Old Friend

Grad school exacerbated my bipolar. I’ve mentioned that before. And it took away my writing completely for four horrible years. And what’s worse was that I felt it going away. I took some creative writing classes and suddenly had nothing at all to say. Each piece was a struggle, and as I finished the final story, I realized that there simply were no more ideas. None at all.

It wasn’t just a matter of writer’s block. Writer’s block implies a hurdle that one can overcome. There was nothing at all in my way. I was still sitting down regularly, trying every trick I knew, and there was just nothing there. I composed graduate essays, scraped by on mostly A’s (but one C), and stared at my keyboard and the empty words I put on the page.

And then I stopped sitting at the keyboard, because it was so depressing. I finished two Master’s degrees, got married, and found a job, though not in that order. And none of those things held any words for me. I experienced those things, truly loved some of them. And yet they were just events. Things to enumerate. And every day, I died some.

And then my daughter was born and I needed medication to get through from hour to hour.  I knew the Zoloft was working when I was sitting struggling to nurse Caroline and suddenly thought of a sentence. In that moment, I understood where the writing had gone, and I began to hope that I could bring it back.

I could not unplug that baby from my tit fast enough.

The story that sentence launched never got finished. I realized halfway through that it sucked and I didn’t feel like revising it, not because I was out of ideas, but because my head was suddenly so brimming full of them that I couldn’t type fast enough. The next month, I started the short story that would ultimately become my novel (it was published last December; my daughter is 8; writing time was scarce for too long).

But I remember sitting there looking at the chunky mess of “The Wallet Murder”, and thinking, even as I realized that the story was a trasher, “Hello old friend. I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you so much.”


Sorry. Madame Syntax Here. I just wanted to say that one of my biggest pet peeves is people who spell “exacerbated” “exasperated”. That is all.
Wait. You interrupted me for THAT? Would you let me READ already?

remembeRedButtonThis week, the folks at Write on Edge challenged us to write about friendship in 400 words. I seriously did not expect to go in this direction with that prompt.


16 thoughts on “Old Friend

  1. Perfect, Jessie. I understand this in a weird way, because my writing (or anything creative) was always discouraged by my family. For twenty years. I barely wrote. When I started again, it was like trying to hold back the air. No way to do it.

  2. I totally get that moment when you have an idead, a sentence, a title and you can’t type it out fast enough or the dialogue is just flowing and again, you are typing like a mad woman! That is such a great, great feeling! I’m having MAJOR writersblock right now and it’s pissing me off!!! 🙂

  3. But does that mean bipolar exasperated your writing?! Medication can be a difficult path to choose but I think you’ve proved its benefits to yourself. Fear and depression both hold me back from fully expressing myself, from commiting my ideas to paper. 🙂

  4. we’ve lived parallel lives. My ex wife made fun of writing and for 10 years didn’t write a word.

    anyway, this was relatable and very thoughtful. I loved the opening paragraphs. so revealing.

    • It’s amazing how the absence of support from someone you love can suck you dry. I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive family growing up and to have married a supporting husband who is totally up for questions like “OK, so I want to write about this dead veteran. What do I need to know?” at all hours of the night.

  5. Thank God for you….and selfishly for us! Being the writer that you are, I can feel through this post how devastated you were. Thankfully, you had all kinds of support and the flow, the good “flow”, started again! Loved “unplugged that baby” a ton!

    • It’s funny, too. She was the world’s WORST nurser. One of the first signs of her autism was that she never learned how to latch properly. Ever. She was about four or five months old, and she would STILL get hooked on, get a few good gulps, and then let the nipple slide out of her mouth, and yell at it for going away. Nursing her typically took an hour when it should have been ten minutes, and her doctor kept saying that I should just stop the feedings after that long, even if it meant coming back every hour to nurse. He thought she was getting everything in there in that ten minutes and then either making herself sick with extra or drinking air to soothe a need for sucking. I couldn’t convince him that it took an hour to get ten minutes of milk in that kid’s stomach. But that day was one of the few times that she actually had herself a dedicated nurse, and I wasn’t about to put her down ,even for something that I was afraid would run right back out of my head the same way it had come in.

  6. Feeling it go sounds appalling. So glad you got it back! I spent a lot of years too busy working to write, but at least I knew it was still down there, if I ever got 10 waking minutes to spend on it.

    • Grad school was horrible. I thought for a long time that IT had stolen my words, and that made it something I couldn’t undo. When I realized it was something within my control, I was so happy I cried and cried. Scott was worried because Zoloft comes with all these “may have the opposite effect” warnings, and he found it hard to accept that I was just overjoyed.

    • I’m so glad that the problem turned out to something I could fix. I lost quite a lot of my soul to grad school hell, and I had thought this was something unrecoverable. That it wasn’t was a gift.

For the love of Mike, TALK to me! (Concrit welcome on fiction)

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