When you feel like you just can’t go on

I’ve been battling with depression and negativity about my writing lately.  Since my heart attack last November, the medication I was put on has been reacting with/to the other meds I’ve been on for years, to help me cope with the permanent pain of a disabling injury back in 2004. The combination has made it extraordinarily difficult to think and write creatively this year. Non-fiction isn’t a problem: I can continue my blog output (I try for 3 articles every day), and I’m working on a non-fiction book. However, the process of fiction writing, where I have to make up scenes and scenarios and characters . . . that’s another story. I’m assured by my doctors that as soon as I get off the post-heart-attack blood-thinner, I’ll get my creative mojo back. However, it sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes!

In my frustration at my inability to produce what I call my “bread-and-butter work” (because I literally rely on it to put food on the table), I began reading more widely. How had other authors and writers coped with similar challenges? I didn’t find too much from writers, but one person’s story truly inspired me. She writes: “I lost my legs, but I’m still dancing.

I knew my legs and feet intimately because of my years of dancing – every callus, every sinew, every bruised toenail. I spent so much time with them, taping them up to go into pointe shoes, taping them up again after they’d been cut from pointe shoes, massaging my arches, pointing, flexing.

They were part of my body, but also tools, crucial for doing what I loved most, which was dancing.

Even as I write this I can feel the nerves in the ends of my stumps firing. The memory of my feet is a physical sensation, a pain, sometimes similar to pins and needles, but on other days the ghosts of my feet can explode like a flash, sharp and horribly painful.

. . .

“I’m really sorry but we’re going to have to amputate your right leg, it’s not healing.”

I will remember those words forever.

When the doctor told me the news, I’d been in hospital for two months and didn’t know I had the energy for a scream. But I did.

. . .

Two months into my hospital stay it was decided that my left leg would also need to be amputated, about 10 inches below the knee.

I was 19 years old and didn’t know how I would even begin to think of my body without my legs.

I remember thinking: “I’m not going to be able to walk, let alone dance.”

. . .

When I returned to university I did go back to my old dance society, to watch them rehearse and to help with auditions. They asked me to choreograph a piece for them and I agreed.

But when I sat in my room, coming up with choreography ideas that I was physically unable to do, it became too much. I had a panic attack. Heart racing and struggling to breathe, I rushed to the toilet to be sick.

And so I put dance away in a box that I firmly sealed.

Being so close to the dance community was just too hard.

. . .

I finally stepped back onto a dance floor in 2014 – seven years after getting ill – for an audition to join the Candoco Dance Company.

It took a lot of courage – a few years earlier I had turned up for a dance class only to be told I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Candoco is a contemporary dance company made up of disabled and non-disabled dancers.

. . .

It might sound as though I have it all worked out, but that’s definitely not the case.

There are challenges – say, when your leg falls off during a performance.

There’s much more at the link. Highly recommended reading.

Reading that article gave a whole new perspective on the old Middle Eastern proverb, “I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”  It’s certainly helped me get over my feelings of depression and frustration, and motivate me to push onward and upward.  Even though I’m still on the “difficult” medication, I’ve started writing fiction again, and I’m pushing myself every day to do a little more.  I’ve just finished a short story for a new anthology edited by Jim Curtis, and I’m returning to several fiction manuscripts that were left incomplete when my heart attack interrupted proceedings.  I hope to have at least one or two out later this year, along with my current non-fiction book project.

So, if you have times of feeling discouraged, depressed and frustrated . . . re-read that story above, and be grateful you have eyes to read it, and a mind to think about it.  I am!



  1. I’ve heard it called “The Black Dog” and I’ve also fought it.

    1. Yeah. Am I fooling myself to think I might be able to pull things from the fire? Do I need to drop the current project rather than continue? Have I always been fooling myself to think that I might possibly be able to do something useful?

      1. You’re feeding yourself, aren’t you? That’s useful. Start with that and work outwards.

        Is there anything “useful” about my work? I so amazingly don’t care. I have my characters, they do stuff, I write it down. New characters pop up all the time, demanding to be written in, so the story changes. Useful? They’re all laughing right now.

        Tools are useful. Stories are stories. The only people who think stories are useful are propagandists, and their stories always suck.

        Tell me a -story- already.

        1. Creative writing is a hobby. So far, my stories are fanfic and not what I can look to do for a living.

          The ‘useful’ is partly growing up on Thomas the Tank Engine, and imprinting on the aspiration to be ‘really useful’. The dream of useful is related to ‘stuff done for a living’.

          This week has actually been less of a demoralizing mess than last week. But I still caught myself being jealous of someone, rather than happy for them.

          Considering some of the circumstances, I should be happier about the level of success with some of my efforts to turn a cool dream into reality. I’m not doing as well as I want for the short and nearer medium term goals. So I’m disappointed, and panicking, and wasting time on that psychological baggage, instead of getting things done.

          Okay, of some the problem is needing to manage some of my medical conditions better, and I prioritized some of this week’s work over some stuff I knew would help me keep my head on closer to straight.

          I hope that I have not been whining, and that getting this on paper helps me move forward.

  2. Since you sufferred a heart attack, are you also on a beta-blocker? I’ve been on both since June last year after a heart attack caused by a cardiac artery blockage. I was lucky: the surgeon was able to unblock the blood vessel and insert a stent. The issue of course is tha my blood pressure is low, courtesy of the beta-blocker and that means little sex or difficult sex. Now THAT’s depressing as well. I’m seeing my cardiologist in 2 weeks, hopefully I’m off the stuff then, after a year.
    Good luck to you and keep writing.

  3. Med interactions can do a number on us. I find that lots of sleep helps. And I need to consume more fiction, even if it’s television, in order to find the stories again.

  4. Fortunately, when I became disabled in 2005, it was just my body. Physical pain, not being able to walk. It didn’t really affect my job. I was a school counselor. As long as I could hear, and speak, and think, and write, I was fine!
    But then the medications for the pain smeared my brain. First, they goofed my endurance. I’d go to work, come home, and collapse. I was sort of expecting that.
    But then, they goofed my sleep. And I got to where I’d go without sleep for three or four days, almost every week. I became Zombie Man. I could not function. It never got better. And one day, a little more than two years after I was first diagnosed, I had to walk out of my office for the last time.
    And then, it got REALLY bad.
    Three years later, I started to be able to try to put it together.
    A bit.
    And, after a while, I discovered my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. And that’s when I found out what a difference it makes in the fight, when you have someone to fight alongside, and someone to fight for.
    God was ALWAYS present in my struggle, especially on the worst days. But when He began using her as His primary therapist, that’s when I emerged from the bleakness of survival, into the full spectrum of LIVING.
    That’s my story.
    Peace be on your household.

  5. > blood-thinner

    Have you tried other blood thinners? Do you need a full dose every day? What is your risk of an arterial blockage if you stop taking thinners? [there should be publicly-available studies for that, at fda.gov] How long do they plan to keep you on thinners? How do they know your blood even needs thinned in the first place, or is that just another of modern medicine’s blind swings at the pinyata?

    My wife is having various problems I’m pretty sure are related to Plavix, but she won’t question her doc about it. My doc, I question everything, and log all the data I can, and print out reports each time I see him… our working relationship is “give it your best shot and I’ll let you know how it works.” Some docs prefer a much more one-sided relationship, though.

    – TRX “treading the line between ‘informed patient’ and ‘pain in the ass’

  6. I’ve been depressed. I wrote a story with a depressed heroine. (“Isabelle and the Siren”)

    Then I went around telling everyone who would stand still long enough to listen that I would never ever ever write another story about a depressed heroine. The muse didn’t so much as twitch at that bait.

  7. Much sympathy. I too have been struggling with depression – off and on for over a year now, through two knee surgeries. Physical difficulties do seem to open the door to it. (Fortunately, I have no more knees to wreck!) And pain medication shuts down the fiction-creating part of my brain. You get extra credit for doing anything all between major pain and mind-numbing drugs!

    Writing fiction always makes me feel better – when I can do it – sometimes I feel the depression is a living thing that actively tries to keep me from writing because it likes squatting inside my head and doesn’t want to risk eviction. I wonder if it’s doing that to you? If so, it might help if you can manage even a couple of paragraphs once in a while. In any case, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

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