On Depression And Writing – Is There A Connection?

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On Depression And Writing

Is there a connection between depression and writing?

The diagnosis

Some years ago now, I clearly recall my doctor telling me that there was a definitive link between writers and depression.

The only problem with his link was that he had no idea at all if writers became depressed through writing, or if living with depression miraculously manufactured the circumstances to for people to start writing.

So why was I at my doctor at that time talking about mental health?

Well, to cut a long story short, within the space of six short months I had lost my parents, who both passed away very suddenly. I also lost my very best friend who died due to a long-term disease. Another friend was killed on a pedestrian crossing, and oh, just add some spice, my business failed, and I was diagnosed with cancer.

Yes, it was a very busy six months.

During my regular consultations with my doctor at that time, he also discovered from a blood test that I had suffered from an undiagnosed case of glandular fever, or mononucleosis, during the same six month period. It seems I was too busy to notice this.

So, all things considered, I had a good solid list of reasons to be feeling a bit under the weather at that time.

I hate the phrase, clinical depression

I dislike the word depression intensely, as, from my experience, when you have this affliction, the symptoms don’t relate at all well with the word.

Constant joint pain, muscle cramps, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, waking up feeling exhausted, difficulty with concentration, digestive problems and loss of appetite were some of the symptoms I suffered.

But during my illness, I rarely felt sad, blue, morose and never once had suicidal feelings. I didn’t feel depressed. I just felt extremely unwell. It was difficult at times to differentiate between what were genuine symptoms and what were side effects from my medication.

Then, when people around you know that you are being treated for this ill-described condition, they always ask the same pathetic question, which by itself can drive one crazy.

“Are you okay?”

The only logical reply becomes an auto-response.

“I’ll be okay.” (That’s what you want me to say, isn’t it?)

Back to the bit about writing

The only reason I mention all of this now is that during that tough time, and then over the following year or more of treatment for, well, let’s call it melancholia for want of a better word, I wrote like a crazy. I think I wrote six novels and thrived on the hard work. 

Was writing almost full time helpful? Well, I didn’t have much else to do, did I?

Except to prove that perhaps my doctor’s link was correct. 

That was all a long time ago now, and I can happily report that I am completely, totally and utterly normal and healthy.

Um, okay, normal may be stretching the truth a little, as I have never been good at that, so I guess I should say that I have been back to my abnormal self again for quite a few years now.

But …

I am left with one small problem.

In that year or so of being treated for the dreaded word, I wrote so damn well. Probably because I had little to do other than write.

But now, I have a lot of trouble getting even close to writing as well as I did back then. Of all the books I have written, three that I wrote in that year are still my best sellers.

The only solution I can see to my new problem is to make an appointment with my doctor and ask him to put me back on those awful pills, right now. I want to write another great new book!

No, there’s no link at all between writers and depression, is there?

You might also like to read my related article, Is There A Link Between Depression And Creativity?

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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

2 thoughts on “On Depression And Writing – Is There A Connection?

  • Having suffered similarly my diagnosis is “Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome”
    Tragedy followed by repeated viral infection wreaked my body and mind, leaving me with no job and huge amounts of time. I know I’m depressed as I feel the weight of a million thoughts, every minute of every day.
    I am no writer but the only way to release this pressure has been to attempt to articulate it. My subject matter is not easy to express; a daughters suicide, grief and mental illness,; but as a therapeutic activity writing it down gives SOME relief!
    I have also found an urge to paint, to be in a moment when my thoughts are still. I listen to music that hasn’t interested me for years but now feels meaniful as it did when I was younger or “in love” or very sad.
    Has the depression given me time, space and urge to allow my suppresssed creative soul speak? Will it help me heal? No sure, but all ideas are part of the “million thoughts” noice in my brain….that needs sowhere to go!

  • I too suffered (suffer) with depression/anxiety, though generally much better controlled now. Part of the ‘therapy’ for me was to take a postgrad, followed by an MA. This was assessed by essays. I had never really written before, but I found the opportunity to focus in on the detail, and (attempt!) to craft a piece of writing was wonderfully freeing. Everything else faded away as the million thoughts per minute were silenced. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a writer, but I can’t say how much I enjoyed writing my dissertation which I am now turning into a book. Ha ha!


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