Mental health is an important discussion everyone should be familiar with—and in all aspects of culture. For instance, artists as a whole have developed a reputation of having depression and anxiety, but depression isn’t a prerequisite to being an artist, and both sides need to be understood. Today’s guest blogger discusses this topic in great (and personal) detail, and I’m very excited to have Airian Eastman on today. She writes romance, fantasy, and science fiction, but today, she is writing about depression and art. Let’s welcome her!
#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing
For a long time I have struggled with how much self to put into the novel. I have two beautiful dear friends who passed away, a horrible ex-boyfriend, and a mentally unstable high school bff. I have been told I should write them into stories, two as good characters and the others as villains. I have plans for the villains. I think it is very easy to tear someone down but not as easy to build someone else up.
I have also struggled to get bits of my memory into the writing. Either, it comes off as pure filler with none of the heart and soul, or it ends up reading like a journal. How can this be fixed? How do you take all the good and bad memories, thoughts, and emotions and wrap them up in a bow for your characters to discover and deal with?
I found, for me, this was a two-pronged problem, and I could only become a more successful writer if I fixed both problems, but to fix one meant facing another. The first problem was that I cared way too much about what other people thought about me. The second problem was that I had allowed myself to become an overemotional, miserable person.
First, the second problem. I say I was overemotional and miserable, and this was the case. I found myself a part of the mental health system for the best part of two decades, and at the end of the day, I found out what was wrong with me. Absolutely nothing.
“How can that be?”
I failed to listen to the one person who mattered most, and what caused me to listen to her was a painful hell that turned into a sort of purgatory. To rise out of it could only be done (or undone) by my hand. I, myself, was the one person I failed to listen to, and the only person who could get any semblance of a life back for myself.
Sometimes I do wonder what would have been if I had found this path sooner, but I remind myself I am where I am supposed to be on the journey.
I am not saying that everyone in need of mental health and support can be cured easily, or do not need medication or therapy, but I will caution to be wary of misdiagnosing yourself or others. For me though, it was simply listening to what was in my heart and in my head.
I was overly emotional. I was allowing myself to be small. I was forcing myself into a box of my own creation. In the end I was letting myself down. I was pretending to be happy, playing victim and being miserable, lonely, and sad. I believed that no one could understand my plight and that it was somehow more tragic and important than the other 7 billion people on the planet.
Guess what—I’m not.
The only way I was going to fix problem number one; caring what other people thought about me, was to focus on problem number two. How could I be happy? Did I want to be happy? Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? I think that for thirty years I was content being miserable. I was wallowing in the self-pity of my life. I was dealt a raw deal in many circumstances. My life was full of tragic moments, pain, misery, sorrow. As a child, I dealt with life situations that were outside the scope of my understanding, and I did not always have the tools or help needed to rationalize them.
I was not alone. In my own circle of family we shared in experiences. We went through the same situations and came out in different places. My sister seemed cynical and apathetic. My brother seemed angry and at times demanding. Yet we all faced the same fears together. Slightly different perspectives but that should have helped us.
I started to listen to them talk about what they felt and how they saw a situation, and I realized that I was often the selfish brat that was needing attention. I also felt I was worthless because of this behavior. I thought my family only saw me as a brat and nothing else. I figured the whole world looked at me as a negative person, doubted my ability, and outright hated me. My internal self-image was projected outward. It was not how the world viewed me through their eyes, it was how I THOUGHT the world viewed me through my own eyes. I was full of fear and self-loathing. I didn’t know who I was and how could I figure that out with so much negative thought clouding my judgment.
I began to explore the two things hand in hand. I stopped calling myself stupid, bad, bratty, or depressed. I also did not allow people in my life to cut me down either. Friends who want to keep you where you are and “make” you feel bad about yourself are no friends at all. I stopped giving other people all of me and learned to keep more for myself. Not in a selfish way, but in a healthy way.
I started to focus on the happy emotions. The good feelings. I allowed myself to set big goals knowing I could make anything happen if I put my mind to it. I learned to listen to what I was wanting and how to take care of myself. It worked. My writing has improved and I was able to add scenes into my last book that were straight out of my childhood without giving too much away. It still had the heart, but it no longer felt like I was betraying those I cared about. Instead, I was able to enhance small memories in big ways with just enough fiction to bind them together.
Being a writer does not mean you have to have a tragic past. Bad things did not happen to the best writers just so they could write about it. The best writers learned to use the bad things to enhance their writing, and they did it in a way that worked for them. No two writers are the same no matter how we like to compare them. Be yourself, for better or worse, and figure out what your block is. We all have blocks. Some of us have entire walls of blocks that feel like they would be impossible to scale. It isn’t the case. You can discover who you are as a writer by discovering who you are as a person. It will all fall together when you need it most. Don’t let anything hold you back from the story you feel you were meant to tell!
Airian Eastman is from Central New York and draws much of her inspiration for her stories from the places she grew up. She writes romance, fantasy and science fiction, with a love of steampunk and old legends retold. Airian has struggled with depression and often talks about that in her writing in an effort to help others. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two cats. For more visit www.airianeastman.com
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.