I have depression, and have in some form since childhood. Its like wading my way through cold liquid tar. Most of the time its about ankle deep, but sometimes it gets up over the knees – and wading through the cold black sticky stuff is hard work.
Depression taints everything in your life, taking the shine and colours away, making everything less joyous. I can still have moments of happiness, laughter and joy, but the difficulty in getting to those places makes it so much harder to achieve them. It also makes them that much more precious.
For the last year or so I have been feeling …… flat…. is the best way to describe it. Additionally another symptom that has been kicking my ass is anxiety – that is what has really messing with my general mental wellbeing. Anxiety affects my ability to sleep, instead lying awake at 3am with the hamsters in your brain running flat out on their treadmills – spinning all sorts of possible problems, scenarios and outcomes. This generates more stress, being aware of and awake for hours with the need to eventually function for work, plus the additional adrenal overload on my system in trying to react to, and process all these made up scenarios (which invariably are never as bad as imagined!)
But I can’t turn it off and having tried medication before and been singularly unimpressed with the response, am not willing to turn to a medical establishment whose default setting appears to be “prescribe and damn the side effects”.
I’m depressed, tired, strung out, wrung out and struggling to cope some days. I am not suicidal or self harming or any danger to myself or others. This is not a cry for help but an explanation and an opportunity for discussion. Mental health is an issue that affects many people but is stigmatised and not discussed openly. So in the spirit of The Bloggess – I share my story, maybe you will tell me to harden up, maybe you will quietly nod and understand.
Being tired and stressed tends to affect my ability to filter and be less *me* – a friend describes it from his POV as “the shielding around the reactor core fails and leakage may be experienced”. To avoid radiation burns for those I care about, that often means staying at home, hibernating or hermiting – listening to music a lot.
So I isolate myself from people, and feel guilty about that, and then stress about the guilt and……..
Jenny aka The Bloggess says emphatically Depression Lies – but when everything in your life is covered in black sticky yuck, its hard to see the truth in that.
So here we have a brain, clogged up with black sticky sludge, making everything difficult and sucking the joy out of life. How does that impact on creativity?
Stress makes me lose my mojo quite seriously – after the earthquakes that damaged Christchurch I didn’t pick up my camera for a couple of years really and even then I had to force myself.
Since my trip to Melbourne I haven’t touched my camera, nor edited more than a handful of images. In fact my Tasmania trip from 3 years ago still has half the images yet to be edited. Its another thing that nags at me, makes me feel guilty and stressed about not having done what I should have *sigh* sound familiar?
Doing Awake has taught me a lot more about my creative drive and how that manifests, and one of the good things is learning that it is OK to give myself space and time to fully evolve a concept. If ideas are being generated and journalled to come back to, then even though nothing may be actively created, the brain is still engaged and thinking.
Those ideas can be stored away for when I am in the right headspace to create with them. Giving myself time has actually meant the final outcome was often better than my original idea, so there is added benefit. Plus its easier to be kinder to myself and not add to the guilt and stress loading. I give myself permission to do exactly what I can, when I can and how I can, and be OK with that.
Managing your mental health is about making compromises. This may mean never becoming the award winning artist I want to, but right now, that is the choice that needs to be made.
What interests me about how my mental health impacts my creativity is the direction it takes. There is a darkness inside everyone, whether they are willing to admit it. Maybe mine lives a bit closer to the surface than other peoples, or maybe my brain is just wired that way.
Right now its damn near impossible for me to create anything light, fluffy, pretty etc. But my brain is overflowing with dark twisted ideas relating to the things its feeling right now – ways to express pain, anger, frustration, loneliness. Being able to tap into the horrible yuck and create art, whatever it looks like……that helps keep me sane in a way I never realised it could.
Therefore I’m embracing all that darkness, holding it close and singing it bittersweet songs of despair and unhappiness, because dark twisted flowers are blooming in that landscape, and right now that pleases me greatly. Seriously, how fucked up is that 🙂
Instead of having to deal with all the unpleasantness that depression and anxiety usually bring, and being left in a barren landscape with little hope of relief, knowing you just had to endure. Now I can harness all the angry darkness, and create something….. not necessarily beautiful…. but compelling and evocative.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger 🙂
What doesn’t kill you gives you unhealthy coping mechanisms and a dark sense of humour!
I won’t lie, this is pretty tough to deal with long term. Maybe trying to do it unmedicated is making it harder than it has to be. Maybe the wear and tear on my friends will be more than they are prepared to handle. Maybe it doesn’t get better and this is my new normal.
If you read this far, then thankyou. If you have any thoughts or insights or your own story to share, I would love to hear from you. If you would prefer to email me privately, thats OK.
A recent event has made me conscious that life is precious and we need to make the most of it – so be kind to yourself *HUGS*