Reblog: Mental Health Blog Day

I need to go deeper into my depressions to get out of them, and use Jessica Dall’s suggestion number one, “Only write what is cathartic.” Writing something dark can take a lot of the bite out of a depression. I feel irritated when people tell me to cheer up, even though I know that they might be saying it with all of the best intentions. When I let myself go dark when I write, I feel spooked by the vividness of horrible images — and fascinated and illuminated. I would never deliberately read or write such things. Suggestion number one is refreshing.

When I am in my deepest depression, art is the last ability that I lose. Reading and writing are the very last skills that go, except breathing, swallowing, and blinking (yes, those become skills). I write quickly and keep my focus on the next word, so that I don’t have time to read or judge my work. I know that I might have to write dozens of pages to produce one keeper. That’s OK, because the keeper is exciting and rewarding, and makes the experience worthwhile. So, I want to proclaim suggestion number three from the rooftops! “Don’t hold yourself to any standards.”

Consider the statistics that Jessica cites, while you keep suggestion number three in mind. Consider that mental illness diagnoses are human constructs (standards) to help professionals to communicate. Therefor, perhaps art doesn’t make people crazy, and crazy people aren’t artistic. Perhaps the people who feel less pressure to be conventional, and more drive to be unconventional, are diagnosed as “crazy artists”. This idea makes suggestion number three all the more sensible.

Another sensible suggestion is, “Figure out if schedules work for you.” Too many people who think that they know about mood disorders insist that time management must help. It is only helpful when I feel well. Otherwise, it is enormously frustrating as I can’t accomplish what I aim for.

You see, suggestion number five, “Know it will get better,” is the one that I have the hardest time with every day. No one has persuaded me that “this too shall pass.” For example, when I have been down for a while, and then depression persists, then I am sure that I am deteriorating. I know that how I am feeling will never improve. I know that I will never be able to finish the many projects that I started. Instead of backing out to where I remember the light was, and not being able to find even a glimmer, I accept that I am in that state of mind forever. With practice, I am learning to reorient myself to accept my limitations. Even when I can only imagine what I want to write, that is something. I can’t imagine that I will ever feel better, but I find it easy to imagine that I could feel worse. Then is a good time to return to suggestion number one, and write my heart out!

Jessica Dall offers remarkable insight for people who deal with depression personally or indirectly. I hope that more people will see these suggestions.

Jessica Dall

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Once again, it is American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day. Before, I talked about the use of mental disorders in fiction (something that can both be done very, very well and very, very poorly); today I’ll be talking about mental disorders on the other side of the keyboard (or typewriter, or pen).

In a statistic that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, those who work in creative fields have some of the highest rates of mental illness in the general population. As this article puts it, “People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, especially writers, according to researchers at Karolinska Institute” (emphasis mine). They go on to state, “Like their previous study, [Karolinska Insitute] found that bipolar disorder is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors…

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18 thoughts on “Reblog: Mental Health Blog Day

  1. Grace – – Thank you for reblogging this for us to catch up with, but more importantly, thank you for your own personal remarks because once again I find myself KNOWING that I am not alone. Going into the depression deeper to get out of it makes about as much sense as what they teach you in driver’s education (as I recall?) – – turn the wheel into the direction of the skid. But this really works for me as well. Breathing, swallowing, blinking do become skills and I also find myself feeling like a spectator watching myself perform those tasks. Relate? Same thing with walking – – I’m suddenly hyper-vigilant to the way my body moves, or doesn’t move. Gotta appreciate that about depression – – everything slows down for scrutiny. FABULOUS POST, my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Turning the steering wheel in the direction of the skid — yeah — what does that mean, really? When I skid on back roads in the mountains in winter, I don’t pay any attention to which way the car is skidding; I just act from my gut. But if I was in a depression when my car was skidding, then life would be going slow-motion enough for me to be more hyper-vigilant about the way my car moved. But when I am in depression, I don’t drive.

      The spectator perspective that you mention freaks me out. A therapist tried to encourage me to do that, but I get way too detached and negative. It spooks me. When I realize that I’m wandering near that now, I refocus on something more tangible, closer to home.

      Sometimes I see that depression is like a target of meditation: slowing down and becoming more cognizant, perhaps hyper-vigilant, to my body and environment. Even as a young teenager when I first learned to meditate, I found deep states of depression — I mean meditation — easy to reach. What a nice side benefit 🙂

      Have you seen any similarity between meditation and depression?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kegyelem,
    Interestingly (or perhaps, not so) I find that I use many of these suggestions already. I find, though, that when depressed and I follow those paths in my writing, I get pretty bored with what I perceive to be whining and wingeing. (whingeing?) My dark stuff seems pretty lame when it appears in written form.

    I am, indeed, like you in that I am convinced that this (my depression) will never change when I am down, so reading that stuff and nonsense I had just written makes me stop writing and wait out my depression, as I waited out this last winter. I am incapable of not re-reading or editing my work. Sister Mary Doorknob taught me that I must, lest I overuse words or miss misspell them. (My spell checker can’t tell if I meant wrote, write or writ. Can yours?)

    I must say that I still am troubled by the label ‘creative’. For some reason, that apellation frightens me. I don’t know why…If I am creative, then I must create? Where is my body of work? What will be my opus? (Aside from my own version of a snarky comic penguin?)(If you get the reference, you probably get much of my humor. If not, use the google to find ‘Berke Breathed’) Or perhaps it is something so deep that I cannot even it? Funny, though, I am completely unbothered by the correlation (and possible causation) between those creatives and mental illness. Creative or no, i am certianly mentally ill. I’ll own that part.

    Thanks for sharing the Jessica Dall blog post. Sorry the APA missed the mark getting the word out, i might have said something myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hooray Chris! I am so glad that you ran into such good advice. In my 7 1/2 years of voracious research, I have come across a deluge of very unhelpful suggestions, like “do something fun,” “raise your standards for yourself,” “stick to a strict, simple schedule,” and “snap out of it.” So Jessica’s suggestions were like stars in a sky with a null moon.

      I understand that when you write while in a depression, it comes out as whinging. Perhaps you would do better to follow the rest of Suggestion Number One: write only what is cathartic. Have you tried other approaches to writing? Like writing about rainbows or sports teams or a penguin? 🙂

      I want to change the locks on Sister Doorknob Bernard. I say that first drafts are for spelling errors, typos, grammatical contortions, and bad word choices. That is how my best ideas come out.

      You state that you are certainly mentally ill. Are you relying on the American Psychiatrists Association to determine this? How do you know that they see the whole picture? Are you also mentally well? How do you know?

      What if depression was called meditation or spontaneous vacation? What if hallucinations and delusions were called inspiration? What if mania was called celebratory energy? How much of the disfunction of “mental illness” is because of the shame and limitations imposed by our social environment? Maybe our brains are working differently, not incorrectly. Maybe we need more sociologists to study this situation. What do you think?

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      1. This is all too frustrating…I have lost the ability to reblog. I want to do that because for the last 4 days I have been trying to respond to your above response and the durned gerbils at WP keep telling me ‘Unable to Post’.

        I am ready to hefat a baseball bat at ’em. But, if you have ever seens a 6’2″ 225 lb pound man chasing gerbils with a bat…well, let’s just say the photograph of such would be unflattering.

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        1. I, too, get bombarded by WordPress’s refusal to let me comment. It seems to sign me in, I can access my posts, but can’t interact with others. I think the browser is at fault. It seems that when I reopen or update it, all becomes well again.

          Restarting the browser sure beats beating google-eyed gerbils 🙂

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  3. So many probing insights and so much food for thought, it’s hard to know where to start. Medical models are social constructs within the context of the dominant/power culture. Or to put it another way…one woman’s mania is another woman’s creativity. I, too, have walked the valley of depression and can attest that is real and lethal. But the psychopharmacological and trope-laden approach to treating mental health disparity falls short.

    I love how your writing evokes critical thinking and active participation from your readers. We could use more of this in our national discourses. Good stuff, Grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Jeff, you make me smile. Provoking “critical thinking and active participation” is my number one goal for my blog. I call it, “stimulating discussion.” Thank you for contributing to that here, at your blog, and in the rest of the world.

      You added an important point about medical models being constructed by those in power. Yeah. :simmer:

      The pharmacological and trope-laden approach to supporting health in general falls short of my standards. How would you like to see mental wellness/illness be defined and addressed? What supports do you see lacking?

      Like

      1. Good questions, I would have to think more about it. My short answer is a complete reconstruction of society to be less competition-based and more cooperative. The reason would be to try to deal with some of the underlying causes of alienation that people experience when they don’t fit into the corporate-capitalist model of a good citizen.This would, of course, mean dismantling capitalism, itself, but that’s a whole separate response. I would also favor a holistic approach that give equal weight to the mind, body and inner self when diagnosing and treating mental health.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You write of “a complete reconstruction of society to be less competition-based and more cooperative.” When I was a business manager, cooperation was an obvious principle, but a strategy that few people gravitated to. The superiority of cooperation and resulting success is undeniable. I expect that we are evolving in that direction as (what I see as) a global online community forms. It’s death of the warriors, and survival of the communities.

          Hooray for the people who “don’t fit into the corporate-capitalist model of a good citizen.” May more communities develop to recognize them as whole beings with minds, bodies and spirits. I am reassured by the movement from capitalist institutions to community-based care. Sure, the modern model of care is still corporatized or government-controlled, but it is a move toward rebuilding village environments that accommodate our modern values.

          I hope you will share your thoughts as you continue to think more about what holistic approaches look like.It’s these visions that form our future. The more vivid and shared that they are, the more powerful they become.

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  4. I’ve been reading a number of your posts and have been doing so over the past few months since I started on this blogging journey and I would like to offer you the Reaching Out Social Justice Award that I began at Unload and Unwind. You take time and thought in the issues you speak of and also intersperse your pieces with some wonderful bits of prose and anecdotes. If you are interested just follow the link: http://jenniferann1970.wordpress.com/awards/reaching-out-social-justice-award/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jenni for hanging out here for a while. I appreciate your taking the time to visit and looking around.

      Thank you for initiating the Reaching Out Social Justice Award. I appreciate the conditions that you defined. I look forward to supporting it.

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      1. I’m glad – I am always curious to see what you have posted but I’ve been so behind in my reading the past month that my email folder is just a tad on the full side but I’m trying to catch up.

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  5. I just emerged from a deep depression and I only wish I could write or do anything when in the depths of it. It is a chore to exist and solitude becomes my best friend. I just wonder why, if so many people have depression, is there still such a stigma attached to it? If thinking positive thoughts were enough to dig myself out wouldn’t I just do this? I could go round and round on my thoughts concerning this issue but I think it’s safe to say that for those of us who endure this condition it is all too real.

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