The big d (DEPRESSION, NOT DALLAS)

Good morning, children.  Je suis Charlie.  No, I'm not going to talk about France -- so many people have been more eloquent than I could be.  I just felt it necessary to say something.

Got a helluva week ahead of me.  Dentist appointment, speech in the big city, shrink appointment, writing, cleaning, sewing.  I think I'll just go back to bed.

No, I can't.  Let me tell you about my depression.  People don't like to talk about depression, about any form of emotional and mental illness.  

I have a history of depression.  I come from two families with strong depressive histories -- my mother's family has depression, my mother was hospitalized a number of times and had shock treatments, my grandfather killed himself.  On my father's side there's a long history of bipolar illness, (my great-grandfather, my great-uncle, my uncle, my aunt, my father, my brother). My father was bipolar who self-medicated with alcohol and drugs, and he took turns with my mother, having meltdowns and going into hospitals. Fortunately I don't have bipolar illness (I don't get manic), but I sure the hell am depressive, and have been all my life, particularly in my adolescent and teen years, when I was suicidal.

I had an epiphany when I was 18 (which I'll tell you about some other time) and have never felt suicidal again.  But depressions come and go, often in the spring, but they can hit at any time.  In the last fifteen years I've had three major depressions, but sooner or later it gets better.  That's what people have to remember.  It gets better, no matter how bad it seems.

This one crept up on me slowly - just a lot of stressful days, working too hard.  It was like being in a pot of cold water -- you don't notice it's slowly coming to a boil.  I just kept fighting it.  In fact, what probably tipped me over was when I told my doctor I was fighting off a clinical depression and the doctor told me I was clinically depressed.  

Then my affect began to fade like the Cheshire Cat, except it wasn't my smile that was left.  Along came my doctor, who added another pill to my previously excellent cocktail, which was fine until I found that with expensive insurance they cost me $300 a month.  No.

But I'm back, and I'm hoping I had enough of the million-dollar drug to keep me moving upward, and I'll keep going.  I have a therapist for the practical things (I'll always need a therapist) and a psychiatrist to check the meds.  It's life, and I take great joy in it most of the time.  There are simply the down times.

When things are bad there's only one thing that makes me feel better, and it's the same thing that got me through my hellacious childhood.  Stories.  Fantasy, romance, all that good stuff, but not just in books, though curling up with a favorite book is always therapeutic.  

But making up my own stories before I went to sleep, when I was stuck in a difficult situation (like school) I could just float off into my own mind.

I was driving home from visiting Crusie, weeping at the hopelessness of it all, and then I remembered the story I was writing.  The stories I wanted, needed to write.  It wasn't just a glimmer of hope, it was a shaft of light to reach for.

I'm coming out of it.  I've got so many things I want to write I'll never run out things to do, things to keep me sane.  And if depression comes again, and it's likely to, I just need to remind myself that there are always stories.  Always hope, at least for me.

The depression and darkness informs my work, making it stronger, giving it depth.  It doesn't mean I can't write a comic romp, but it does mean I don't shy away from the darkest of characters.  As long as they're hot and give great sex and I can redeem them in the end, of course.

Glenn Close is making the tv rounds with her bipolar sister, talking about how people shouldn't hide from mental illness.  It's an important message, and writers have a stronger tendency toward depression.  But we'll talk more about that the next time.

In the meantime, claim your depression.  There's no shame in it - it's simply part of life.  And in a whole lot of cases, part of Art as well.

More later.