Agatha Christie – depression, Raymond Chandler – depression, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Henry James, Sylvia Plath – depression, all of them. William Styron’s excellent Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness provides an excellent description of a writer tormented by depression.
Then of course we have the alcoholics: Hunter Thompson, Raymond Chandler, Tennessee Williams, Dylan Thomas, Poe, Capote, Kerouac, Faulkner, Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. And oh, look, some of those are depressed alcoholics.
Capote was also a recluse, Patricia Cornwell has bi-polar disorder, Philip K. Dick suffered from schizophrenia (possibly, there were other diagnoses); Stephen Fry and Graham Greene are/were both bi-polar; David Sedaris has OCD; Kurt Vonnegut had a variety of conditions.
So does writing attract mentally-ill people, or is it more the cause?
Personally I’ve always battled minor depression (if there is such a thing as minor), and have been tormented my whole life by compulsive tics that fit no real diagnosis. Recently I have found information that they are likely “tourettic OCD”, something I don’t think officially exists as yet, but a lot of these illnesses aren’t black and white, but just part of a scale, along with autism, Aspergers and the like.
None of this means I can’t function (for the most part), but it does mean that I go through phases where life becomes intolerably difficult, and not for any “real” reason. It just is.
Living in Sweden these feelings are exacerbated over the winter, when we hardly see the sun for about 4 months. I know this, and make a genuine effort to suppress the problems during this time, knowing that when that fiery orb re-appears in the sky I will be the first out to worship it. I’d have made a good Aztec!
This year I made it through the (pretty rough!) winter relatively unscathed, yet now that we’ve had a month or so of light, and the sun is a regular visitor to our skies it seems that the depression has really kicked in.
I suspect the situation is akin to feeling like you’re coming down with a cold, but refusing to give in because you’re so busy at work. Then when things finally let up, that cold kicks in as full blown flu, simply because you’ve relaxed your defences a bit.
Not that it helps deal with it in any way!
So I’ve been off work for 2 days with a mild fever and a total lack of energy and motivation. I still have all 3 but I’m back in work today because I couldn’t really put it off any longer.
Did I do any writing in my 2 days off? Did I hell. I fired up the laptop a couple of times, and even opened my doc files, but no writing got done. It’s not even as if I couldn’t think of anything to put on paper. I could, I had several plot lines I wanted to develop, and I knew how to do it. I simply couldn’t bring myself to write!
So how did all these depressives manage to write?
Answers on a postcard please.