[guest post from author, Rue Allyn]
I have been self-employed for more than ten years now. I have been manic-depressive (now known as Bi-polar Disorder
) all of my life. That’s more than sixty years, so I’ve got a lot of experience with emotional highs and lows. I won’t go into the technical history of depression and mania other than to say we know way more now than we did when I was young. Yet we still know too little about how emotions work, leaving us with the conclusion that every person’s experience is unique.
My experience of mania is that it’s a lot of fun. I get this extended burst of energy and enthusiasm. I accomplish goals and finish tasks at an amazing rate. As an author, mania means I make huge amounts of progress on my writing projects. I feel as if, with enough time, I could climb mountains and solve-world problems. I feel “normal.” I’m not, but I feel that way.
However, mania doesn’t last. The slide from mania to depression is insidious for me. I rarely recognize when it’s happening. Tasks that were easy become increasingly difficult. Goals are nearly never met. No amount of will can help me write or accomplish other projects. And then there’s the anger.
Yes, anger. Remember, I’m writing about my experience. I’m an author not a doctor (,Jim). The frustration of not achieving at my ‘normal’ or ‘manic’ rate is tremendous. When I’m in a depressive state I can’t write. The ideas are there but I just don’t have the will to write them down. I don’t know who to blame for this, nor do I immediately recognize depression as the cause. Something unidentifiable is making me depressed. I blame all sorts of things because I’m not performing at manic levels. And I’m angry because a) I can’t achieve at the same rate as when I’m “normal” or manic, and b) because at the moment I can’t recognize that it’s my own mental chemistry that is the root cause.
Life was this endless cycle of emotional highs and lows until nearly fifty years after I was born–fifty years of living with this endless cycle–I finally gave in and decided that I needed medication. I won’t tell you what I take. What works for me may not work for you or someone you love who struggles with manic-depression. Please seek professional help if you’re suffering any kind of mental distress. I will tell you that I am very, very lucky. My medical team hit the right medication on the first try. We spent several months finding the right dosage. Close to two decades after making that decision, I still take the same medication. And I take it religiously.
The medication helps me recognize what point I’m at in my manic-depressive cycle. I can listen to myself complaining that I “can’t get anything done,” that “the writing isn’t working,” and recognize that is a symptom of my depression rather than a condition that someone or something else imposed on me. I can express enthusiasm and enjoy the mania at the same time that I can recognize it for what it is–a symptom of Bipolar Disorder. The medication doesn’t make my symptoms go away. It does help me recognize what’s happening with my mental state. That recognition has been a literal life-saver.
It has also saved my writing career. Now, when I go more than two or three days without writing or doing the myriad other things a self-employed author must do, I understand that my mental state is the root cause. I can overcome depression and mania both.
But it takes a force of will. Medication doesn’t cure my problem. Medication makes it manageable. And managing any sort of career, writing included takes the will to work. The will do sit in the chair and type. The will to contact reviewers, and bloggers, and social media outlets and interact with them on a continuing basis whether I ‘feel like it’ or not. The will to format my books for sale, and set them up for distribution. The will to maintain and improve my website. The will to do so many, many things that make up my work. The same is true for all of us, but especially those who suffer emotional disorders. The will to work is an absolute necessity in your arsenal of tools for combating whatever emotional problem(s) you might have.
I have one request. Normally I’d ask you to comment, and I would still love for you to do that. More important to me, is that you seek help. Don’t go fifty years, as I did, before asking for help. Keep asking, keep searching, never give up. A solution for emotional distress is out there. You can find a solution that works for you. However, no matter what you are feeling at any given moment, you must have the will to continue. The will to do your personal work. Give yourself that much. Determine. Be stubborn. Will yourself to do what must be done, and that is to get help.
PS: This has been a rather serious RAmble. But it does include one bit of fun. Can you spot it? Comment here if you do.