In 2015, a doctor in Atlanta found the first depression medication to ever work for me. In December of that year, we hit upon a sweet spot in the dosage and my life began to change. Depression medication doesn’t make you happy – it’s considered a “mood stabilizer”. Depression causes your moods to crash and reset, crash and reset until you’re conditioned for the next crash. It’s only a matter of time before you’re going to feel like crap again, so why fight it? The medication levels out those moods and keeps not only your body chemistry, but your psychological state even.
Unfortunately, sometimes that comes at a cost, which I found when I tried to start writing again.
The medication (which is used for epilepsy but off label for depression) has documented side effects like insomnia (which I have) and nausea (which I don’t). However, it’s also proved to give me trouble with my short term memory, and with words. Sometimes when I speak, I can’t find the word I’m looking for and trail off at the end of a sentence. Sometimes, I reverse the words in a common phrase (you’re a butt in the pain!). For someone with a high IQ, it’s my worst fear to lose control of my brain and I hear it happen every day.
Recently, I decided that things were going well. My new husband and I were happy and I didn’t need the pills anymore so I stopped taking them. It was stupid for two big reasons – one, they tell you very clearly not to stop taking depression medication all at once. If you stop taking it, talk to your doctor and do it slowly. Now, I personally didn’t have any medical or psychological problems, but it was just the luck of the draw. Two, there is a good doggammed (see) reason for why I take them, and my husband and I are happy as a result. It’s not the other way around. I didn’t tell my husband that I’d stopped taking them because I needed an objective observer to tell me if there was a problem. Turns out, I didn’t need him to tell me. I could feel it. About six weeks in, when the medication would have come completely out of my system, it hit – and it hit hard.
I sat my husband down and I told him what I’d done. He understood – well, as much as he could because he’s never had a problem with depression. He said he’d seen a difference – that I’d been “flat” was how he put it, but I got it. The poppy little carbonated bubbles had fizzled out of me. He also said that he loved me, and that he would support me no matter what. He didn’t try to fix it, or fix me. He just listened.
It’s ironic that I started writing to channel the horrible depression that I’d been feeling into something constructive. But then, after the depression had been controlled – the ability felt gone. The writing was “flat”. In fact, for the first time in my career, I have a book sitting with Dreamspinner where their answer was “we’ll take it, but….it needs some work”.
That was a hard thing to hear.
So, the battle is beginning. If I want to write, I need to fight for it – even more than most because my own brain fights against me. Psychological warfare has taken on a whole new meaning. I’ve started slow – working on short stories to keep my mind in shape. I write every day for about an hour. I’m hoping that the habit will spark that dormant piece inside me, the piece where Aaron lives with Spencer and Jamie and Julian.
The problem could also be that I’m trying to write other things. Aaron was my legacy – he was my soul, but there are other things I want to do. There are other stories I want to write that aren’t romances, they aren’t recovery stories. I like thrillers and suspense. I like Sci-Fi. I have a great idea for a Women’s Fiction novel if I can execute. But that’s the question. Can I get this stuff out of my head and into a format readers will love with my brain in the way?
I’m sure as hell gonna try, even if each book takes a year.