Creativity and Depression

I was listening to the recent Author Strong Podcast where Nancy talks about her battle with getting the words out now that she quit her day job. She took a leap of faith, and now she has to deal with her depression trying to assert itself.

I listened as she stumbled, trying to explain to Matt (a very cheerful and go for it type of person) why it was easier to say “do this to work around it” then it was to actually do it. And I saw myself reflecting back at me.

I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. As a teen I had school, and sisters to help pull me from it. When I got married I had the children to help. In the last six years I’ve been happier then I’ve ever been with a new life, a great boyfriend, a supportive family, and an outlet for my creativity. And yet for the last month I’ve had that old beast, depression, rearing it’s ugly head.

I know what’s causing it. I know what I need to do to make it shut up and stop all the self doubt and whispers in my head that I’m not worthwhile. But that doesn’t make it easy.

For creativity, this is horrible. Every time I sit down to write I have to talk myself into it. Not just the act of writing, but the act of sitting at the computer for anything other than playing a game or checking email. Just opening the files so that I can read through them is a huge stress when depression starts whispering to me, and it’s not always easy. When I do start to clunk away at the keys sometimes I can write, other times I will put down a few words before the whispers in my head telling me I’m not good enough, I’ll never get anywhere with this, I’ll never finish, get too loud for me to write anymore. I’ll get up, do something else, change perspective, but I simply can’t continue on with that work…yet.

I sent a tweet out yesterday that said “Depression is a lying bastard.” It’s a common refrain now, a reminder that all the whispers in my head are wrong. I am worth it, I will finish, I am stronger than I seem. All those things and more.

Someone replied “I don’t believe in depression.” I don’t know if he meant it as a joke, or he honestly doesn’t believe in it. It really didn’t matter why he said it. I looked at the tweet and all I could think was: “Man, I’d love to have the luxury of being able to dismiss depression as nonexistent.”

In some ways knowing what’s wrong, and why my creativity is floundering, helps me get through it. I can write a blog post, or tell Gregg about the things going through my head, and things tend to die down for a little bit. Sometimes. Other times I can’t seem to break free from the cycle. Even while writing this blog post I had a moment where I could not pull myself from the destructive thoughts.

If you think of the brain like millions of chemical reactions going off all over the curves of your cerebellum then it is easier to see how one miss fire could trigger a cascade effect that can run out of control sometimes. Thoughts that keep repeating themselves, destructive thoughts that keep cycling over and over, a lack of will because it is simply easier to avoid new things than deal with that destructiveness.

We do have some control over the chemical processes in our minds. There are techniques and medications we can use to lower certain hormones which cause the more harmful problems. But not all of us have access to medications, and the techniques aren’t effective 100% of the time.

How do you explain depression to someone who doesn’t have it, or someone who thinks it’s “all in your head”? I don’t know. I have trouble describing it to myself some days.

But I will continue to sit down at the keyboard and try to write, even when the chemicals in my brain don’t want me to, because this is important to me.