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Nov
13
2019

Writing and mental health -- by Brandon Nava

We all got into writing for different reasons. This was written for those of us who got into it for your mental health. Whether it be to escape, to vent, or maybe just a way to express how you really feel inside. For some of us with depression, it can help you cope. But you are not defined by your depression. I repeat, YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR DEPRESSION. You may fear that getting help for your mental health or your sadness may change who you really are or change how your writing is. For example, if in order to get your poems out, you have to go to that dark place, so you feel that getting help may in turn make you a worse writer. That is simply untrue. Artists are known frequently for having issues with mental health, but there is no need for you to become another statistic. You are better than that, and your writing is better than that. 

 

Don't use your writing as a crutch to hang onto your mental illness. Your writing can define you, and no matter who you are at the end of it, it will be okay. Your writing, your brain, your anxiety. It will be okay. Matter of fact, the writing will even improve. When you take care of yourself all things end up being better. All things end up improving. It's a shame that beautiful people such as Robin Williams couldn't stick around to keep inspiring those around him. With or without his sadness he would have been great. With or without your mental illness, you also can be great. Don't define yourself by your mental illness. Don't let that become your identity. As Bojack Horseman once was told, "“Every day it gets a little easier… But you gotta do it every day — that's the hard part. But it does get easier.”

Posted by Brandon Nava 13 Nov at 00:48
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Responses to this blog

Glitterpen 13 Nov at 12:31  
Great blog post. You make many good points.

This topic is very close to my heart. I turned to reading to escape. I suffer from schizophrenia and don’t find reality that pleasant so a little escape, or sometimes a lot, is a welcome thing. I turned to writing because it ended up on my bucket list (a coworker once told me I read so much I should try writing and so here I am).

I agree that people should definitely seek help for their illness and not let it get so bad that they become another statistic.

I must add though, in my case, medication changed who I am and the type of art and writing that I produce. (Everyone is different so I can only speak for myself.) The old me would have painted and wrote dark horror-type stuff. My illness effects personality. Schizophrenia is a label that helped me get the treatment I needed but I’m not sure if I’m letting it define me. Sometimes, I don’t see how it doesn’t define me. It’s tricky to figure that one out because schizophrenia is tied directly to behavior and, before being medicated, no amount of being shamed for character flaws worked to improve me or the symptoms. Then I went on meds and everything changed.

Anti-psychotic medication effects personality at its core. The un-medicated me (my true self) is a nasty person. The medicated, “fake” me is nice and fits into society’s expectations of how a good citizen should act. Much of the thoughts in my head are different. Some would argue that fixing a chemical balance makes me the “real” me but I don’t always see it that way. Sometimes I resent that I have to put part of myself in a "cage." The side effects include very frequent headaches, nausea, random facial twitches and can’t stand them. Right now, I’m kind and encouraging to others. My writing is more positive. My story lines contain things like empathy, forgiveness, compassion and hope.

Well, this reply is getting long so I'll wrap it up by saying self-care is important. Great blog post!
Mss 13 Nov at 16:09  
Hello:
Thank you for sharing your story. I know it is not easy. Previously, I suffered a catastrophic event and was prescribed medication for depression. As a result of this drama, I also suffered from really BAD HEADACHES. I don't recall what the side effects are of the medication because it NO longer take root within me. I have learned how to rejoice in hope for all things in my life that are not Godly. "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).

God Bless You

I pray for complete restoration in your body. In Jesus name!

Amen
Glitterpen 14 Nov at 05:49  
@Mss
About that complete restoration: I know you mean well, but my schizophrenia is a chronic condition. I've had it for a very long time with signs of it in childhood. Prayers won't change anything. I'm being tormented by voices in my head on a daily basis (they frequently say the most toxic things). My medication blocks many of the voices and allows me to function better, but I keep having to increase the dose and this increases the side-effects. I'm living a half-life. There are no saviours. No one is coming to rescue me. I never feel safe. I've tried everything. Alternative medicine. Qi Gong. Yoga. You name it, I've done it all. For years, I studied many different religions and philosophies thinking that I could cure the illness by uncovering some hidden tid-bit of knowledge or wisdom. But the truth is, the voices I hear and the things I see are NOT caused by a character flaw. I can't simply "snap out of it" after reading something. The illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. End of story.
Mss 14 Nov at 16:06  
Hi Glitterpen:
Have you tried JESUS? I hear you say nothing works. Jesus can do the impossible. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly and all that we can think or ask. Schizophrenia is not to big for him. I know that reading my post won't cure you over night. BUT GOD can. I am not hear trying to tell you what to do or judge you on things you've done for healing. I am saying however; that JESUS is the only way, for you to get complete restoration. I know my God, he does not want us to be struggling with sickness, illnesses, and diseases. He took all that with him to the cross.

"For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name sake; because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people" (I Samuel 12:22).

I Pray for complete healing in you mind, soul, heart, and body in Jesus name Amen!

Thank you,
God Bless You!
Jessiel 14 Nov at 16:30  
Mss
I think maybe you don't understand that the way you are coming across in the forums is a bit pushy. I grew up in a very christian home and I can sympathize with you but telling people in a public forum to turn to Jesus when you have barely met them and don't really understand their struggle is a bit thoughtless. Some people will consider it offensive, not because of what you believe but because of the way you are sharing it. I suggest getting to know people a bit better and making sure that they are open to your message before sharing. And perhaps sharing it in a more private way.

even from a Christian viewpoint, your comment seems insensitive because while miracles may happen, they don't come made to order, no matter what creed a person follows.

Anyway I don't really want to get into any argument with you, but I would suggest that you consider toning down a bit, being a bit more thoughtful in how you present yourself and your beliefs. I considered sending this to you in a private message and maybe should have but I thought it might be good to get it out in the open


__________________
J
Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
Brave by Sara Bareillis

Mss 14 Nov at 16:37  
Thank you for much for your feedback. I truly apologize wholeheartedly and will definitely self examine my content before I post.
Jessiel 14 Nov at 16:47  
I've been thinking about this blog since yesterday and appreciate the sentiments. Whether or not the things I struggle with are diagnosable, I find that the healthier I am emotionally and mentally, the better and more productive I am. And when I know that today I'm going to write, I feel more alive and excited because I have that to look forward to. I'm sure it is the same for lots of other people in their creative pursuits.

Glitter thanks for sharing. I think you have a distinct life experience to share. I could relate to this in a small way:
The medicated, “fake” me is nice and fits into society’s expectations of how a good citizen should act. Much of the thoughts in my head are different. Some would argue that fixing a chemical balance makes me the “real” me but I don’t always see it that way. Sometimes I resent that I have to put part of myself in a "cage."
Not to minimize what you go through, but to empathize a tiny bit, I think to some degree all humans that function in society put part of themselves in a cage—and we all resent it although most of us don't have med side effects. Again, not saying the norm is anything like what you go through, just looking from another angle.
I want to ask you if you think you are happier over all with the meds, and if you think you would be less productive in your art and writing and other pursuits if you didn't have the meds. You said your writing would be darker. When I am in my dark places, there is no writing, so that is why I'm curious. You seem pretty open to sharing your experience, but if I'm asking obnoxious questions please ignore me or tell me to shut it
__________________
J
Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
Brave by Sara Bareillis

Cwotus 14 Nov at 21:24  
It seems unusual, but in a good way! that the blog responses so quickly overtake (at least in volume) the blog post that sparked them. I'm not complaining; it's nice to see more activity here. I'm not going to criticize a Christian for doing what Christians are called to do. (I'm also not going to call religion a mental illness or affliction of its own kind, as neatly snarky as it might be to do that.) However, even though I haven't been a Christian for nearly a half-century or more, I do get it, and I have some insight that might be helpful to a young Christian, too:

One of the purposes of prayer (as I have come to understand it from others who do it; I'm NOT preaching) is not so much "to get something that's missing" or "to fix something that's broken", as it is "to gain the personal strength to accept and deal with the loss" or "to grow in capacity to work around the broken thing". Job knew that: despite every travail he ever endured, his attitude was to wake up every day — and then spend every moment of the day — just thankful for the experience of the day. "I'm alive? It's a great day!" He got it. That's a thing that stoicism also teaches: to endure; to persevere; to accept and deal with whatever reality one's faced with. (Not that I'm Job or any particularly enlightened stoic, either.) But I get that.

So, praying for someone to find the inner peace, acceptance, capability — whatever is needed — to deal with that person's expressed issues is generally not going to be badly received, I think. At least it's received better than "I hope you get this miracle that I'm sure is just what you need, because My Guy can deliver that." But what do I know? I haven't got a prayer. It's been a great day so far, though, and I've enjoyed nearly every minute of it.
Glitterpen 15 Nov at 04:42  
Jessiel

I want to ask you if you think you are happier over all with the meds, and if you think you would be less productive in your art and writing and other pursuits if you didn't have the meds. You said your writing would be darker. When I am in my dark places, there is no writing, so that is why I'm curious. You seem pretty open to sharing your experience, but if I'm asking obnoxious questions please ignore me or tell me to shut it
Yeah, I understand that most people try to act as they are expected to by society. We have to watch what we say. There are laws we have to uphold.

I don't mind answering questions. This helps everyone who has schizophrenia (or so I hope).

Without the anti-psychotic drug, my schizophrenia is worse, especially the delusions. I can function to a degree but what I'd produce would be hateful, bitter, negative and dark. Before meds, I was more terrorized by my own mind. This made me into a hostile, critical and negative person. I don't have the worst version of the illness since I have a high level of what my doctor calls "clarity." But, the difference between my two selves—yes, it feels like there are two different personalities inside me now—is like night and day and I often wonder if this "good" version of me would stay around if something happened and access to meds disappeared. I'm betting on "no."

Without meds, I literally thought people were plotting to torture and kill me. I thought people were sending me secret messages. I saw people and things that weren't there and ended up talking to them. Other people would whisper, "Oh my god, she's crazy!" It was embarrassing. The voices were much more "in-my-face," and there were more of them. I've tried many times to cut back (with a doctor's permission) when I thought things were going well enough to reduce the medication but this just made my life worse. Medication isn't a complete cure (I still hear voices regularly, whispering in the background and sometimes getting through louder, and probably see things that aren't there) but it's far more effective than anything I've ever tried, including religion and Jesus.

Buddhist meditations are somewhat effective but they take time to do and energy. I'm so tired with or without meds.

I'm not trying to start an argument here or anything. I'm not offended by people asking if I've tried prayer. I'm just saying that meds are the best solution in my case. Nothing else worked. Praying could help others though. Each person is different.
Paulpowell 15 Nov at 10:03  
As the saying goes: " 'Troublesome people' are often ...people in trouble"
__________________
Paul Powell, Pool Player

Mss 15 Nov at 10:57  
Thank you very much for these responses. I started writing as an output to lift my spirit before I became a Christian. I was so depressed, sad, and tearful daily as a result of what happened to. Once I became saved, life for that much more for me. It is a process. I am still on an antidepressant that I take daily and I also see a therapist and psychiatrist. The Lord is going to help me come off the medication and continue to counsel me himself. I understand what glitterpen says being fake due to medication. There are sometimes when I don't want to be bothered but I act another way on the "med" so it's not known. I didn't mean to upset anyone. I was merely trying to paint a clear picture of what God can do. I am living witness.
Jvw 15 Nov at 14:45  
Glitterpen
I'm not trying to start an argument here or anything. I'm not offended by people asking if I've tried prayer. I'm just saying that meds are the best solution in my case. Nothing else worked. Praying could help others though. Each person is different.
There is hope. I have a friend who has been clinically depressed all of her life. It was so bad she can remember being six years old and praying she wouldn't wake up in the morning. She tried a lot of meds. Some helped for a while. Mostly not though. She, too, went through all the alternative medicine routes, hoping to find something that helped. Recently, she told me she's not depressed any more. I'm thinking her chemical balances may have changed with menopause (because the timing is right).

Most of us don't appreciate how much we are our chemical makeup but there's a lot of truth to that. So many things can change our perceptions and our behaviors. Charles Whitman, the ex-marine who shot so many from a tower on the University of Texas, had a brain tumor (discovered in autopsy). So who are we really at the bedrock? Sometimes it's impossible to know.

Mss 15 Nov at 19:56  
Hello:

I think early intervention helps. However; you do need to recognize the signs and symptoms so you go get the help. Before I became depressed, I didn't know much about what to look for. I remember when I first started therapy, I was told (after the healing process began of course) that one more thing big or little would have pushed me over the edge and I would have been admitted. I didn't have a mental illness prior to what I endured in the workplace. I am so much better now than before. I am not where I want to be, but I am not where I use to be either. Like you said Glitterpen you never know. I stay SO close to God now. He helps me and protects me. I'm still healing and by Faith I will be restored.
Zenithknox 15 Nov at 22:35  
I'm not sure what to make of this thread. I've been quietly watching this thread even though I have a lot to say. Mental health as well as religion is very near and dear to my heart. I did a lot of volunteer work for this in my twenties and it's likely that every novel I write will deal with these topics.

The 1st story I ran through CC was intended to deal with religious rape trauma and spiritual healing and the 2nd story was intended to deal with war and family trauma and healing through nature. In both books though, trauma was very difficult to let go of which is what the blog seems to acknowlege.

Regardless of religion, I think it can be agreed that medicine can play an important part in healing. There's also a spiritual component in the healing process that manifests in each person very differently in different degrees. Not all medicines work for everybody, not all religious approaches work for everybody. But a unique combination can work for each individual.
__________________
You want answers?... I think I'm entitled to them... You want answers?... I want the truth!... You can't handle the truth!  - A Few Good Men

Mss 16 Nov at 19:34  
Mental Health is an ongoing issue today. People are allowed to do what is right and best for them. All who are living with an mental illness, need to know that there is hope and it can't consume us if we don't allow it. The end result is that we all want and are striving for to be made whole.
Attaree 16 Nov at 20:38  
Mss
Mental Health is an ongoing issue today. People are allowed to do what is right and best for them. All who are living with an mental illness, need to know that there is hope and it can't consume us if we don't allow it. The end result is that we all want and are striving for to be made whole.
I know this is what you believe, but I disagree. That mental illness can't consume us if we don't allow it is not a fact that can be proven. It is an opinion.

Mss 16 Nov at 21:44  
Hello Attaree:
Thank you for your response.Mental health will never consume me because that's not my portion. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and I will not allow it to defeat me. This is not an opinion, it's a fact that nothing is impossible for God. He has work for me to do and will therefore; not allow this to overtake me ever.

Thank you!



Glitterpen 17 Nov at 06:14  
Mss
Mental Health is an ongoing issue today. People are allowed to do what is right and best for them. All who are living with an mental illness, need to know that there is hope and it can't consume us if we don't allow it. The end result is that we all want and are striving for to be made whole.
Well, I'm glad to see that no one suggested on this thread suggest that I get an exorcism (at least not that I saw). I like parts of many religions and I've studied Buddhism to a high level, but some beliefs in some religions, about the nature of good and evil, are like something out of the dark ages. As for mental illness consuming people and overtaking them, this gives me the impression you think I failed to become whole because my will wasn't strong enough or I didn't pray hard enough or try hard enough and so on and on. This just further stigmatizes those with mental health conditions. LOL, I'm used to it. People often spit on all the good effort I made before I went on meds. Sure, I failed to improve with all my studying but I tried my hardest. I went as far as I could unmedicated. I even tried accupressure and accupuncture. These did nothing.

Quick questions: Would you tell someone with Type 1 diabetes that they could eat an entire chocolate cake without taking insulin if they only believed god would protect them? Would you tell someone with advanced Lou Gehrigs disease to get up and dance and that Jesus will make it happen?

As for hope, I believe in scientists and that they may come up with a better treatment within my life time. Religion for the most part let me down years ago.
Zenithknox 17 Nov at 08:32  
@Mss

I get the impression you may be very early in on your healing journey. By early, I'm thinking 1 to 10 years because it's only a fraction of a lifetime and some would say the healing process takes a life time. I think in the beginning, the healing process is such a weight off the individual and it makes people want to share that experience with everyone.

"Christian lingo" such as "that's not my portion" or "I can do all things through Christ" is tricky. Unless a person agrees with Christianity and is part of that inner circle or has a personal friendship or relationship with a Christian, it can come across as the opposite of the good intentions it is meant to convey. When Jesus healed, people came to believe in Him because they actually witnessed Him heal lepers and other ailments. I think the success of your own personal healing journey will be more of a testament to Christ than any "Christian lingo" posted on here.

All this discussion can related back to storytelling. In terms of writing stories, I think we need to ask ourselves who we want our audience to be and write our best to effectively tell our story to that audience.
__________________
You want answers?... I think I'm entitled to them... You want answers?... I want the truth!... You can't handle the truth!  - A Few Good Men

Glitterpen 17 Nov at 09:14  
I think I'll unsubscribe from this thread now. My message box is open if anyone ever wants to learn more about schizophrenia and how to cope with it. I just have a few last thoughts on my mind...I think it's nice that Jesus and religion help some people (I don't disagree that it works for some people) but Jesus is not a cookie cutter solution for all problems of the world.
Torchtwig 17 Nov at 11:37  
There are some people for whom mental illness is a disease. It's caused purely by physiological factors, just like diabetes or high blood pressure or a broken leg. Many people will experience bouts of mental illness due to trauma or a stressful period of their life. It's a very different animal for those of us who have our wiring messed up to begin with. Like schizophrenia, it isn't something that will go away. You can't stop taking the medication or doing the treatments. And unless you believe in faith healing (which goes way beyond general tenets of Christianity), religion may provide solace or an outlet, but it's not going to make you function.

I don't have schizophrenia. I have a anxiety disorder, and it was bad. Think screaming on the streets, panic attacks that felt like heart attacks out of nowhere, extreme anger, all consuming panic that never abated and kept me from focusing on anything. I was obsessed with horrible things that could happen. I would get more and more detailed in my obsessions until they were things that were no longer anything I could do anything about, and I was convinced that I knew things that I couldn't tell others. I still had stories in my head, but I could not write them. I couldn't stay calm long enough to do that without having the intrusive thoughts spin out of control.

That was not me. I did therapy, and it helps. Studies show it can alter the way your brain physically works. It taught me how to deal with the symptoms and how to lessen the impact of an anxiety attack or sometimes stop them before they became all consuming. But it was all still there to the point where I was irrational and sometimes would hallucinate things to perpetuate my anxiety.

I started medication out of desperation. I was so afraid of what it would do. It fixed me. I was very lucky. I tried two. The second anti-depressant took forever to work and increased my symptoms for months first, but then it did. Then I became me. I can balance risks and benefits and function. It allows me to write and critique and do things for fun. I don't feel overwhelming guilt that I somehow need to protect the world. I don't need constant distractions (like tv or crossword puzzles) to not go insane and want to die. I can clean my house and I could have children.


Mental illness is a bizzare thing. I've seen it in my family and watched it destroy people who were in denial of it — and turned to religion in many cases — although I do not think religion in itself is indicative of mental illness. It makes you believe that if you treat it, you will lose part of yourself because you learn to rely on your delusions and helplessness. You won't. If treated properly for you when it is caused by a physical, chemical problem, it makes you what you are supposed to be. I'm more creative, more capable, and just the same as I was just without the noise and the extreme emotions. If I hadn't agreed to try medications, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be surviving now. It hurt that bad, and I couldn't see all the wonderful things in the world.

Mss 17 Nov at 15:19  
Hello Torchtwig:

Thank you for sharing your testimony. I am so grateful that your medication is working for you. It sounds like you too, have come a long way. I know that medications can be ify. All medications prescribed, don't work for everyone. Therefore, one may need to be prescribed a different med. based upon allergies, counter effects of other meds. taken If applicable and the like. I think anyone who is suffering from any type of illness, disease or what have you is going to do what is best for them. In my case, I have a sound relationship with Jesus Christ. He gives me hope that I am an overcomer. I know and believe he has a plan for my life.

Thank you,

Beorckano 18 Nov at 03:16  
I struggle with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, hypervigilance, and severe generalized anxiety. Writing helps me get through it, and frankly, the Christian religion was a major contributor to its application. I've had many people recommend that I join prayer circles and churches and speak to priests and pastors and the like.

Yaknow what has helped a little bit alongside writing, medication, and individual counseling? Paganism.

Have y'all given Odin a chance? I'm just sayin', he said he'd get rid of all the ice giants, and I don't see a lot of them walkin' around.
Mss 18 Nov at 08:39  
Hello thank you for sharing. I'm glad you you're in the healing process. I haven't tried Odiin. When you have someone or something in your life that's helping you, we tend to stay close. Jesus is working for me and through me so I don't need anything else. As far as giants, we can speak to them and they must move in Jesus name.
Attaree 18 Nov at 09:06  
Beo, I say if Paganism works, go for it. Good for you.
Zenithknox 18 Nov at 10:09  
Beo actually made a very good point that I thought about mentioning it but I didn't.

I did a lot of research for my novel the Spare Key which deals with Christianity and trauma. Some individuals have actually been traumatized in the name of religion and for those individuals, religion can be more triggering than healing. I can tell you that I've spoken to a Catholic therapist, a Protestant therapist (who is also a wife of a pastor), and non-religious therapist who have each told me they would and have advised spiritual healing outside the church for such people.

I could go on and on about this topic because I have so much research, but I'll just stop here. That was a very good point.

__________________
You want answers?... I think I'm entitled to them... You want answers?... I want the truth!... You can't handle the truth!  - A Few Good Men

Beorckano 18 Nov at 10:22  
Mss
Hello thank you for sharing. I'm glad you you're in the healing process. I haven't tried Odiin. When you have someone or something in your life that's helping you, we tend to stay close. Jesus is working for me and through me so I don't need anything else. As far as giants, we can speak to them and they must move in Jesus name.
Historically, they didn't respond well to words, whether from gods or men, regardless whose name was invoked. Hammers were well received though.

Attaree
Beo, I say if Paganism works, go for it. Good for you.
It's more of a returning to roots. I was for a long time, and I greatly enjoyed myself and found a lot of comfort in it. It's mostly a going through the motions thing now, but the motions are comfortable and comforting.

As for writing, back to the original post, each time I took it up, it was during times of trauma. I use it as an escape, as a time to let myself step back and step away from the situations that cause the damage. It's like stepping back from the forge for a moment when it gets too hot. It helps me regain a few of the spoons I've got to handle the rest of the day/situation with. Not precisely therapy, but more a moment of recuperation.
__________________
Mss 18 Nov at 10:34  
Writing is very therapeutic. It helps me to express myself and relax while doing it.
49ernava 20 Nov at 23:39  
Hail Odin... That is all

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