I've battled depression since high school. I remember long summer vacations from school when I would struggle to find any enthusiasm for much of anything. I still remember those feelings. People who have depression say that when they are in the midst of an episode, the world looks grey - it lacks color and life. That's absolutely accurate. And that's how I felt for many of those summer days.
In college, I decided to seek therapy for my depression, and my doctor prescribed me antidepressants. I wasn't keen on the idea. After all, who wants to take a drug to make them feel better? But I knew I had to do something - living in a black hole is not a way to live. So after I started on my antidepressants and gave them time to work, I was absolutely amazed at the change.
The world wasn't grey anymore. I didn't wake up in the morning with a sense of hopelessness, of "why am I even here?" I don't think I was ever suicidal when I was at my worst with my depression, but it was more along the lines of, "I want to stay in bed all day and sleep." There was no joy in the world. No sense of anticipation. No fun.
I wish I could tell you that not a day has gone by since I started taking my medication that I haven't experienced depression. But that's not true. Sure, we all experience life's up's and down's - you can't really appreciate the good things in life until you go through the bad. And I've gone through a few rough patches where I've teetered over that black hole again.
Lately, though, I've been researching the link between creativity and depression because I've noticed a decided shift in my mood. When I am in the midst of creating, I feel absolutely blissful - almost to the verge of tears that I am doing what I love and that I love what I'm doing! But there are other times when I can't manage the energy or the passion or the drive to sit down and write. It's not laziness - I want to write. But I can't make myself.
Is this depression? Or is this just my creative DNA? It is quite rare for me - lately, anyway - to have more than two or three good days in a row. Those good days are VERY good days - I'm pumped to write, can't wait to sit down and get to work, am bursting with ideas, and I feel very positive about everything. And then maybe the next day, I am completely down. No motivation. No energy. And it's not like I'm doing anything different! (And it's not lack of exercise or proper nutrition - I've been doing both.)
Since this has been happening more and more, I decided to do some research on this subject. Turns out that there are some very interesting facets to a creative person's personality. Psychology Today has an article entitled "The Creative Personality: Ten paradoxical traits of the creative personality" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I found myself nodding my head at several of them. For instance:
"This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive, always "on." In
fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they control
their energy; it's not ruled by the calendar, the dock, an external schedule.
When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types
immediately recharge their batteries. They consider the rhythm of activity
followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work.
This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and
error as a strategy for achieving their goals."
The problem with me is that if I do let myself be idle after a period of creativity, I feel intensely guilty for it. I should be working, darn it! Maybe that's contributing to the overall feeling of depression? Am I not allowing myself downtime when my creative personality demands that I do so? Food for thought.
But of course, creativity and depression often go hand in hand - and writers are no exception. I'm eager to dive into Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression and see how other writers have dealt with depression in its various stages.
I guess the ultimate goal, in the end, is to understand my behavior and try to figure out how my own creative process works. Perhaps it's a simple thing of just working two or three days in a row, and then taking a day off. Maybe that's how I work. Maybe I'm not one of those people that must write every day, even though there are many that say you must do this. Maybe that is more detrimental to my creative process and thus contributes to my feelings of guilt and depression.
More food for thought.
I'm interested to hear your thoughts, as well.
Tomorrow, I want to share some insights on writing and depression from a wonderful writing book called Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer by Bruce Holland Rogers.