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Writing and Depression

photo by Jairo Alzate

photo by Jairo Alzate

So, on the phone yesterday I was sobbing to my mother that I was so sorry not to be able to manage Thanksgiving in a traditional way, creating that perfect meal, because I was "struggling." I am struggling. I know it's hard to be a writer, challenging to be sixty, the world is in such turmoil, I broke my leg and can no longer spend hours working out, I am trying to be an effective teacher, reading essays, blah, blah. I have so much, a wonderful husband, a lovely place to live, an amazing son, friends, and yet there was this feeling of helplessness, despair, denial of all things good, indifference to love and the only word that occurs to me is "selfish." My 92-year-old mother is so kind. She can be so kind when you need to know you are loved.

I Google "long-term-sobriety and suicide" and Robin Williams' face appears, Philipp Seymor Hoffman, David Foster Wallace, men with stunning success and sobriety and talent and people that loved them and yet they let go. I'm not going to let go. I think I inherited this darkness from my father, along with the passion for writing and possibly some of his talent. and the drinking, the anger, the black-outs, the unforgivable cruelty of my rage. And so I stopped 34 years ago this December 22nd. And I went on. I published three novels, moved a number of times, divorced, married had a baby and divorced and married again. I have lived at a distance from my immediate family. I was betrayed at job I gave my heart and soul to but I rallied and started a company and then last Christmas I sustained a serious injury from a fall. Spent months without my usual depression fighter of exercise.

But I've recovered from most of the break. I swim hard three days a week and yet, darkness hovers. I feel hopeless and then I feel guilty. And then I feel hopeless and guilty and afraid and ashamed. i think it's called depression and it's genetic and it has very little to do with other people or success or failure or age. I drank so much because I felt it, I've fended it off for so many years it feels like a marathon of care taking and activity, and exercise and constantly reminding myself that I'm lucky and spoiled and most people are suffering so many terrible moments in war and hurricanes and domestic violence (I have experienced that) and yes my best friend died and my sister and maybe that's enough. But then I sit through yet another AA meeting and feel lost and disconnected and sad and guilty. I recently finished a memoir and one publisher has said “no” but I've been here before. I had a novel that people loved and reviewed and I wanted to kill myself. There, I said it. It would be funny if it wasn't true. Maybe writers are flawed, deprived of the usual will to survive.

I have an appointment with my doctor today. After that I may go swimming just because that seems to help so much. I'm exhausted with fending this off. But I won't embrace the pain either, I don't want to let go of any of this beautiful, perfect world, my boy, my husband, my sister, cheese, swimming and yes, writing. I write to live as well. I think Joan Didion said that after a zillion terrible things happened to her. I write to keep living, hoping, embracing the world.


Molly Moynahan