I Just Published a Book: Why Am I Depressed?

But back home in Maine, after the rush of congratulatory e-mails dwindled and my modest book tour ended, the dark chill of fall descended and a depression set in. For years, I’d been laser-focused on writing during the hours my son was in school. Now I drifted around the house in my gray sweatpants, refreshing Twitter and Instagram, and reading Knausgaard and Cusk. I felt despondent. Rudderless. Tired. Inexplicably, I felt like a failure. Rather than feeling gratitude for what had happened, I obsessed over what hadn’t. My book hadn’t become a bestseller, received a rave (or any) review in the New York Times, or landed me my ever-since-girlhood fantasy interview with Terry Gross. I judged myself for the brass rings I hadn’t grabbed. As much as my memoir mattered to me, to the rest of the world it was just another book.


Source: I Just Published a Book: Why Am I Depressed? | Poets & Writers

Jessica Berger Gross talks honestly about a common problem many writers share, the depression that often follows the release of a new book. Bestselling authors may be too busy to be depressed, or possibly the depression takes longer to arrive. Finishing a book is a personal triumph, all the work from A to Z, that one’s expectations are high, not so much expectations of fame and fortune, but of euphoria or at least quiet satisfaction.

As Gross writes, it’s not so much what happened, but what didn’t happen. After the initial hoopla, the author goes back to his or her desk, plays a few games–or maybe a lot of games–of Angry Birds or Words With Friends, and starts wondering whether or not they have it in them to go through the process again.

It’s like climbing Mt. Everest and realizing nobody noticed. It was a dangerous thing to do, especially Alpine style without oxygen or ladders or fixed ropes, but back on Facebook where it seems like somebody might want to hear about it, there’s mostly silence. Fortunately, the depression keeps one from caring about that even though that is one component of the depression.

Small-press and self-published writers have the added burden of realizing that their yearly website fees are costing them more than they’re earning.

I don’t think vanity leads to this depression, that is, thinking one should be famous, should be talking to movie studios, should be recognized on the street, or be receiving invitations to speak at book fairs and panels. It’s more that one finds himself/herself fretting about lack of satisfaction, lack of happiness, and the lack of all the feelings s/he thought would be center stage in his/her consciousness.

After a while, the muse screams, “Suck it up; you felt all those wonderful things while you were writing and now you’re not writing.” You protest this for a while until you give in and say, “Okay, I’ll climb K2 solo via the famous ‘Magic Line Route’ and if I don’t come home dead, I will have had a wondrous time.”

Or you say, “I’m thinking about 75,000 words of storytelling about a man and a woman who discover they’ve ended up married after a drunken Vegas weekend and God wants them to figure out whether they’ve been cursed or blessed.”

Authors are trying to figure out the answer to that question all the time. The answer is “both,” but don’t quote me on that.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical mystery “Special Investigative Reporter.”

Fighting the Scrambled Mandala

“A labyrinth, of course, is a scrambled mandala, in which you don’t know where you are. That’s the way the world is for people who don’t have a mythology. It’s a labyrinth. They are battling their way through as if no one had ever been there before.” – Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

My clinical depression is a scrambled mandala.

The formerly clear road has twisted itself into a labyrinth. The air has become more dense than water. I can’t breathe, nor do I want to.

I once believed I was either too smart or too stupid to become clinically depressed. My journey (way, pilgrimage, path) appeared so clear to me that the next step was always apparent whether it came to me out of logic or intuition. Where I was going didn’t matter, for I was en route. Perhaps these was a certain arrogance to such certainty in spite of the fact that—Kabbalistically speaking—certainty is what each of us requires to manifest our highest dreams.

But logically, we’re easily addicted to trends, small, but negative ripples in the force, so to speak, that when they follow upon one another cause us to doubt our certainties, our passions, and even the road itself. Experience has taught me, though, that when the mandala becomes scrambled, it only becomes more scrambled if I fight it. And, depression itself is the same in this respect. What one resists, persists, we are told. When I fight those moments when the air has become more dense than water, I find myself sinking deeper into the ocean of hopelessness where the pressure and the darkness are greater.

The more scrambled the mandala becomes, the more difficult it is to find Ariadne’s linen thread that will lead me away from the dreaded Minotaur to the light-hearted safety of the world outside the labyrinth. When depression is deep, I have neither the willpower nor the energy to search for that thread, much less build wings like Daedalus, the labyrinth’s designer, and fly out of the maze of twisted roads.

Getting Above the Fray

I like the title of Kris Jackson’s 2009 novel about the Civil War era balloonist Thaddeus Lowe, “Above the Fray.” It was so apt, for it described exactly the service Professor Lowe was offering Union commanders. He showed them what they couldn’t see on the ground from what—in my perspective—might also be called the labyrinth of the battlefield.

Like both Lowe and Daedalus, there are times when I want to rise above the fray and get my bearings. Lowe was an advocate of tethered balloons, and shortly after reading Kris Jackson’s novel, I had an opportunity for a brief ride in a tethered balloon. How light the air was and how fine the view of the fields and woodlands below. What might have appeared scrambled from within, now was clear, even orderly.

Like Daedalus, I am the creator of my own labyrinth and—on days when the air is denser than water—my own scrambled mandala. I have been there many times because, I suppose, it meets a need I do not consciously know. I’m lost into the clutches of deep lunar mysteries and the dark worlds of the underworld that my subconscious mind has led me to experience. Truth be told, I’m embarrassed to be there, to have to admit that my apparent certainty about the clear road ahead as led me into the forest primeval where I wander blindly as though there is no road at all.

Once my shame passes, I see that there is much of value here in the scrambled mandala I have built and the hopelessly dense air I have placed with its clutches. I know better than to fight it. Fighting it makes me too heavy to fly above the fray and too sleepy to see Ariadne’s thread.

I have escaped from my labyrinths many times. Though there should be a fair amount of certainty in that, I never remember it while I’m staring into the Minotaur’s eyes. My goal is the goal I gave protagonist Robert Adams in my novel “The Sun Singer,” and that is to survive the journey and to return to the known world with something of value for myself and others.

The scrambled mandalas are my nightmares, the places where the road has become twisted, the places where I think I’m awake even though I’m asleep. But when I wake and see the morning sunlight, and it’s “whew, that’s over,” and for now I’m not depressed and I see my reasons again for wanting to be on the journey I have chosen to take.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer,” a mandala masquerading as a novel.

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