kind of a state. I haven’t been doing so much socializing, but I’m finding that running for at least 20 mins every day and taking a B-complex helps with not getting too bogged down with negative thoughts.

  4. Very interesting and enlightening post. Thank you for your transparency. I think anxiety may be the plight of many creatives, including yours trully. My faith, emotional awareness and expression strategies, CBT and more have certainly helped over the years. I know I feel much better when I get some writing in!

  5. I deal with the same issues with depression and perception on life.writing does help I think with being social and interacting with ppl does help,but there’s the anxiety of writng being with this illness is the negative may critisim or feeling or thinking of failer or sometimes I’m into it or its times I feel just give up I like your articles it shows not to give up and your not afraid to get depth and personal on topics

  6. I am glad to have found your blog & look forward to following :)
    I was wondering in relation to this post which happily ends on a joyful note, if you’ve tried Cranial osteopathy to relieve your symptoms… magnesium is a very good thing too there are so many alternative ways to help…
    EFT (Emotional freedom technique) is a stress reliever Cognitive & Censorial therapy is another…The Core beliefs in Psych-k of Rob Williams is brilliant (it brings back faith & belief in life, the universe & people) & Amino acid in “L-Glutamin 800″ from “Be-life natural products” has a result within a week for depression.
    I don’t sell these products at all but have seen people being helped including myself & feel it a privilege & my service to extend further that knowledge .
    It is very hard to let go of a belief as it means that as a consequence one lets go of the security of past relations, it’s a conscientious choice sometimes but not in all cases, it need awareness & clarity of the moment to be able to weigh the pro & cons but nevertheless stays a tough one.
    I wish you all the best of luck in your goals!

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