Feelings of depression while writing memoir are more common than you might expect. However, it's important to understand the difference between normal writing-related struggles and the signs of a more serious mental health concern.
Causes of Feelings of Depression While Writing Memoir
There are many reasons writers can begin to feel depressed while writing their memoirs. Recognizing the cause of your problem is the first step to finding an appropriate solution.
Writer's block is a common cause of depression among creative types. If you're feeling like your project isn't going as well as you had hoped, it's natural to experience changes in your mood.
While there is no definite cure for writer's block, it can be helpful to give yourself a different project to focus on for a few days. Try writing poetry, preparing a few query letters for magazine markets, or simply blogging about your thoughts. Curling up with a good book by a writer whom you admire may also help jump-start your creative process.
If your memoir deals with delicate topics, dealing with these painful memories on a daily basis is likely to cause some feelings of depression. For writers preparing memoirs that deal with eating disorders, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or other traumatic events, a support group is likely to bring some comfort. Just as joining a writing group can provide valuable feedback on your work, a support group for people dealing with the same issues can help you feel less alone in your struggles. If you can't find a live support group in your community, spending some time in a virtual chat room related to your topic may give you enough space to vent and move on with your project.
Many people have moments in their past they wish they would have handled differently. Perhaps they hurt a good friend's feelings by saying something unkind during an argument or maybe they feel like slacking off in college limited their future job prospects.If you think your feelings of depression while writing memoir are related to perceived inadequacies, remember that it's always much easier to come up with the perfect way to handle a difficult situation 10 or 15 years after the event has occurred. Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes a brave writer to honestly tell his/her life history.
When to Seek Help
Although experiencing some feelings of depression while writing memoir is perfectly normal, dramatic or prolonged changes in your mood may be an indicator of a more serious mental health problem. If you notice the following warning signs, consider making an appointment to speak with your healthcare provider:
- The activities you normally enjoy no longer bring you any pleasure.
- You're suddenly losing or gaining weight.
- You're having trouble sleeping or you're so tired to want to sleep all the time.
- Your friends and family have commented on the extreme change in your behavior.
- You feel worthless and hopeless, or you've contemplated suicide.
If your healthcare provider determines you are suffering from clinical depression, there's no need to be embarrassed. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders and there is evidence to suggest that writers are more prone to suffer from depressive episodes than the general population. For example, Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennessee Williams, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are just a few of the many writers who have struggled with depression over the years. In Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, 22 writers representing various genres explore this issue further by discussing how depression has impacted their careers.
While it's not an easy process by any means, depression can generally be managed with a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can get back to your writing.
Additional LoveToKnow Resources
To learn more about coping with depression, visit LoveToKnow Recovery.