Why I’m Writing Again – A Little Story About Depression
I eat a peach
On the beach
Where I hear the seagulls screech
I see a crab
Biting my dad
How I love to eat my peach
On the beach
Where I hear the seagulls screech
– Six-year-old Siobhan
They say you never forget your first love, at least that’s what teen movies have taught me. Mine was writing. And for a long time, before I met my boyfriend or ate my first peshwari naan, it was my only love. That little poem you just read about peaches and beaches is the first creative piece I remember writing. In retrospect, I realise it is painfully similar to the song ‘Peaches’ by The Stranglers. I suppose I was punk from the start.
If I jog my memory even further, I can remember the first word I ever wrote: ‘Look’. Before I knew how to write anything else I’d draw pictures and write a story underneath, which in my head was a fantastical tale of all sorts of adventures, but in reality was the word ‘Look’ over and over again. If you wanted to psychoanalyse my young brain, you’d say I was trying to communicate ‘LOOK AT ME’ to the wider world; using my writing as a way to draw attention to myself. In fact, this is something I still do.
This untidy little blog is a story about two things: writing and depression. Both have played huge roles in my life for as long as I can remember. Depression stopped me from writing for a long time, as it stops many people from doing what they love. But now, after a lot of support and a bit of medication, I am able to reunite with my first love once more.
During my teens, depression became my default state. I didn’t know how to be happy, I only knew how to temporarily distract myself from sadness. Depressed people find lots of inventive ways to distract themselves. Sleep is a big one. I love sleep, it’s the perfect escape. Time spent with loved ones is another. I could spend a weekend with friends where I would smile and give the convincing performance of a perfectly happy person, but I wasn’t really. And once the distraction had ended, as soon as I was alone in my room with nothing but my thoughts, the default would resume. Still to this day, depression is something I can ignore for varying lengths of time, but it never truly goes away.
I realise now I’ve been discussing depression without offering a definition for this rather broad term. It’s not easy to define because it’s different for everyone who experiences it. For myself, I can only describe it as a constant presence. Like a stalker, a dark figure lurking over my shoulder everyday, an icy breath on the back of my neck. Then there’s the stalker’s equally unpleasant twin, anxiety. Only he isn’t a stalker, just a general causer of chaos. Like an annoying little brother who runs into your room after you’ve just finished tidying it, anxiety storms in and wrecks everything.
Writing became a way for me to organise this messy bedroom of thought. Whether this meant typing up a rant to de-stress, journaling my thoughts, or writing an emotional piece as therapy, I used writing as a mental clear-out. And I must have been rather good, because I was accepted to study a Master’s in Creative Writing at university. A few months into studying however, my self-esteem plummeted and my depression was more aggressive than it had ever been.
I could barely write. I could barely do anything. Any interest I had in writing, reading, baking and even watching telly had gone. I had no motivation. I left projects to the last minute and had panic attacks before presentations. Despite this, I somehow managed to scrape a pass overall, though I barely reached the word count on most submissions. I wrote the bulk of my 30,000-word dissertation in two nights. I was so sleep deprived by the end that I actually began hallucinating.
Since then, I haven’t written a thing. Until now, that is. Between September 2018 and August 2020 I have not written one solitary creative piece. I was so ashamed of how I performed in my Master’s that my partner had to drag me to my own graduation ceremony. I didn’t want to celebrate because I felt I had nothing to be proud of.
During this unproductive stage of my life, all I wanted to do was write. But the depression made me void of any creativity or passion. Until a few weeks ago, I decided to stare at a blank document for a while. And somehow, the words stumbled onto the page. Having no idea what to write about, I decided to write about the struggle of not being able to write. And the result, well, you’re reading it.
I won’t romanticise and say ‘writing saved my life’ because there was a lot more to it. Medication, support, mindfulness, a healthier lifestyle and lots of love helped me along the way. There is still more to be done, but to be writing and finding joy in my hobbies again is my greatest accomplishment in the last two years. As I reach the final paragraph, I find myself a little teary eyed at having seen a project through to the end. But I don’t want to end this on a purely self-indulgent note. Depression affects all of us in some way, whether you’ve been a victim of it yourself or a loved one has. There is support out there and no one should suffer in silence. If you are concerned about yourself or someone close to you, you can find a list of help and support networks here.
This blog will be dedicated to my two loves, writing and reading. It’s an opportunity to review books and celebrate all things literary. But you can also expect the occasional opinion piece, sharing mental health experiences, and anything else that might pop into my noisy brain. Like me, this blog will have a bit of everything. So don’t go away, there’s plenty more to come. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look.