Creative people worry that their essential spark — that which makes them artists in the first place — will disappear forever, or at least be hindered, if they seek chemical relief for depression or anxiety.
Like everyone else, writers today can address their depression and anxiety in numerous ways. Treatment options are omnipresent. It’s impossible to watch a TV show without encountering pharmaceutical commercials, after all.
Novelists and poets, however, sometimes cling to romanticized notions of the artist-in-pain, even when that pain is often (though not always) treatable or manageable. I think about the many famous authors who might have been helped by today’s advancements. What if instead of drinking themselves to death, such authors learned more about their depression, anxiety, or whatever else was really underneath that urge to self-destruct? What if F. Scott Fitzgerald had talked to a good therapist, or told his doctor he’d like to learn more about Zoloft?
Chicken or egg: Depression and anxiety can sometimes lead a person to pursue writing, but the act of writing itself — and the life of a writer — can also be the impetus for depression or anxiety. A writer’s work is mostly solitary, after all, with much time spent living in one’s head. “Writing is a pursuit that requires constant reimagining of the same things, over and over, and it’s this same circular thinking that revs up my anxiety,” says James Scott, author of The Kept and host of a podcast about books, TK with James Scott.
“It’s also odd to me that writing, this lonely job, is then paired up with the modern act of ‘being a writer,’ which includes doing public readings, interviews, and the like,” Scott continues. “I had not read my work in public since elementary school until maybe two years before my book came out. I was in my thirties, and I knew I had to get over it, and I did, to some extent, with practice and desensitization and drugs.”
Perhaps writers move heaven and earth to carve out time in which to write, or struggle to make writing part of a daily practice. Doesn’t that add pressure to the act of creation? All a writer has to do in those fleeting minutes they’ve allotted for themselves is figure out how to use mere language to conjure something out of nothing. No biggie.
Dive deeper into the look at how some creative people are afraid of mental health medication hindering their spark in the full article Writers, Mental Illness, and Addiction with Heroin at The Fix.