Better mental health through creativity – Amulya Malladi

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By Amulya Malladi

First, I have a confession to make. I am a high-functioning depressive. This means I roll out of bed and get through my day. I’m a high performer at my day job and I write books in my free time. I also can cry for several hours straight on one of those long flights after they dim the lights.

It took many years for me to understand why I felt what I felt. How come everyone around me thought of me as being super confident, but I kept feeling like a failure? How come people said things like how do you do it all, you’re fabulous, while I felt like they were (and still are) making a big deal out of nothing?

A few years ago, I became sad. Yes, the high-functioning depressive type of sad. My publisher had turned down a manuscript and after that I stopped writing. It’s hard to be creative when the world is covered in gray. I didn’t like my job anymore and just went through the motions. I was convinced my marriage had to end. I’ve felt like this in bursts but usually I snap out of it and get back to my life. But I couldn’t this time. It went on and on and on and two years later, I finally hit rock bottom. I had checked out from my life.

I had given up.

I didn’t want to be a writer anymore, it was too hard and no one wanted to buy my books anyway, so why bother.

I decided I’ll stay in my job and do it because I have bills to pay, but I’m not going to really engage.

And I thought, I might as well stay in my marriage as lifeless as it is, because divorce is a lot of work.

But a part of me didn’t want to give up; and I think it was the writer in me. One day at work I walked past someone’s office and the nameplate outside said Anders Ravn. I started to think about the last name Ravn … I knew some people with that last name and it meant raven, but there was another Ravan in Indian mythology, a villain. I started to think about Ramayana and I wondered if I could write a modern-day Ramayana. Who would these people be? Oh, yes, Sita … I think she’d be the depressed one and what about Ram … and so I just started to think about these people who would populate a modern-day Ramayana.

By this point, I had started therapy and my therapist suggested that I just start writing, anything, just to let the muscles remember what it felt like to write.

I had tried this exercise several times in the previous two years and never got past ten-fifteen pages, but I decided to try it anyway. I had Anders Ravn in my head, I was thinking about depression and I wrote the first chapter of The Copenhagen Affair and met my protagonist Sanya. And I made it funny, crazy, not normally how I wrote, because I so desperately wanted to laugh. I always read out to my husband what I write an so when I read out the first chapter to him, he laughed as well and when I finished reading said, “What happens next?” I wanted to know as well, so I kept writing.

As I wrote The Copenhagen Affair, I also started to get better. The gray began to fade and I could see some of the colors of the rainbow. But it took another year before I wrote the ending. It was a slow process, writing this book and unraveling the coil in my brain that was preventing me from living a full and authentic life where I wasn’t beating myself up most of the time.

I will always look at The Copenhagen Affair as the book that helped me get mentally healthy, helped me laugh. When you’re feeling sad, doing something that makes you happy is like sunlight washing into a dark and cold room, it may not lighten up the whole room or make it warm right away, but slowly as the light becomes stronger, it can change your brain patterns and teach you to smile the sadness away.

Amulya Malladi is the author of seven novels, including A House for Happy Mothers, The Sound of Language, and The Mango Season and her latest novel The Copenhagen Affair was released in September 2017. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, she works as a marketing executive. After several years in Copenhagen, she now lives outside Los Angeles with her husband and two children.


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