Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression
Huh. I think I need a copy of this book.
“[A] collection of 22 modern essays about depression by writers (several well known) who know their subject intimately. Some face depression as a sudden interruption of a previously gratifying life; others have never known life without it [….] The writers’ descriptions of “dwelling in depression’s dark wood” (William Styron) are disturbing and haunting, laden with vivid imagery. “My heart pumped dread,” writes Lesley Dormen. David Karp describes his depression as sometimes a “grief knot” in his throat, sometimes chest pain like a heart attack, sometimes “an awful heaviness” in his eyes and head. From her teenage years, Darcey Steinke would wrap herself in an old comforter and lie in a fetal position on top of her shoes in the closet (her brother called this her “poodle bed”). Nancy Mairs describes being institutionalized: “Lock [a woman] into a drab and dirty space with dozens of other wayward souls, make sure that she is never alone, feed her oatmeal and bananas until her bowels are starched solid, drug her to the eyeballs so that she can scarcely read or speak, and threaten to shoot bolts of electricity through her brain.” If you want to know depression from the inside, from thoroughly gifted writers, you’ll find it here.
I’ve lived with depression for over half my life now. (I hadn’t done that little bit of math until just this moment, and it kind of shakes me up a little.) I’m not doing too badly these days. For starters, I’m taking medication for it, which helps more than I can even begin to explain; and secondly, throwing myself into creative projects (like this blog, and Causality) also helps tremendously.
The worst part about it, as far as it affects my writing, is the time it steals away. Days and weeks and months lost to a feeling of tremendous weight, of not feeling like I have enough energy to do anything, or to want to do anything, even just sit and write. Maybe especially just sit and write.
On the other hand, it’s given me a lot to write about. There are so many dark moments I’ve been through that have found their way into stories, one way or another.
I’d definitely be interested in finding out what other writers have to say about it.