This article is a part of an ongoing series in partnership with Creatives Aga;nst Depression, an organization dedicated to providing place where people who are struggling with depression can realize they’re not alone—every creative knows the struggles that we all go through on a daily basis, as we embark on a career that has no conventional path or road-map to follow, causing a lot of us to work in a vacuum with little insight from the outside world at times.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
This submission is by Jason Donnelly, a Sr. Copywriter and author based out of Brooklyn, NY. When he’s not clicking at his keyboard he’s trying to find the next big band at a local venue.
Welcome to The Mourning After, and no, there’s no spelling mistake. In each section, I’m going to give you a little education on the writing process as well as discuss my experience with depression and tips on how to cope with it. We’re gonna get into exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and hopefully by the end, we’ll get some sort of resolution together.
First, we’ll hit the exposition, this is where we introduce the story, give you a little background on the subject, and maybe even get into a flashback. Only time will tell. But personally, I’m hoping for a flashback.
The first time it happened, I didn’t know what was causing it. It was 2009 and I’d just finished the creative thesis for my MFA (flashing back already, how exciting!). My mentor was a bit of a masochist (in the best way possible), and asked for 20 pages a week. At the time, I was in a crumbling relationship, had a pretty intense workout schedule, and was traveling every week as the east coast enrollment counselor for a small university in Pennsylvania. Even if I wasn’t doing all of that, writing all of those pages would have been difficult, but I did it.
The first draft of the novel ended up being around 247 pages. Throughout it, there were pieces of brilliance, followed by long roads of boredom—if you need proof, go grab a copy here. The subtitle of the book is, “A Coming of Age Psychological Clusterfuck” and the more I think of it, the more I realize it’s the title of that period of my life too.
I turned in the final copy to my masochist. I celebrated finishing it.
Then, it hit. And it hit hard.
You’re invested, you want more… I’ve got more to tell you. Just wait, after the rising action, you get to climax, or, well, you get to read the climax. Keep going, things are just getting warmed up.
I know what you’re saying, “When what hit?” We’ll get there, be patient. I remember vividly feeling like my world was coming down around me. People kept asking the same questions they always do about someone hitting a bout of depression, “How can I help?,” “What’s got you so down?,” or the other side of it, “Everything is going so well for you, what do you have to be sad about?”
And quickly, can we discuss that last response? If you notice someone is sad, don’t belittle their feelings like that. Think about if the exact opposite happened, “How do you look happy, do you really think that’s appropriate, having your life?” How gross does that feel? Exactly.
Anyway, back to it. You’d think the completion of a large project would make your little space booties shake with delight, but that’s not always the case. In fact, after spending weeks, months, even years on a project, it’s no longer just a piece of art or a bunch of letters grouped together, it’s a friend, a go-to, and a confidant. Then, with hardly any time to really comprehend, to really let go, they disappear.
Now, don’t get me wrong, like I said, there is a celebratory period. You finally finished! You celebrate, grab a whiskey, light up a cigar, high-five a prostitute (you do you), whatever, but then you wanna talk to your friend. You want to hear what their love interest has to say. You wonder what kind of mischief they’re getting into, but they’re not there. And oddly, I don’t know many authors who go back and “hang out” with their pieces, especially longer pieces, unless it’s at a reading or an event of some kind.
We should all be so lucky, this is the most exciting shit you’ve ever seen. If you think this is a tragedy, you’ll get some smiles. If you think it’s a comedy, something might go wrong here, but don’t worry, hopefully it all works out in the end.
If you’re not a creative, let me try to explain this in another way. Have you ever read a story that emotionally affected you? Be it, tears of joy, sadness, anger, or just plain happy? If not, I’ve got a list of my favorites for you to experience here. Once you have, you “get it,” to a point. Only to a point because when you pick up a book you’re reading someone else’s story. The creator, doesn’t just know every detail about their life, but all of their friends lives, the location, their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, everything. And, yes, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but not a ton.
Imagine knowing someone better than you know yourself, because you created them. That’s why every artist is the mother of their own creation. Let that sink in.
This is yet another reason why artists sell their work for so much. At the end of the day, we’re not selling you something, we’re selling you a friend of ours (that sounds way darker than I was planning, but I’m going to stick with it). A friend who we’ve watched grow up, who we’ve been there for, who has been there for us. It’s almost like we’re giving you a part of ourselves and yes, we’re excited about it, and we’re proud of what we’ve done (usually), it’s still a piece of ourselves we’ll never get back.
On the writing side of things, there’s a quote that goes something like, “it’s great being a writer, while everyone else lives one life, we can live hundreds.” We pour ourselves into an idea, a character, a story, and then… we give it away (hopefully for a bunch of money, but usually not). In any relationship, it’s about the investment, and we put it all on black.
I gotta tell you, falling action sounds boring, but it’s not. This is where you get that final suspense. The winning or losing, if you will. The final outcome.
So, there are three things that usually come along with the depression and each creative picks how they deal with it.
Number one: Substances. It’s not a pretty world, but it is what it is. Sometimes the pain needs silenced. If it’s drinking, drugs, sex, something’s gotta fill the void, and a lot of the time a temporary solution to a long-term problem is enough…
Number two: Anti-Depressants. This one is tough. It could be grouped into number one, but there’s a big difference between the two. While substances fix the situation temporarily, a lot of artists believe that anti-depressants will steal away their creativity for the long-term (which I personally am afraid of, though I’ve never taken the dive in).
Number three: The Next Project. Of the three, this is obviously the best option, even though number one is usually a part of the journey to get there. Meet your next best friend, start the next project, and then have it all happen again!
Resolution! Finally, you’ve gotten to the end. For the most part, this is a sad part, one way or another. Either sad, because everything is tied up and finished, or just because it’s over.
When you’re dealing with someone who’s been hit with depression there are a few things you should know:
– The phrase money doesn’t buy happiness is true. The same thing goes for success. While, having either is fantastic, they have no bearing on depression. Depression doesn’t care how well you’re doing in life.
– 75% of the time, people won’t be able to narrow down an event or specific “thing” that’s brought them down, if you ask them what’s wrong and they say, “I don’t know.” They probably mean it.
– Getting angry at someone who’s down will never help them get out of it. It might be frustrating for you when they go there, but it’s your CHOICE to get angry with them, a lot of the time, it’s not their choice to feel the way they do.
– Being there for someone with depression is the best thing you could possibly do. Don’t judge them, don’t make them feel little, just be there. Be the shoulder. Just knowing you’re there means more than you know.
Hope you had fun on the journey here, maybe even a few laughs. I’d love to open the office doors to any discussion on the subject. Agree? Disagree? Comment away!
Thanks for stopping by!
If you enjoyed this piece, feel free to check out some of the longer form pieces I’ve done.
We encourage submissions, and want to hear your story. If you’re a creative who’s experienced depression, submit your story here.