Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Writing about depression

For much of my adult life I have suffered from recurrent episodes of depression. I'm very lucky, though - with the help of my GP I've found a medication that seems to work. Mind you, every time I begin to feel myself going down, I have a flash of fear that it won't work this time. Up to now, I'm glad to say, it always has, though it can take time.

Although I've been writing seriously now for over 5 years, I still haven't tackled the subject of depression head on in any of my novels. In Alexa's Song (not yet published) I wrote about a character who is bipolar, but I never really described his depressive epsiodes. Perhaps there are good reasons for that. Depression is notoriously difficult to write about. And it's not something you necessarily want to think about while you're feeling well.

I'm now writing a science fiction novel and, oddly enough, depression has crept up on me, not in life, but in my writing. I'm describing the experience of... well, let's just say a disembodied brain... and as I write, I realise just what it is I'm writing about. Perhaps...

This is a first draft and I don't like to talk too much about my first drafts in case they melt away like dreams. So I'll stop now.

I'll be interested if anyone reading this has managed to write about depression - please comment, if you have. Or if you've read any novels that you feel capture it well.


Anthony Cowin said...

Hi Rosalie. Any illness is very difficult to write about I think, especially if the writer suffers from it. It can be too easy to fall into the trap of bemoaning your lot or preaching how unfair things are.

I think the reason it is working for you in the sci-fi novel is that you are using it as a metaphor. This makes it more universal but also allows you to take a step back and observe it as a semi-outsider.

As for novels there are none that I can think of as out and out novels dealing with depression. On the note of sci-fi though I have always thought Vonnegut's work was a description of a bipolar life. His meta fiction shows an awareness of him being a part and also an observer of his own world. Also the fact that everything is happening at once allowing him to be in two places at once and being different people/different ages at the same time always struck me as this.

Hope that makes some sense.


Pixie J. King said...

Depression features in a lot of my work, particularly my poetry. Probably because I'm a pessimistic person and I do tend to suffer from SAD.

As for writing it in terms of characters in my novels, it's probably very easy to slip it in, as my characters have every right to feel depressed under their situations, but I don't tend to show that as they tend to show their strength more than anything.

L said...

My blog, whenyouarethatwoman.blogspot.com which is my current outlet for writing, features a lot about depression: the shock of it, the journey out of it (perhaps), the stigma/no stigma debates. I'd love your views on it - obviously it is autobiographical rather than fiction.

I know the fear very well, that creeping lingering doubt when depression barks.

Here's an example of one post, but as I say there are several posts on pnd/depression/anxiety on there:

Rosalie Warren said...

Yes, I think you are right, Tony, about it allowing me to take a step back. And also, I think, because it was kind of accidental - I didn't set out to write about depression.

I like Vonnegut but had not really seen his work this way. Must go back and read some of it again.

Pixie, I like the idea that you focus on your characters as showing their strengths, while the possibility for depression is there in their situations. Interesting, too, that depression features in your poetry. I must read some of your work.

L, will certainly take a look - thank you.