Thursday, August 22, 2013

Writers and Mental Illness

This next, as Paul Harvey used to say, is partly personal. M Joseph Murphy reminds us that mental illness and creative talent often go together, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Those who know me personally know that I fall into this category, too.

For the past week my OCD has been completely out of control.

There are many sorts of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mine, thankfully, is not focused on germs. I'm an organizer. I'm compelled to refold everything in the linen closet, straighten the fridge, recategorize my music collection, or alphabetize my library.

Once I start an activity, any activity, it is almost impossible for me to stop. This is wonderful when that activity is writing or editing. But last week I had nothing to focus on.

Megan Fox Reportedly Suffers from OCD

Without the "distraction" is writing, my compulsive behavior is focused on everything else. I spent 10 hours working in Photoshop on a map for my next novel. Ten hours without so much as a washroom break. My hand seized several times. In fact, my muscles are still sore from it days later. The crazy reason why I didn't stop: a little voice in my head kept saying:

"What if you died tonight?  You can't leave this unfinished just in case."

I knew it was stupid. Completely irrational. I argued with my craziness saying "Stop after the water features are done." Then it got worse.

I turned to Netflix. I started Season 2 of the series 24 at 8:00 p.m. I didn't stop until 10:00 a.m. the next morning. I probably wouldn't have stopped then but my fiance gave me a I napped for a few hours.

Compulsion isn't always a bad thing. Most of the time it actually works in my favor. I keep working on things long after everyone else would have stopped. It makes me a great employee and a very dedicated writer. I can spend hours writing or editing to get a scene just right. As long as I have a goal my compulsion doesn't get in the way of a normal, healthy life. Most of the time.

Dan Wells - Contributor to Writing Excuses

A few months ago I listened to a great podcast, Writing Excuses 8.8: Writing and Personal Health. All of the writers discussed their mental health issues. It helped me realize I wasn't alone. So what can I do about it? I refuse to take drugs to solve this type of problem. I think society in general is too over-drugged. I'm more in favor of cognitive retraining which is why I'm writing this post.

A few days ago I listened to a song on the radio: Who Can it Be Now by Men at Work. It got me really thinking about mental health. I come from a creative family who also have history of mental illness. My mother had paranoid delusions and frequently suffered from hallucinations. My father was diagnosed as bipolar with sociopathic tendencies years ago but, as far as I know, has never taken medication.

Maybe acknowledging and sharing my unhealthy behavior will help alleviate it.

List of Famous Authors with Mental Illness
Creativity 'closely entwined with mental illness'
Women Writers and their Mental Health
Writers Have Higher Risk of Mental Illness: Study
Dan Wells on Depression

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