Many writers deal with depression. The question is, does it help or hinder creativity?
It's getting close to two big days in my life. On the 3rd, it will be my fiftieth birthday. On the second, it will be the anniversary of my father's death. Yes, he passed away from a battle with cancer a day before my birthday. To say that it's put a damper on the celebration of my birth is an understatement.
Inevitably, I knew I'd slip into a depression this week. Happens every year at this time. Perhaps it's the fact that summer is draining away, the sun is spending less time with us in the northern hemisphere, and all my plans to enjoy the summer breezes have been put to an abrupt end with the chill that wracks my bones. This year, it could also be that I've pretty much run through my savings and had to take a minimum wage part-time retail job (which is all I could get at this time while dealing with my sons' health issues). It could be that I feel I've failed in my goal to write a lot this year. It could also be that while other people are going further in their careers and seeing retirement on the horizon, I'm on the brink of having to live off minimum wage until I'm too old to walk, hear, or see. And then what happens to me?
But it could also be that my brain is triggered by the shock of my father's death that occurred in 2005. My body feels the time of year. My soul acknowledges the pain.
At any rate, I've suffered from bouts of depression ever since I can remember. If you have never been through this emotion, it's hard to understand it. It's not about "being sad." Sometimes I can't find a "trigger" for it. I can't snap out of it. If you tell me all the things I have going for me, it doesn't help. If you tell me all my flaws, it makes it worse. And yes, I've had more of my fair share of both of those responses.
The truth is, I know when I am going through it. It's crazy how hard life becomes. My mom called today, wanting to know what we were doing for my birthday this weekend. People were supposedly planning something, even though I said I didn't want to do anything (my boyfriend already planned a night away for us, and that's all I really want), then everyone dropped the ball on it, and suddenly it was up to me what we were going to do and who we were going to invite to something I didn't even want to do in the first place.
If I weren't in this odd, depressed state, I'd be able to make a decision. Maybe take over and laugh it off. Or maybe just tell people to party without me. But in this state, making any decision at all is traumatic. It feels as if I'm trying to lift a hippopotamus over my head. Not only do I not want to do it, I feel I can't do it. And people want to push me to make a decision anyways. "Snap out of it! You're making it hard on us! We just want to do something for you!"
Oh. My. God. If you really wanted to do something for me, you'd drop it until I was able to handle it. This is not me being selfish. It's me trying to get through the day, maybe even the week, or even longer. You CAN'T understand how hard this is for me. I am trying with all my might to just find a reason to go on living, and you're telling me I'm making it hard on YOU.
Depression is not a mindset.
It's real. And when you tell me that I'm just feeling upset because a lot of negative things are happening to me and that I need to face things and deal with them, that doesn't help me. I will be able to deal with the crap another day. Just not today and possibly not in the near future. Right now, I want to sleep and escape and not think. Because thinking leads me to wonder the point of living. And while in a depression, I can't see the point, even if you impale the truth on it and shove it in my face.
Right now, depression prevents me from wanting to work on my books, exercise, clean my house, or do anything that I enjoy on a normal basis. If I could sit in my room for days on end and not deal with any responsibilities for myself or anyone else, I would recover and be fine. But I can't. And so that sets me trying crying, to lashing out, to be unable to make decisions. And in all honesty, it makes it worse. But I have no choice, because people who do not become depressed (again, not talking about "sad") have no idea what this is like. When I am no longer in this state, I look back and try to describe the feeling, but I never can do it justice because once I am out of the emotion, it's a wisp of smoke like at the end of a magician's trick. I can't even understand it myself. It feels silly and ridiculous. But during it...I can't imagine what it's like to feel happy. Even my favorite songs feel dull and uninspiring. Talking to people about it makes it unbearable. The people who have never had it don't understand what I'm dealing with, and the people who have dealt with it start talking about their own pain because there aren't enough people willing to actually listen.
So what happens to creativity?
For me, it doesn't become my muse. At least, not at the moment I'm aching. Sometimes, if I force myself to take a walk or lift some weights, my brain splits into two. One part is wanting desperately for the pain to end, the other part is considering how to turn this issue into something creative. For example, writing this post. Sometimes I come up with ideas for YouTube videos (that I have yet to produce, hardy chuckle), or fresh ways to make money, or even daydream about what I can do to make changes in my life in the hopes that it will squeeze some serotonin into my brain. Writing can be very cathartic, and I know some people do it to help ease the stress of living. Especially when they feel no one understands. Because when you write, you can explain yourself in a way that feels freer. The person you are speaking to is yourself, and we are all our best listeners.
I could easily argue that depression is an artist's feral cat. Keep feeding it, and it sticks around. Get too close to it, and it becomes fearful and suspicious. It might even attack. It's best to feel empathetic without making it dependent on you, or you on it. One day, it won't show up anymore and you'll wonder what happened to it, but then you'll discover life is so much easier when you don't have to take care of something that never respected you in the first place.
See that? I just made a creative analogy out of this space in me that needed to be filled. Perhaps depression can be a muse at times.