Friday, March 24, 2017

Depressing is not Deep

My year 12 english teacher's favourite expression during creative writing was "depressing is not deep". Writing about your mental health, or a sad story does not give meaning to a piece, he told us. Sometimes it does, but for the most part, depressing does not equal deep. He told us to write about the light in the world.

To be honest, it wasn't really the advise I needed or wanted to hear. I was in a pretty dark spot myself. I was seeing the guidance counselor, as I wasn't dealing with the pressure I felt very well, I was incredibly close to leaving school, I wasn't really interested in participating in life, and there was stuff going on at home. I wanted someone to listen to me, to explain why I felt the way I did, I needed to explore what was going on in my head.

But in retrospect, I understand what he meant. I'm glad I took his advise and wrote something else for my portfolio.

Somewhere, probably in the depths of tumblr, negative mental health has been glorified. It is romanticised. Aesthetic quotes about depression, cutting, suicide, anorexia roam free. Anyone who feels depressed (but who may just be sad from a bad day) can find a community that feels the same way, leading to a sort of normalization and building of these issues. This creates a distorted view where depression, death etc., is "beautiful" or something.

I know, from personal experience, that they're not. They're not. I can't say it enough. Being depressed isn't deep. It destroys you piece by piece.

The culture that nourishes these ideas draws in young girls especially. They seem to think that the only way you can feel anything is by being depressing. That it will make you a deep person, that it will put you in touch with life. In some cases, it is a way of getting attention. It becomes very hard to seperate those who genuinely struggle with mental illness from everyone else. Worse of all, these posts often makes it look like suicide is an okay way to deal with issues.

This issue is over represented in writers and artists, who have for hundreds of years made the connection between their deep poems and paintings and so on with so called mental illness. Understanding how bleak the world is, reflecting on it and producing some sort of art from these feelings is hailed as something deep. However, many (but not all) of these people continue to live reasonable normal lives, and are not struggling with depression etc., rather, are melancholy.

Depressing is not necessarily deep. Let's stop normalising mental disorders. Let's treat it like the issue it is. Let's respect those who genuinely struggle with their mental health. Let's not write characters with mental disorders to make our stories "deep". Let's understand that we can be "deep" and feel fulfilled by focusing on the light in our world.

Thoughts? Have you ever written a character with some kind of mental illness? Do you struggle with the idea that depressing is deep? Anything to add/disagree with me about?
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Opal wasn't sure about this post (is it too blunt or mean??), but here we are. 

18 comments:

  1. I do see this. I feel deeply despairing at times, and afraid and anxious, but it's not necessarily a mental health disorder. I have written characters who are really withdrawn, and in a play I'm currently writing a character has grandiose delusions. I'm glad I take psychology to learn about this stuff! Deep can be depressing; but depth is knowing yourself and using that understanding to see others and the world, so it's not necesserily like that.

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  2. I agree but disagree. (I think you do too.) as someone who has struggled with depression and immensely dark thoughts, I know its not a place to glorify by any means. it absolutely should not be romanticized. I totally agree with you on that. but at the same time, a lot of artists are made into artists by pain. I think thats something we share. it doesnt make it beautiful, but thats how we cope and deal. there was a time in my life not too long ago where the only thing getting me through the day was writing poetry I knew was way overdramatic and angsty. I made art that was over the top depressing because thats how I got it out.

    but at the same time, those things shouldnt be your go to forever. it gets boring and lonely to only take black and white photographs. you know what I mean? at some point you need to realize where to draw a line. you need to realize when you're actually hurting and when you're just feeling sorry for yourself.

    (great post. it made me think.)

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    1. I agree! It is often my dark patches that produce my best writing. But at the same time it's important to try and move on and up, even when it's very hard.

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  3. I like your teachers quote! This is so true. People love the sad stuff (I am a sucker for it!) I think there is some very positive things that come out of sad pieces of work if you do not make a mockery of it. I have grown from sharing how I feel with the world but it it won't be the best thing to summit for a college app. Find balance. I am happy that you shared this with us, going to keep it in my mind now!

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  4. It really sucks that depression is romanticized. As someone who has went through a dark time in my life, it really stinks that people think that depressing means deep-- there are many other emotions out there that are able to give depth, if that makes sense, and going deep into the light is beautiful.

    xoxo Abigail Lennah

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  5. Like Faith, I agree yet disagree. I think the communities online are great tools to help many deal with mental health - kind of similar to how finding LGBTQ+ support networks, online and in person, really helped me come to peace with my sexuality. Also, I have a close friend whose anxiety disorder is the reason she discovered writing, as she needed a way to vent and cope with her feelings. Now, it's by far her favorite hobby. Yet I definitely agree with you that romanticization of mental illness is a GIANT problem. While depressing can be deep, it definitely isn't automatically deep.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

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    1. I'm very much in agreement with you there Ellie :)

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  6. This certainly isn't too blunt or mean, it says exactly what needs to be said.
    The difficulty is distinguishing if someone has written a character dealing with mental illness because it develops the themes or story, or because they simply think it adds meaning to the character and story purely by being there and being "controversial."
    The same could be said for those who add drug abuse, sex, sexual violence, violence in general, or even putting swearing in simply to add punch to a story and hoping it makes it better and more meaningful in the process.
    What I think is important, overall, is context, intent, and effectiveness of delivering the message.
    Someone writing about mental illness to highlight its seriously debilitating effects is doing it well, but throwing a scene or subplot involving cutting into a story just to be "part of the club" and follow the trend of other stories of the same genre will never work out well.

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    1. Exactly what I was trying to get at :)

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  7. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Preach this to the world.

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  8. This post is so so important. Depression and unhealthy mental states has been romanticised a lot and it bothers me. I think I agree with your teacher when he says that its much better to write about light. It makes for a better, mroe substantive story. I'm curious though - how do you think depression should be portrayed in books? It's hard to tell when they've overstepped the border into Glorified Land.

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    1. It is a hard line to walk indeed. The first red flag is when it's being used for a characters personality, if that makes sense? It depends very much on the story I think :)

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