It’s a well-known historical fact – creative people, writers particularly, are really good at addictions.
Amphetamines, prescription drugs, opium, alcohol.
Life have compiled a whole album of “Famous Literary Drunks Or Addicts” – there are some surprising addictions up there such as Louisa May Alcott’s addiction to opium, though typhoid-related-fever is a decent excuse.
I can’t say I was surprised by this. I know addiction and creativity go hand-in-hand. Many creative people seem to have that “something-to-get-away-from” in common. Perhaps this is why so many of us find ourselves in reading, and deal with ourselves better in writing. Or drinking. Or substance abuse. They’re all just ways to crawl away from the dark places.
Over the last weekend at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, on a panel titled “Going To A Dark Place”, writer Joel Magarey talked about his OCD. I left that room really encouraged by the fact that this man has written a book that deals so candidly with something that’s so stigmatised and crippling. To look your demons in the face like that, and not be afraid to put it out there, is amazing. It should also be noted that the OCD is not all Joel’s book is about. It doesn’t take over.
Lisa Dempster’s “Neon Pilgrim” confronts her depression. Henry Rollins’ “Black Coffee Blues” talks about depression, making it dark but essentially toothless. Even J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” has dealt with depression in her children’s books, and she is not ashamed to tell people.
The list of writers with depression or other mental illness is endless, but mostly we never find out about it. And when we do it’s an “Oh. Who’d have known?” situation. It’s certainly more okay to put these kind of things out there now, but I don’t think we should underestimate the strength of people who do.
I’m constantly chased by anxiety. And when I hide in the toilets now there’s that poster on the back of the door staring at me, letting me know that “Anxiety Is Paralysing” (thanks Lady, I get it!) and I curse that bitch while I try to breathe like I have normally sized lungs.
I think the key to dealing with the “dark” parts of ourselves is to accept them. Work around them.
Turn the darkness into something productive.