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On Mental Health

January 28, 2016

There’s a myth about artists of all kinds that the best ones are depressed, and there have certainly been a lot of great artists (writers included) who battled depression and other mental illness. Many of my favorites committed suicide.

But as someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety myself, I’ve found I’m significantly more productive when I’m feeling good. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but I suspect that’s the case with most people. And maybe it’s different with different media, but when I’m feeling depressed, writing is often the last thing I want to do.

The tricky thing about depression is that, in addition to making it harder to work, not working makes me more depressed. It’s brutally recursive. But whether I’m feeling good right now because I’ve been productive or I’ve been productive because I’m feeling good, I’m doing my best to maintain both. I’ve been feeling mostly pretty great since I’ve been down here (not always, of course, but that’s fine, too), and I’m trying to put that energy and my current abundance of free time into a foundation that will endure when I have to deal with things like “having a job” and “being cold sometimes.”

I bought a juicer and have been eating much healthier in general. I walk a ton, do a lot of yoga, and I started running for the first time in my life (I’ve never been able to go more than a quarter mile without getting shin splints, but I made it a mile and a half the other day with no pain). I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone socially. Generally, I’m trying to build up a pretty strong routine, so that when I do start working again or move somewhere that gets cold in the winter or have to deal with any of the other negative or just banal things that life throws at me, I can keep at it. And I’ve been more productive in the meantime. It’s pretty good.

I’ve also been reading a lot more. In my last post, I mentioned Love is a Mix Tape, and since then I’ve started and finished Both Flesh and Not, a David Foster Wallace essay collection (I’m consciously reading authors whose style I want to emulate in my own writing, and though I’ve outgrown some of Wallace’s views, his prose is among my favorite ever), and Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age, by Mark Knopper, a deep dive on how the record industry’s major contraction is a product of decades of stunningly poor decision-making. Basically, I’m bouncing back and forth between reading books to make me a better writer by osmosis and reading books on topics that relate specifically to the one I’m writing.

 

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