Depression, Writing and Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

An update from Day 7…I’m somewhere around 17,000 words, of which about 10,000 were the first day.

Depression is absolutely crippling me at the moment.

This is why I don’t usually try to force writing; every word is like pulling teeth. My head’s full of grey fog, and the story. Just. Will. Not. Come. It won’t flow. The characters are flat, the scenery isn’t there so I can’t describe it, and everything’s just one damn event after another. I don’t care about this story.

And frankly, that sucks. I know I can, and I want to. I loved the story when I was planning, but currently, I’m just not doing it justice. It’s frickin’ difficult to push through the fog long enough to write a couple of sentences, just so I can put something in my wordcount.

I’m taking it day by day – as some days are better, some worse – but I seem to have had a run of bad ones recently. I’m hoping that for one day, the fog might lift and I might be able to write again…

Just struggling at the moment. One step at a time, one day at a time, one sentence at a time. That’s all I can do.

Personal rant: on CBT

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.

This kinda follows on from my rant last week about talking and depression. I was reminded about the different things I’d tried, or been recommended, or been sent to…and CBT’s one that always comes up.

I appreciate that CBT is a really useful thing to have. It’s a set of techniques that can stop panic attacks before they start, make you realise when a depressive episode is warping your thoughts, allow some balance and distance from the emotions that swamp you. It’s theoretically really useful, and a lot of people really benefit from it.

And I hate it.

I was referred to the service back in 2012 when I had my third (I think) major depressive episode – it was just an automatic referral to accompany the medication. So I went.

I managed two sessions. I came back from both in tears.

CBT relies on someone seeing the patterns in their behaviour and thoughts, and acting on those before they spiral down into the destructive cycle. It’s a set of techniques for positive thinking and prevention, but it does rely on an existing pattern of behaviour and a set of identifiable triggers.

I felt completely wrong. I don’t have “proper” panic attacks (I get short of breath rather than having a heart attack feeling), I don’t have a trigger for my depressive episodes, and I don’t get set off by certain things. I already spot my blaming thoughts and generalisations. Bluntly, I don’t do depression correctly.

And being effectively told that I am like this because I can’t manage my own thoughts was piling an extra load of blame onto someone who’s already struggling under a heavy load.

I know the depression is my own fault. I blame myself for it every day. It’s my head, my brain, my thoughts. I actively have to fight the urge to just give up. The worst part of mental illnesses is that it’s your body causing the problem – at least a broken leg is caused by something external!

And so CBT essentially blaming me for the problems was really a kick in the guts.

However, I did spot that I already do some of the techniques. I was taught as a child not to generalise; if you’ve done something wrong, it’s not because you’re crap – you’ve done one thing wrong. If you’re not feeling attractive/clever/human, it’s simply one moment or one thing – don’t extend it. That’s a major part of avoiding the sinking pit of feeling generally awful.

But for everything else…I have ended up working it out for myself. I can usually spot when I’m sinking and when I’m rising, and I know from experience what care I need to give myself and what support I need to ask for. I can definitely spot a panic attack, and I take steps to either remove myself from the situation or get somewhere that I can pass out in peace. I block as many of the self-harming thoughts as I can, while still admitting that they exist and taking steps to neutralise them. In short, I use as many of the CBT techniques as I can, but adapted for my own needs – and I use my own techniques for everything else, because that’s what works for me.

I think CBT is excellent if you do have ‘traditional’ panic attacks, or you can place a trigger that sets off a depressive episode or a panic attack. If you can identify what the event or thought is, you can act before it gets too bad. Being able to be self-aware, particularly when you have a mental illness, helps divide the illness from you and helps you realise that you are not the illness. There’s more information on the NHS website, and there are usually courses running across the country – if you think it might help you, then seriously do check it out.

But if CBT doesn’t work for you – if you already do the techniques, if your mental illness isn’t in a traditional format, if you don’t have specific triggers – then you’re not alone. Work out what works for you, and what’s going to help you. You know what you need, and you can do it.

A personal rant: on depression and talking

Ok, I’d like to stress straight off: this is my opinion. You probably have a different one. That’s fine. Feel free to wade in with a comment.

I really hate the constant “talk to someone” prompts for anyone who’s struggling with depression.

I know why it’s important. I know why it’s said. Yes, it’s absolutely freakin’ important to get people who think they can’t admit to being sad or weak or tired or simply Not _____ Enough to actually express it. That’s huge.

But I am also really, really tired of people telling me that talking helps. For anyone with long-term, frequent depression, ordinary talking does f*** all.

There is a reason that I keep extremely quiet about my personal life and thoughts during day-to-day interactions, and it’s because very few people are happy to have “well, this morning I analysed three different ways of killing myself and wondered how awful today was going to be” in answer to “Hi, how are you today?”

People do not want an honest answer. People do not understand and frankly don’t have time for an honest answer, and it is really, really scary to have someone give you an honest answer when they’re struggling with depression or mental health issues.

The problem is that the default human reaction seems to be “try to make it better” which. Does. Not. Help. I have tried CBT – it actually made me worse, because the overarching commentary is that this is My Fault, and I should be able to fix my own head just by thinking differently. I go for walks. I take care of myself. I have anti-depressants. Yes, I am doing things. It doesn’t necessarily help. No one can ‘cure’ me. No one can make me better. No one really has any practical or helpful solutions because there aren’t any.

Please don’t offer advice. Just let me be sad. Let me hurt. I’m not well today; I’ll be better tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that.

If you really want to help, and you really want to talk to me? (And please, honestly analyse whether you can do that without offering advice and ‘solutions’). Reassure me that you are asking how I actually am, you are willing to not judge and not offer advice, and just listen.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean listening to them talk. It means asking what’s going to help, or listening to the unspoken words.


The best thing you can do for someone with depression isn’t talk to them. It’s reassure them that you do care, that you do like them, that you do want to hang out with them – even if today and tomorrow and the next day they’re not feeling up to it, maybe the day after that they will feel they can face the world – and do your best to make them realise there is a world out there and it does want them to be part of it.

It’s scary, yes. It’s really hard to hear that someone you like is hurting badly enough to want to remove themselves from this life. It’s hard to understand. It is really, really difficult to know what to say, or what to do, or how to express sympathy. It is really, really hard to be a friend to someone who sees the world in shades of grey instead of colour and can’t cope with the basics of interaction without occasionally bursting into tears. I know that. I am friends with people who suffer from depression, too. I know.

But it’s hard for me, too. I live through this, and believe me, if it’s hard for you to listen to it’s guaranteed to be just as hard for me to cope with! By interacting, by telling me that you’re there for me – in whatever way you do that – and by just reminding me that the world is out there and waiting for me to be human again, you’re reminding me that I am human. That I can be ok, and that I will be ok, even if I’m not right now.

You can make me tea. You can tell me about your holiday. You can ask what I’m reading at the moment. You can talk to me about Star Wars. You can ask how I’m feeling; honestly, and non-judgementally. You can recommend a really good walk you took the other day. I’m always happy to listen to people, even if I struggle to talk; I’m always happy to be given a cup of tea and a cat, or a stuffed toy, and to hear about something that makes you happy.

It means I have someone on my side. It means I have someone standing next to me, who maybe doesn’t entirely understand what I’m going through, but is willing to help.

Depression is lonely, and talking is only the first step. The best thing you can do is listen.

Depressed redditors, what do you actually WANT people to say? from AskReddit

On grief and depression

Contains me and mental health – if you’re not into that, I can highly recommend r/aww!

The phrase “life goes on” is one of those horrible trite ones that I hate, but unfortunately, it’s true. The rest of the world doesn’t really care too much what’s happened to individuals; the planet keeps turning. But I’ve been doing ok even though I really miss my friend, and the reason is actually a pretty shit one. This feels normal.

Tightness in my chest. Grey fog. Unable to concentrate. Crying repeatedly. Wanting to just curl up and ignore the world. Breaking it down to coping with a single day, a single hour. And periods of being ok, being fine, forgetting…until something hammers in again and the fog comes back.

This feels like depression.

Actually, this feels better, because I know the reason; I’ve got a focus for it. Usually, I’d have no other cause than “life sucks and my brain has decided that I can’t cope with putting socks on”. (It happens. Socks are harder work than they sound.)

Anyway, I’m also going on anti-depressants again – I had an awful Christmas (I was suicidal for two days, for the first time in months) and home life circumstances mean I’m ok to go on them for a bit. So that should help, once I’ve gotten over the week of side effects. Bleh!

But overall…I’m eating and sleeping. I’m able to write. I can mostly focus. So for a depressive episode, it’s actually not too bad. I know it will pass, as time slowly chips away at everything. It’s just waiting for that to happen that sucks.

Ho hum!

Back to the grindstone, anyway. Even if my brain has decided to be mildly screwy, I’ve still got writing to do!