Writers and Mental Illness

It is difficult to believe that a year ago today I was having a complete breakdown because I absolutely did NOT want to go back to the soul crushing toxic environment that was my “day job.” I put that in quotations because my primary duty was to survive mental and emotional abuse – I needed the insurance. The company CEO was (and still is) a narcissistic assbag (seriously – he said “[female employee] can’t run my company with a baby on her hip” during a staff meeting1 after another female employee quit because he’d sent her an abusive tirade via email for not responding to email while she was off for the week. He then proceeded to bash her character for parking in a handicapped space.2) The majority of the men in the office were misogynistic let’s preserve the 1950’s old farts who’s job security could be attributed to a seniority complex and that firing them might cause a heart attack.3 Of course, not everyone I worked with was a terrible human being – I made four of my best friends while working in that cesspit, bonded through survivorship. WTF does this have to do with writers and mental illness?

I was in an environment that exacerbated what I was already dealing with; chronic depression, anxiety/panic disorder, and ADD. That damn job is what made my mental illness more noticeable and made me realize that I could not continue to deal with my shit the same way. This couldn’t be ignored.

At ConCarolinas over the weekend, John Hartness lead a panel along with Darrin Kennedy, Tamsin Silver, and Melissa Gilbert on Writers and Mental Illness – Depression, Addiction, and how to survive as a writer. Thank you. For the first time I was in a room full of people who understood, or wanted to, and who were there to be supportive.

This was new to me. I’ve been open about my diagnoses with a few  very close family and friends, but with certain people in my life I couldn’t be. Mental illness was right up there with being LGBT – there was no talking about it. I lived a life surrounded by people who cared about me, but chose to remain willfully ignorant. Fuck that. John is right – we need to talk about this sort of thing in our creative community, hell the whole world needs to talk. Losing one was too many.4

For those that don’t know, let me explain what it’s like to live with my sort of diagnoses. My experience with depression is the inability to feel anything when I know I should be feeling something. It is not the constant sadness that most people believe that it is. Anxiety/Panic disorder is a different animal. The sudden onset of panic for no particular reason is excruciating, spending any span of time convinced that you’re dying or having a medical emergency is terrible enough, but the after effects are just as awful if not worse. After a bad attack, I can spend days, weeks, even months terrified that it will happen again – because it takes me unawares and it has no particular trigger. It just happens. The ADD is much more manageable. Having not been officially diagnosed until I was an adult, I’ve grown up dealing with a brain that’s on rapid fire mode, multiple thoughts dancing around like fireflies in the dusk – twinkling and fading away, moving, twinkling, fading – making it impossible to follow their flight. Sometimes I’m lucky and capture a few…that’s how I write.



1The statement was ironic considering said CEO could barely run his company…
2Said employee had the appropriate placard for using a handicap parking space and just because someone doesn’t look like they are disabled doesn’t mean that they are not. Never mind the fact that she was sometimes using crutches after having surgery on her left foot and under doctors orders to not walk long distances in an air cast…
3I fully expect to one day hear that at least one of them died at their desk.
4For Logan


2 Responses to Writers and Mental Illness

  1. You touched on a sensitive subject in a very sensible way. I’m not a writer but know the struggle to live with depression all my life !

  2. Pingback: ConCarolinas 2016 Writing Tips Part 1 - Worldbinding Books

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