A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Depression and the artist

I've been asked a few times how I write while I'm depressed. The truth is I don't. I try to. Don't get me wrong. And I may get a few words down on the page. But I have a hard time making them connect. I also have problems getting into books when I'm depressed. In short, it's very hard for me to do anything when I'm depressed.

This doesn't mean my world stops when I'm feeling this way. I find myself drawn to reading blog posts, other people's short stories – since that's all I usually have the attention span for, and social media. I don't participate as much but I will reblog interesting things on Twitter and like things on Facebook. I won't comment but I'll at least read them. I avoid the things I know will make me cry and carry on.

I've heard it all before. How I should write through it. It's not that bad. If I can't get through it maybe I shouldn't be a writer. Blah. Blah. Blah. As I've told someone before, you're not inside my head space. You don't know what I'm feeling, thinking, and how much I'm hurting. That's enough to derail most people who suffer from severe depression (like a lot of people do) from doing anything. Not just writing. But living. We stop wanting to do anything.

I've been lucky in having a husband who notices when I'm that way and tries to talk me out of it. He encourages me to listen to music, to do anything I can to break the cycle. Sometimes it works. More often it doesn't. But knowing he's there to force me to take care of myself (believe me, this is important when I'm depressed), to convince me to do what I know I need to do, to find something that makes me relax. I've also been very lucky to get a therapist who understands these moods and gives me several good ideas to try as well. She helps me work through them after the fact so I can get better at stopping the downward spiral before it consumes me. There are just days where nothing works.

One of the things I've noticed is how people talk about artists and their depression, how it inspired them and helped them do glorious things. That they worked while they were in the throes of emotional agony and painted/wrote/built these amazing things. I call bullshit on that. Speaking from personal experience, it is almost impossible to work through those things. I won't say it's completely that way because perhaps there are a few out there. But from personal experience, and the experiences of several other authors and artists I've talked to, it doesn't work to try to work through the depression.

So when you talk to an author or an artist, and they say they're depressed and having a hard time getting to work, don't tell them to suck it up and do it anyway. Don't tell them that it'll be brilliant and they only need to sit down at their computer, pick up their pencil or brush, or open a notebook with a pen in their hand and do what they love doing. Because it's highly likely that nothing will happen.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a rash of posts lately about how you can write on the days when you don't feel like it. To which I say, if it's a struggle to get up and take care of yourself, writing is probably out of the question...Focus on one's health should be paramount. Writing while neglecting health issues is dangerous.