I can't say I'm going to be deep and meaningful, a fountain of wisdom here, but I've been hearing a lot about mental illness lately, specifically anxiety and depression.
Writer Scott Lynch has had to put back the release of his next book due to his health issues, which I won't pretend to fully understand. Scott's one of my favourite writers, and it just feels so unfair that someone with so much talent should be battling such crises of confidence, and more. All too often, there's the assumption that creative types are always a little "eccentric" at best, so it tends to be something that's brushed under the carpet. If not that, then it's assumed the person will "snap out of it", sort themselves out and get better. Piece of cake, right?
Even from my limited knowledge, it's obvious that mental illness is a real medical condition that has to be treated, not just somebody being "down in the dumps", which I'm sure is somewhere we've all been a certain times in our lives. There are so many things that can get us down, piss us off, that it becomes difficult to cope, but we "bounce back" and life goes on. I suppose true mental illness is when we can't do that, and the struggle gets worse. Being physically ill has signs and symptoms - measles gives you spots, for instance - and, while anxiety and depression can also manifest themselves, it's deep inside where the damage can really be done. And this can be hidden, sometimes until it's too late. At least, that's what I believe. Like I say, I can't pretend to fully understand, but I can appreciate that it's a true illness, one that won't go away by reading motivational slogans on Facebook and Twitter.
I wasn't going to write this, afraid that I would be showing ignorance and misunderstanding - at worst, be offensive, which I don't mean to be - but something happened yesterday that really moved me, and I wanted to share it.
I'm 45 years old and I read comics. That sounds like a confession, but it's not. It's nothing I'm ashamed of, and there are some amazing tales, deep and profound stories, being told in that format. People may laugh, but so what? Those films you're flocking to see at the cinema? I was reading about those characters years ago...
This time, though, it wasn't the stories that moved me, but the letters from readers and the replies from writers and artists. It's ironic that Image Comics, purveyors of the muscles and tits and ass that made me give up on comics in the early 1990s, are now producing superb creator-owned titles such as Low and Lazarus that have valid and frightening commentaries on our society and selves. It's even more stunning to know that these works can have a profound effect on their readers, often serving to help keep their heads above water in extremely difficult times.
That's why I wanted to write this. I'm about as far from an expert as you could get, but if just one person reads this and feels better, then it's a success. I'm like that with all my writing; that's always been my thought, that if I could make one single person feel better, then it's worthwhile.
And yet... I'm scared. Always have been. Even now, I'm debating if this post will see the light of day, wondering who'll care. I've been writing for decades now, but I've always held back at that last minute, only ever finished a handful of the ideas I've had. What use is an idea if it stays in your own head? Every day, I promise myself I'll write; when I do, I feel great, but when I don't I'm a grumpy bugger, lamenting what I haven't done and wondering what if. Lately, though, a few things have happening in my life that have got me thinking, made me reassess my priorities and goal. I need to make good on my promises, instead of letting myself get filled with stupid fear and apprehension. I often tell myself I'll "do it tomorrow"; well, today IS yesterday's tomorrow.
Like the readers whose letters I read, I'm finding myself inspired. Writers like Rick Remender, Monty Nero and Greg Rucka have, through their personal stories as well as their fiction, helped me battle my own personal demons (or laziness, depending on how you look at it). Author Sarah Pinborough made some comments on Twitter that boiled down to "just sit down and get on with it", which may be easier said than done, but it's what all the inspirational quotes are essentially saying. It's better to write crap that can be tidied up later, than not to write at all or - worse, in my opinion - talk about it but do nothing.
There. I think I've said enough. I mentioned earlier that making the difference to one person would make this post (and everything else) worthwhile. Maybe, by getting these feelings off my chest and being able to look back on what I've written here, that person may prove to be me.