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4 Tips for When Anxiety and Depression Have Snuffed Out Your Creativity

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November was National Novel Writing Month.

I didn’t type a single word.

After this year’s election, the loss of a loved one and a myriad of horrible circumstances to befall me in the last month, I couldn’t even come up with a character or a story arc. I almost couldn’t even write this.

Being a writer is part of what makes me who I am. Journaling can be a great comfort to those of us who have mental illness. Unfortunately, anxiety and depression have even snuffed that part of my life out, and I didn’t know where to begin.

So I decided to start here, telling you to pick up the pen, place your fingers on the keyboard and just write something. Yes, even the word “something.” That just might inspire something in you.

1. Be like Bart and repeat yourself.

At one point, when I felt the world hated me. I could only write one phrase, “People are imperfect. People are imperfect. People are imperfect.” I didn’t write it quite as many times as Bart does in every opening of “The Simpsons,” but the idea is the same. When your mind is crowding out even the simplest thoughts, write down a phrase or sentence enough times to where you can recall it.

2. Find other ways to express your creativity or make you feel good about yourself.

Lately, I haven’t even had the urge to read anything. Sometimes, listening to my favorite music helped. Other times, it was playing a video game. Other times, watching mindless television helped me. The important thing is to keep your mind occupied. Treasure the fact that even during your down times, you can still take down a bad guy in a video game or you can remember the lyrics to a favorite song. Remind yourself your brain is still working in ways that it should.

3. Think about someone else.

You already know the horrible cycle. Your mind is consumed with thoughts of how you aren’t good enough, while simultaneously berating yourself for both thinking poorly of yourself and not thinking of how to help others.

In my case, I really hope writing this blog will motivate someone else. I want my words to echo in your head. I want for you not to judge yourself, but to remind you that this struggle is legitimate and there are others experiencing this pain right at this very moment.

4. Be OK with not writing.

That part was difficult for me to type. I had to stop and slowly exhale to get those last words out. Right now, I’m not there yet. I’m angry at myself for a lot of things, namely not being able to at least express my grief and pain in ways that seem “good enough” for me.

Sometimes, you can’t write. Sometimes, all you can do is take a nap, brush your teeth or snuggle with a pet or a loved one. Even if you’ve been writing all of your life, there are times where your circumstances will keep you from lifting a finger to wipe away a tear, let alone pick up a pen.

That time of creativity will return. If you’re reading this, then maybe that time is right now.

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When Depression and Academic Pressure Collide

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I’ve never understood how I’m supposed to achieve good grades when I can’t even get up in the morning. My depression kept me at home today. I didn’t have the strength to even get out of bed.

I thought about how miserable my life was, and I decided there was no point in getting up today. I emailed my therapist and told her I wanted to start taking antidepressant pills. How am I supposed to study and make my parents proud by getting accepted into an Ivy League or top university if I can’t even get out of bed in the morning?

The school I go is one of the top 100 schools in the nation. All anyone ever does is talk about college and how they’re using sports and clubs to get ahead. Everyone’s trying to become an officer of a club or caption of a sport.

There’s also the overbearing parents who get mad when your grades aren’t as good as everyone else’s, or when you can’t work hard enough to become an officer of a club. The thing is, I want all of the things they want for me. I want to be an officer, and I want to be track captain of my school. I want to be coming home with a 4.0 to show my parents and make them proud.

It’s not like I’m not smart enough to do these things either. It’s that I have zero motivation to get through my day. I want to get through the next couple years of my life. College is the escape I’ve always seen for my life. College is what I look at as my opportunity to leave the tortures of high school, and once I finally get there, I can be happy.

What if I don’t get there? I can’t focus in class because I’m wallowing in sadness, and it’s really taking a toll on my grades. I had a 3.3 GPA freshman year and pretty much got shamed for being an “imbecile.” I was told I was a completely worthless, unintelligent person, and I believed it.

So I switched high schools this year, to not as “high-performing school,” but still pretty up there. Many kids have the same “if you don’t go to a University of California (UC) straight out of 12th grade you’re a failure” kind of attitude, which puts on a lot of pressure to work hard and get there. I want a UC school just as much as anybody else here, but I know if I keep on heading down this road of sadness, I won’t be able to.

I think that’s where a lot of kids at high-performing high schools feel trapped. All I’ve been taught my whole 16 years of life is if I don’t get into the school of my dreams, my existence is irrelevant. Still to this day, knowing that piece of information makes me want to do great because I know I’m smart.

However, I also know I won’t be able to get there straight out of 12th grade. I’m not in the right state of mind to be like everyone else and to achieve the same goals, regardless of whether I’m just as smart or not. That leads me to a bigger spiral of depression. I’m too depressed to work, but I want success for my life. If I don’t get there, then I’ll spiral even deeper into depression. It’s hard, and I think the daily struggle of being a high school student with depression is too much.

All in all, maybe that’s what keeps me going. The ambition and the motivation I have to be better, to achieve those dreams for me and my parents. Even if I don’t achieve my goals as fast as everyone else because of my depression, at least I get to reach there at some point. Plus, at the end of the day, my battle makes me much stronger. So to all of the high schoolers with depression, you can still do just as much as a fellow student who didn’t have to deal with the adversity you do. Push through, each day at a time.

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A Metaphor for People Who Don't Understand Depression

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Most people don’t understand why some people try to put an end to their life. They think it’s selfish of us, or that we’re weak and don’t know how to cope with small things. But that’s not what it really is. I’m going to try my best to explain to you how we feel, to give you some insight into what depression and being suicidal really feels like.

Imagine you’re a fairy.

You see all your friends flying around you, laughing and chattering. You flap your wings, but only just about manage to lift your feet above the ground for a few seconds before tumbling back down again. But you won’t give up. You want to fly, just like the others.
You try day after day, week after week, year after year — you don’t give up until you succeed. And sure enough, all your hard work pays off! You gradually get the hang of flying and soon your flying alongside your friends, laughing and chattering.

You’re flying above the clouds, higher than anyone else enjoying the feeling of the wind underneath your wings. You make the most of every moment, as it took you so long to get there.

But then it’s all gone.

You feel a bullet rip your wing. You’re falling out of the sky at an alarming pace. You fall so fast that your friends don’t even notice you as you fall past them. “I just want to live!” you shout, before the ground comes rushing up to meet you.

You land with a crash. Your entire body hurts from the fall. You try to stand up, but the pain is too strong. You look around you and see that you’re in a large pit. You look up, trying to figure out how deep the pit is, but it’s so deep that you can’t see the top.

You try to flap your wings, but they’re useless now that the bullet’s gone through them.

You try climbing out of the pit, despite the unbearable pain you’re in, but there’s nothing to grip on to, and to make matters worse, it starts raining making the walls of the pit slipperier than ever. You fall back into a muddy heap on the ground, and weep and weep and weep.

This is what depression is for me.

But it doesn’t have to end like this.

Those friends flying above you, the ones who are true friends, will notice you disappeared. They would look for you and find you in the pit, and use their magic and strength to lift you out.

Depression doesn’t need to end in suicide. And if someone sent you this article to read, it goes to show they are trying to tell you something. Reach out to them, help lift them out of the pit, instead of backing away from the fear of taking responsibility.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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So He Holds Me

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Two nights ago, my boyfriend got out of the shower at around 11:00 p.m. and rushed into our living room. He was in a panic. He had called my name multiple times from the shower with no response. You see, my boyfriend and I are also each other’s best friends. We are never really apart except when we’re at work. The fact he actually took a shower without me in the bathroom talking to him is rare enough, so when he called out my name and there was no response, he knew something had to be wrong.

He rushed into the living room with his towel nearly falling off his waist because he was nervous when I didn’t answer him.

Spoiler alert: I was in the living room. I didn’t have an accident of any kind. And I heard him call my name.

I wasn’t ignoring him. I just couldn’t find my words.

At 11:00 at night my boyfriend had to jump out of the shower and run through our apartment into our living room in a moment of panic because I didn’t answer the multiple times he called my name. He found me huddled in a corner between the couch and the wall, curled into myself with a blanket over my head, gently rocking myself back and forth. He found me in the same state a parent might find their young, scared child. But I am not a child. I am an adult. I am supposed to be his partner in life and yet there I was.

He gave me a knowing look. This was not the first time. It won’t be the last.

“OK here we go, into the big world. Look at me, did you hurt yourself?” No.

He pulled me gently out of the corner, looking me up and down the whole time. Making sure I wasn’t physically harmed. Nothing. Probably a relief considering how many times he’s pulled me out of small spaces, just to find blood smearing between us, a real mess to deal with.

Knowing he’d have to spend the next few weeks watching me pick and scratch the scabs back open, just to have to re-bandage them and tell me for the hundredth time: “Don’t touch. Let them heal.”

I saw the relief pass over his face when his mini-examination found no signs of blood. I was clean for transfer.

“Are you OK?” No. But he already knew that. I mean he just pulled a grown ass woman out of a tiny corner of a room, I think it’s safe to say all was not well.

“OK.” And then he tucked the blanket around me and sat down on the floor with me and just held me. Because sometimes I get unexplainably, irrationally sad. It comes out of nowhere, just surprise attack and then there’s too much. Too much of everything. The only thing that helps is to squish myself into the smallest space I can find. So he holds me. He holds me because I need to feel physical pressure to calm myself down. He holds me because I’m OK. He holds me because I’m not OK. And he holds me because he fears one day he won’t be able to.

After a while, it’s in my head. I mean physically I can feel it in my head and I have to push it down and away. I break away from him and roll forward onto my knees and bury my head into the carpet, pushing as hard as I can. Usually that helps. Not this time. So I roll on my side and just squirm around on the ground. I need textures. I need to feel all the things because right now I feel like nothing. The carpet, the blanket, my fingertips, my boyfriend’s face. I just have to feel it so I can come back.

It’s been a while now and my boyfriend is getting a little uneasy.

“Time for bed?” he asks, but I can’t go there. My thoughts are still racing and everything is still nothing. I cannot simply close my eyes and go to sleep because I just might disappear. I let him pull me off the floor and tuck me into bed and he cuddles into me.

“Can you hear them?” I whisper into his chest. but I know there’s just silence for him.

“Hear what? What do you hear?” I know he’s hoping somehow I just hear the random car passing by outside or a lone neighbor walking through the hallway outside. But it’s late and I couldn’t hear those things right now, even if they were there. “What do you hear?” he says.

“The voices. I just wanted to make sure you couldn’t hear them and the awful things they say to me.”

So he holds me tighter. Because he found me curled up in a corner of our living room, he watched me writhe around on the floor and attempt to bury my head into the floor. And now there are voices. There can’t be any sleeping now. There is an adult in the room who is hearing voices and reverting back to childhood. There is an adult in the room holding on to the other one for dear life because she’s afraid she might just disappear and he’s starting to think that she might just disappear if he doesn’t keep holding on.

There are two very scared people in this dark room and so something has to be done. So he does the only thing he can think to calm the stormy seas in my mind. He brings me back to our living room, leaving all the lights off. I’ve wrapped a blanket around my body and am sitting blankly on the floor, watching the corners of the room, listening to the voices because now they are screaming. I am having a sensory overload now and it’s exhausting, but somehow I still feel nothing, nothing but extreme fear. I cover my ears but the voices are coming from inside and covering my ears just makes the voices louder. We sit silently and he watches as the anxiety slowly melts from my face as my tears slowly stop and my sniffles become less. We sit silently in the dark and then crawl back into bed. He wraps himself around me and I hear him breathe deeply for the first time in hours. I realize he’s been too afraid to really stop and breathe.

“What do you hear now?” Nothing. Just empty nothing.

So he holds me.

This post originally appeared on Thoughts.com.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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A Day In The Life With Depression

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A short film starring Wentworth Miller that shows what depression can be like.

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To Those Who Question the Validity of My Mental Illness

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To the people who question the reality of mental illness,

I would like you to understand how I live my life day to day. My mental illness interferes with every aspect of my life. I wake up, and I am immediately overwhelmed with thoughts.

Thoughts of:

“Who died while I was asleep?”

“Is everyone OK?”

“What time is it? Did I miss the whole day?”

“Am I late for some unknown appointment?”

In between these fun thoughts (dripping with sarcasm), I am realizing I do not have enough energy to get out of bed. I slept for 13 hours last night and I am so exhausted — all of this thinking has already worn me out. I then spend the next hour or two in my bed on my phone, trying to convince myself to stay in bed while another part of me is trying to convince myself to get up.

I spend this whole time, and sometimes even longer, trying to avoid the ache in my stomach that urges me to eat and the constant pressure in my bladder from too much to drink. I will stay in my bed until I cannot handle the pain of them anymore. Once I get out of bed, I put on the bare minimum amount of clothes. I go to the bathroom, the whole time trying to convince myself to assuage the pain in my stomach. I ultimately decide not to eat. This way I can go back and cower in my room.

I spend many more hours there, sitting in my bed binge-watching Netflix. I finally cannot handle the pain in my stomach anymore. So I eat. I eat a lot of food, and it is junk food, pizza or pizza rolls usually.

After this, it is already about 2 p.m. I tell myself I have to get something done today. So I put in a load of laundry. It usually takes me hours to work up the strength to do it. I complete one load of laundry. I feel as though I ran a marathon.

After the laundry, I have no energy left to do anything else. I have no energy to cook dinner, but I know my fiance deserves it to be ready for him. So my mind starts up on, “You are not good enough for him,” “Keep treating him like this and he will leave you,” “You are a failure,” “All you could do was a load of laundry,” “You are disgusting,” “You need to get a hold of yourself” and so on.

All through the day, my mind is making me feel bad about doing nothing, for slacking in my responsibilities. All the while taking all of the energy I need for doing those tasks away from me. Finally, I feed us. I do not know how I do it.

After dinner, my fiance has to convince me I am not a failure, and even though it may seem like it to me, there is nothing wrong with me. My fiance saves me each day. He wakes me from these thoughts. I have tried everything to get them out of my head.

I learned how to knit, and I am learning how to crochet. I do word searches, and I play solitaire, all while watching TV or doing a few other tasks. I need to have at least two things happening in front of me to keep out of my own head.

I have not yet found a way to control these thoughts no matter how hard I try. Before bed, I take my pills, one for the depression and anxiety, one for the heartburn the anxiety causes and one allergy pill to try to prevent a migraine in the middle of the night. We lie down for sleep, and my fiance is asleep within minutes. Whereas, I will stay awake for many more hours, stuck in my head and using every available distraction to keep me from hurting myself or from having a panic attack.

I usually decide that if I keep this up I will wake him, and he will hate me. So I leave the room. I stay awake for hours by myself stuck inside of my own head. There is no escape.

To those who still think I am just lazy and have little willpower, there is nothing more I would like in the world than to be the perfect woman, perfect fiance and perfect daughter for everyone. I work so hard every day just to achieve the most minuscule of tasks.

So when I get something done, lay off. I know you could have done more, but this is an achievement for me! This is something I should feel proud of. I know you do not understand how this all works and neither do I. All I know is that it is not up to me. I do not get to will it away. My mental illness is valid.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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