Author: Hannah White

Something Beautiful: Mental Health and the MFA

What do we talk about when we talk about depression and writing? It’s hard to begin, not least because the pairing of these topics can feel almost overly familiar. They’re a classic combo, really—a sort of burger and fries, peanut butter and jelly, Lennon and McCartney of the literary world. From The Bell Jar to Darkness Visible, writers writing about depression has become practically a trope. It’s archetypal: the tortured writer loopy at his desk, popping pills and chugging whiskey. But ultimately, my story isn’t about an archetype. It’s about me, and as my struggle with mental illness collides with my MFA experience, there is no well-trod trajectory for what will happen next. I’m just weeks away from starting my graduate program at Temple University, and I’m doing so while grappling with severe depressive symptoms. Think hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, excessive fatigue, and spontaneous tears. These are pieces of who I am right now, and, like it or not, they’re probably coming with me when I hit the North Philadelphia pavement next month. I’ll be teaching …