The Time I Nearly Strangled a Fellow Writer over Depression

Well, if that title didn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. 😀

Seriously, though, if I were the murderous type, I really might have strangled this fellow writer.

It happened in a critique meeting. The writer read the first part of her short story, which was about a young married woman who was “depressed.” Actually, the character was suicidal and was getting ready to walk into a body of water and not come out. You know, like Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

In giving feedback, I started discussing how to help the reader understand the character’s depressed thinking better. And that’s when I found out that the story’s author wanted the character to essentially snap out of her depression and suicidal thinking as soon as she realized the water was polluted and she could make a difference by cleaning it up. Or some such nonsense.

I can’t be sure I’m remembering the plot details quite right…because I was so, so angry.

You see, I believe writers have a certain power in this world that comes from our gift with words. We can influence people. We can share ideas they haven’t come across. We can help them understand things that are otherwise foreign to them.

We have a responsibility.

That means we can’t just buy into the ignorant ideas of those around us who don’t understand what it’s like to suffer from something like depression.

And it is suffering. It’s extremely painful and very hard to see a way of escape, especially if you’re suffering a major depressive episode. Medications don’t always work. Sane thinking is far away from you. It feels like being smothered in a dark prison and buried underground. You can try to help yourself and be going to professionals for help and still end up in a psych ward or in a coffin. No matter how you look at it…chemical, emotional, spiritual, I don’t care… Depression can kill.

Now, my issues are mainly in the realm of anxiety, but I did have a bout with depression once. Technically it was dysthymia, which is a mild overall depressive state. And dealing with that has, after a long period of work, helped me be much less likely to get depressed. But I still have anxiety and have to watch that all the time.

I share this because seeing my suffering not only misunderstood but made light of is the reason I nearly strangled that fellow writer. No matter what you think of others who suffer from problems you don’t have, I really don’t think you have the right to act like those problems are small. You’re not in that person’s shoes. Give them a break. Try to understand them. Don’t act like their problems have a quick, band-aid style fix. That just makes you look ignorant.

An ignorant story writer is not a writer whose work I want to read. And ignorant people are not people I want to be around. Anyone who has suffered depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety…or any of the other hosts of problems that plague humanity…is not going to suddenly “snap out of it” on the advice of an ignorant person.

Please, please, please learn to take responsibility for the things you say to others, and the things you write.

I know we live in a selfish world, where we’re encouraged to make everything about ourselves. But try to consider other people and what they’re going through for a change. You might be surprised that when you do, you can actually learn something and make a difference that the other person you’re dealing with can be grateful for…

…instead of hating you.

Think about it. And thanks for listening.


One thought on “The Time I Nearly Strangled a Fellow Writer over Depression

  1. We do have a responsibility. People learn so much from the books they read, we need to be careful and thoughtful in how we portray mental illness including depression and anxiety.

    …I mean, yes, I agree. Well said. 🙂

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