Creativity and Depression
I’m sitting in my air-conditioned home on this 100 degree day thinking about creativity and how people who desire to express themselves artistically – whether through writing, painting, playing music, etc. – can become depressed at times, even for long periods.
I remember back in June of 2005 how anxious I was for summer to come. I wanted my kids to be out of school so I didn’t have to get up early and drive them there. (Obviously, I wasn’t home-schooling them yet.) I was relishing the idea of having large chunks of time to sit and paint. I had lots of ideas bouncing around in my head like a rubber ball that needed a place to land. I also considered doing some writing if I had time for it. And I had a stack of books that I wanted to read.
By July of that summer I had made some progress on some of the unfinished books finishing a few. But for reasons I still don’t understand, I woke up each day, stared at my easel, thought about starting a watercolor painting, but then left the room only to have my day become consumed with my children’s needs, dishes, laundry or the super time killer – television.
I still struggle with this problem. I have depression/anxiety issues. I have friends who are talented, creative people who face this ongoing problem every day also. So what is the solution? I have a few suggestions that have worked for me.
1. Counseling. That works for some people. In the past I went through a great deal of counseling for various reasons. But I haven’t needed to go since 2001 except occasionally, like when my parents died.
2. Write in a journal. I have kept journals on and off all of my life. But when I first went into counseling, I started with poetry, just getting my feelings out on paper. They were self-centered, but it was like looking in a mirror when I read them which then gave me things to work on. I also wrote about my day and things I was trying to deal with at the time.
3. Exercise. When I am not doing something physical, I tend to crave sweets, which are not bad in and of themselves, but I feel like a slug when I indulge too much. I have been challenged in this area greatly since December when I had foot surgery. It still hurts to walk a mile like I used to. Then my stationary bike broke! It is a constant challenge for me to find something I can do to relieve stress.
4. Become more sociable. This is a tough one for me. I have always been an introvert and on the shy side. Playing sports when I was a kid was fun but difficult for me because of all the people watching. I have to force myself to go visit people, and having people over or going out with anyone but my family feels like someone is getting ready to pull out my tooth without anesthesia. Recently my husband wanted to have an old friend over while he was visiting family in town. I said okay, but I felt instant anxiety about meeting someone new. I don’t know when I became so bothered by these issues; I often wonder if I am “normal”! And although I can sing and play piano, I hate to do it in front of others. But in this past year, God has pushed me out there so I can help my husband lead worship at our church occasionally. In fact we have to do that this Sunday. And my anxiety level is high right now!
5. Medication. Never be ashamed to take medication for depression or anxiety. I have been on medication for both of these for years. I discovered long ago that my brain is wired to have racing thoughts and difficulty focusing on one thing at a time. In fact, I experience frustration while writing with other noise in the room, like music or television (which I am facing right now). But it is something I am working on overcoming. Anyway, if I were to go off of my medications, I’m sure my brain would want to take a swan dive into a pit of despair.
I have learned that expressing myself through painting, drawing, music and writing is the key to keeping me from plunging into depression. I hope you are encouraged through the sharing of my struggles.