THE WRITER’S LIFE
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A padded cell is still four brick walls: That’s a fact. Rabbits always look like they’re about to say something: Another fact. All writers use metaphors and other devices: they’re the tools of the trade and yet another fact. Many writers use metaphors to describe what writing means to them, or how it feels. I’d liken it to having chronic clinical depression: because that’s what I have and I’ve had it for a long time. Beneath the padding, between the lines; You just have to look deeper.
It’s not all bad, of course. I’m lucky that I’ve found something which I love to do and which I use as therapy: The writing, not the depression. The reason I compare the two is that writing is my life now as well. They’re very similar in many respects but the main thing is trying to get people to understand how you feel, if you can get them to listen in the first place.
Depression is a deeply personal thing and it’s difficult to write about it generally without seeming selfish. It’s many faceted though, so there’ll usually be something which others can relate to, even if it’s something which they don’t get because it seems irrational.
I lived on the streets for three years and that’ll toughen you up. There were many physical assaults on my person and the occasional, messy retaliation. When I kick back, I’m not as pretty as I normally am. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of my temper. Sobering up and gaining some security in my own home calmed me down. Writing got me through. I’ll never go back to drinking because the people I hurt were mainly the ones who loved me most: my family.
The guilt I feel in sobriety is sometimes so great that I can understand why others lapse. I lapsed a few times myself before I finally got the drinking and the angry angel inside me under control. That guilt, like the depression, is a life partner; something I have to live with. Fortunately I’ve repaired most of the damage done in those dark days and I’m closer to my family than ever.
I’ve written about all of that on this very blog, since I first ended up on the streets. There are some who still judge me and I grew tired of them a long time ago, just as I grew tired of life for a while. Some things are worth persevering with though. I committed many sins, I paid the price and I got over it. Others forgave me. I didn’t have an epiphany; The opposite in fact: I lost my religion.
Nowadays this blog is all about the new life I’ve made but don’t think all is rosy: Depression is the big black dog, which is always there in the shadows. You can throw him a stick and he’ll go away for a while, but he’s always there. Despite those three years of living wild, or perhaps because of them, I get panic attacks; I have periods of anxiety; and I feel vulnerable. I’ve not forgotten what it feels like to be at rock bottom and although I’m grateful for where I am now, there are many others who still live in total darkness. I just want them to know: I still do too.
I’ve written about how frustrating it is to be held hostage by one’s own mind; of how my intelligence can be a poisoned chalice. I’ve written of the panic attacks which are the mental equivalent of being robbed at knifepoint (which has happened to me too); Of how anxiety feels like you’re being stalked and how sometimes, there’s an awful feeling of impending personal doom: It’s just there. Like my fiction work, it’s all there if anyone would care to read it.
I know how frustrating it is to be a game piece in the system: Waiting months for a medical referral, only to be stymied by a panic attack as you board the bus; Filling out forms and having a burden of proof placed upon you, to convince a total stranger that your mental impediment affects your physical ability to live a normal life; Sometimes having to get by on a budget so tight that you have to choose between topping up your electricity meter and having something to eat. I know, because I’ve been there. And despite appearances to the contrary as I may portray on here, I’m still there. It’s only writing which gets me through it all and many others don’t have such a luxury. They are as silent as I am unread.
I’ve written before of how I’m not a writer for the money. I would be deluded if I ever thought I’d make money from what I do. Even if my published work isn’t widely read, it’s in The British Library and it’ll always be there. I myself have a finite amount of time left in this life but I’m fairly comfortable that I know what comes next, through my scientific education. In the greater scheme of things, all of the little daily worries are just that: minor. To others though, those things can be all-consuming and I’m certainly not immune.
What am I trying to say with all of this? That there are many more like me, who suffer daily with mental health issues and that it would really help if more people listened to them, when they want to be heard. Most of the time, depression is a selfish thing: Most of the time, sufferers don’t want to talk about it. I’m lucky: I can talk about it and only those who read my writing will hear me. Whether that’s now, or long after I’m gone, it’s all there in the writing; Like The Unfinished Literary Agency short story I wrote: It’s all in those diaries, if anyone would have cared to look. The ones which were found outside the building that was being demolished.
There are deeper subtexts in most of my stories, including the more recent, longer and more whimsical ones. It’ll all be in the anthology, still due out in December. It doesn’t matter how well it sells: I’d give it away if I knew that people would read it and gain something. I’m told I’m good; I’d tend to agree. I’m more confident now but I still have my off days. To some people, there are more days which are off than on.
There are a very few people who have read this blog from the start, and who have read all of my stories and my books. To them, I am grateful and I hope I remain entertaining. I will never forget where I came from and I hope that my words are of use to the silent ones. I know that some of those readers are troubled teens I met whilst transient.
All I crave is followers and “Likes”: Not for my ego but because every single one means that I’ve touched someone. I don’t ask much and those who remain silent can sometimes ask for nothing: How can you ask for something if you don’t know what it is you want? Many of those same people won’t want to like this, for fear of exposing themselves.
The fact is, I, this writer, or whatever I am; For what it’s worth, I know you’re there and I get the frustration too. I know how it feels.
I look deeper: Some may not like it but that’s a fact.