How susceptible are writers to mental health problems? My gut feel here is very, as if a certain lack of mental balance is required to write effectively. Nathan Bransford always gets tons of comments on his blog (because he's an agent and an author and darned good at blogging) but a post on angst and writing earlier this month netted 186 comments. That's a whole lot of angsty writers!
As usual, I have a vested interest, because I've been told this very day by a mental health professional that I'm "moderately to severely depressed." I'd thought I just had anxiety problems (oh, I'm "severely anxious" as well, apparently) but now I have depression too. I'm not looking for sympathy here (oh well, maybe just a little), because I still feel quite functional. I mean, I'm writing this aren't I? And it all makes sense, doesn't it?
Mental illness is still quite a taboo subject in our society and maybe that's why I'm writing this post. For all of the authors bravely addressing the subject head-on (step forward Tabitha Suzuma) there are many others who have to skirt around their own problems or put on a brave face through the pain. Now, I'm not necessarily arguing for full disclosure, and I think we're all aware of the "too much information" culture that social networking has brought about. But if I break my arm, I wouldn't feel bad about disclosing that information. Why should a broken mind be any different?
It came as quite a shock to me when I took up my current day job to find out that my new employer wanted a full medical history from my GP. I had been going through therapy after being made redundant and now I was afraid that this very treatment would stop me getting another job! As it turned out, my fears were unwarranted - requesting a medical report is now standard practice and I was able to take and do the job. That just didn't mean I was cured, obviously.
For me, beating mental illness is all about finding focus and a purpose. Which can be rather hard if you're depressed. But I have a meeting with a publisher tomorrow and that will be just the boot up the bum I need. Here's to the next draft!