Mental Illness and How it Affects my Writing Life

Recently, the authors of WritingExcuses.com put up a podcast episode with Robison Wells as a guest speaker. The ‘cast was entitled Writing and Personal Health, and in listening to it I learned that Mr. Wells is an author whose writing has often been affected by mental illness. He is extremely open about this aspect of his life, and there was something so honest and genuine about him and the fact that he’s willing to talk about it freely that I myself felt like a coward. Robison Wells has identified his mental illnesses, and though he has said they’ve affected his writing, he hasn’t let them get in the way of his dream. In fact, he has said that having personal experience with mental illness can ultimately help your writing, as you have a constant source from which to pull authentic emotions and inner conflicts that can serve to enhance your characters.

My thanks to Robison Wells for being so open on the subject. If he has affected me – one single writer – this much, then certainly I should pass on the information. If you suffer from mental illness that affects your writing life, I encourage you to listen to this podcast ~ Writing and Personal Health. Twenty minutes that might help change the way you view mental illness, like it did for me.

Because of Robison Wells and this podcast, I was inspired to be more open about my own mental and emotional issues – not only open to those around me, but to myself as well. There is no doubt that these things interrupt my writing quite often. Sometimes I get the urge to blame them for my “off” writing days and my lack of progress. But that’s not fair. In truth, I can find ways of working around – or with – my issues to become the author I want to be. Many other authors have done it, have conquered that obstacle and turned it into something useful. Mental illness has become a readily available scapegoat that I have used far too often. But no more.

For the record, I’ve been diagnosed with a cyclic mood disorder that is similar to bipolar disorder. This makes it extremely hard for me to stick with one project at a time, as my moods, tastes, motivations, and even personality jump around, sometimes even day to day. Along with this, I deal with good old fashioned depression and anxiety. It seems I am doomed to be depressed for life, as it always comes creeping back after attempting to treat it. Not that I’m the most compliant patient, though.

Most often I try to ignore these things, try to fight them and do things the way I want to regardless of how futile that battle might be. But maybe it’s not about ignoring them and fighting them. Maybe it’s about working with them to develop a writing plan and style that’s right for me, mental illness and all. Rejecting and refusing to acknowledge these issues is, in essence, rejecting a part of who I am. Not necessarily a part I enjoy, but it is nevertheless a part I must learn to accept. If it means having multiple projects available for me to choose from that allow me to ride – and utilize – the waves of my ever-changing moods, then that’s what I should do.

Unfortunately, I’m one of those types that gets angry about being on psych medication and I tend to stop them without consulting my doctor. Terrible, yes. But that’s something I’ll have to change, because so far medication has been the only thing that will even scratch the surface of my depression. Anxiety comes and goes, and if I notice it ramping up I back off on the caffeine, give myself some alone time, and I’m good in an hour or so.

Life is hard enough without fighting myself over something that seems like it will always be an integral part of who I am. It’s funny, but I’ve always been a huge advocate of being yourself and not being afraid to show the world who you are regardless of what anyone else says or thinks. With that in mind, it seems a little backwards for me to deny my mental illnesses simply because I don’t want them to be there. It’s not about wishing you were different, it’s about accepting who you are, flaws and all.

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6 thoughts on “Mental Illness and How it Affects my Writing Life

  1. Bravo for writing this post! Honestly, the best thing to help me was “coming out of the closet” and admitting to people that I was sick. I wasted months and months being horribly debilitated and making up lies about why I couldn’t do things. As soon as I faced the problem head-on and stopped hiding it, I saw an immediate improvement. (Especially in terms of having friends who supported me.)

    And, of course, the second biggest help was seeing a real psychiatrist, not just my family doctor. I’ll be the first to nag you about that: get back on your meds! :)

    Anyway, I’m so glad my words helped you. Feel free to reach out to me anytime.

    • Beka Tinsley says:

      Hey, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Yeah, I think I’m done hiding, too. And done fighting the meds and the docs ;) I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get the life I want.

      Thank you again. That podcast came at just the right time =)

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