Cheeseburger Gothic

Dark clouds lifting

Posted October 24 by John Birmingham

About three weeks ago the depression which had overtaken me while my dad was dying finally lifted. It felt as though grey and leaden clouds parted to let through a few shafts of light, then broke up and drifted away.
It's been a year, I tell you.
For most of it I'd drag myself to my desk every day and try to grind though whatever work was in front of me. As I failed and failed again at that, day after day, the work piled up. I just kept grinding.
I did a lot of short writing this year. The private column was a left handed gift in that way. It forced me to keep writing, twice a week, every week, whether I felt like it or not. And mostly I did not.
Not at all.
I put on a lot of weight. Maybe ten kilos or more. That started in the hospital, eating shitty food for the want of something better to do. It got worse later, as I was eating for comfort and a sense of control.
I had some back problems too, which restricted my ability to exercise. But I kept exercising. Like the writing, it was a grind, but I did recall from my psych degree that regular exercise was as effective for treating mild depression as any medication or therapy.
So this has been a year.
However, as I said, a couple of weeks ago, my mood lifted and I suddenly found I had the energy to write again, and a renewed interest in doing so. My publishers were very understanding, so my first priority is finishing The Cruel Stars for them. I've given myself a deadline of November 24. For those of you who were beta reading, I'll be adding new chapters as they're written, rather than in longer sections. Thanks for your indulgence as well.
The ladies of the family will be travelling for a few weeks from late November, giving me a clear run to do some concentrated work and get in a bit of extra jujitsu training. (Jujitsu was one of the few things I didn't lose enthusiasm for this year. In fact, it kept me sane).
November/December then I'll be writing The Golden Minute, the next of the Smith and Cady time travel books.
I have a couple of other irons in the fire I'll discuss a bit later this week, but I'm pondering what to do here at the Burger too. I let it lie fallow because most days I had enough of a struggle to get any paid writing done. But I'd like to reboot.
I'll probably start modestly. I might even revisit the early journalspace days and just keep things very personal. I have a new puppy, after all. She's good for some posts.

17 Responses to ‘Dark clouds lifting’

WarDog reckons...

Posted October 24
Glad you are through the tunnel John. Depression's a bitch and then some. If you ever need a beer, a coffee and/or an ear you have friends both near and far.

Looking forward to more Birmingham to add to my collection.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 25
Hey mate. I should pop into town for lunch some time before Xmas.

WarDog puts forth...

Posted October 25
Definitely up for that. How about duck dumplings at Madame Fu? Ping me anytime (except Mondays - doing 4 days weeks now :-))

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sibeen puts forth...

Posted October 24
Welcome back, JB. The black dog can be a bitch to get away from My old man died 10 months ago and it knocked me around quite a bit, though not at your level. I just hope it is all good for you now.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted October 25
Sorry to hear about your Dad, Shiv. They do leave a hole behind don't they.

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Sparty mumbles...

Posted October 25
when things are tough I can imagine nothing can be harder than having to be creative on demand - I hope you get your groove back, but in your own time, without pressure.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25
It is pretty tough, yeah.

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happy buddha puts forth...

Posted October 25
The black dog can be a tenacious bugger.
Glad to hear you're getting out from under.

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Brother PorkChop would have you know...

Posted October 25
Great to hear you've come out the other side JB. It hurts doesn't it! I'm over 50 and I still well up pretty much anytime I think of my Dad after 10 years.
Selfishly, I am overjoyed to also hear that the words are flowing again - I've missed it and look forward to getting some reading done on Fraser in January.

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insomniac mumbles...

Posted October 25
Glad things are getting back to normal, or as normal as can be. It will be good to see some words again. I know I've missed them.

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Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted October 25
For Miguel, who died in Kansas City.

For Fifi, who died on that boat.

And for all of the other characters, up, back in the saddle again.

Time to ride for new projects.

Onward.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted October 25
I've really loved the ASB columns this year, and there was no clue to the epic struggle to write them. I'm so sorry you've had to suffer this darkness on top of your loss and grief, but also so glad for you that you are on the mend. Much love JB, baby steps on all the work piled up, we can wait xx

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Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted October 26
Yes the black dog is a bastard of a thing. That you had some things to enjoy, like martial arts, gives hope for coming through things....I've been there and its not fun. For you, and yours, it's very heartening to hear that you are coming good!

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Surtac mumbles...

Posted October 27
I have to admit I did wonder if the black dog had put in an appearance, as I've seen it happen before to other creatives. Props to you for getting through it.

My own experience with depression is vicarious - my Eldest Daughter is a longtime sufferer - but the effects are serious and obvious and very real.


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Rob puts forth...

Posted November 23
Don't know if its depression or grief. And grief is normal under the circumstances you faced. Grief is humanity at its rawest. I've suffered depression on or off for years , since I was about 11. But I found the treatment for it lately is worse than the depression, and its grief or the inability to feel it that lead me to this conclusion. After a person I knew died of suicide, I felt nothing, I had known her for 20 years, I felt nothing because of the little white pills I was taking to combat my depression, they just flat lined me. I've got rid of all the medication at the moment, I'd rather feel real sadness, grief and melancholy. The stuff of being human.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted November 23
I'm pretty sure it was depression and some anxiety. Mild, but still debilitating. The grief was raw, howling sadness. It would slam into me without notice and I'd burst into tears, say, driving down to the shops to get some bread. The depression was a heavy, damp blanket, soaked in novocaine. There was no getting out from under the thing. The blanket went on forever. But then one day, it lifted, as though blown away. The grief is still with me.

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Rob puts forth...

Posted November 23
either way its normal to feel depression and grief in these circumstances, and you have come through the other end.(which is great for us, because we get to keep reading new JB books) I found my anxiety ended up crippling, like fucked up, eye pulsing , sheer panic, gotta get out of this pub/room/party and run crippling. Now I'm off the pills, everything has improved. Even odd little things like planning new art projects which now aren't being started and abandoned on a whim. Clearer head, sunny days for all of us. The best description of depression has got to be in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoos nest. The Chief's description of the little machines and being stuck in the fog, seeing and hearing everything but unable to interact is probably the best thing I have ever read describing depression.

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