Human Condition,  Memoir

My Relationship With Depression and Creativity

I have PTSD and major depressive disorder. Whether the former is responsible for the latter I may never know, because depression also runs in my family, and so it might have become a passenger in my life even if I hadn’t experienced trauma.

When I’m depressed, I stop creating, but it wasn’t always that way. As I’ve gotten older it’s become difficult to meld these two parts of my personality together, when they used to go hand in hand. It’s like they had a big fight and now only visit one at a time.

I think it’s important, before you read any further, to establish what depression is. Because of the stigma that exists with mental illness, many people are misinformed or under-informed. Despite what popular culture would have you believe, depression is not just “feeling sad”. It’s not something you simply cheer up from or “get over” without a ton of hard work, and I mean fight-for-your-life type of hard work, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. Depression can come in many forms and may look very different from one person to the next. It can cause apathy, sleep disturbances, fatigue, trouble concentrating, aches and pains, and yes, sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness. These symptoms can last for a few days or weeks in the more acute types of depression, or where major depressive disorder is concerned, it can go on for months or years.

For me, it’s always come in waves. It will hit me like a ton of bricks and I will have very low energy, low motivation to do anything, I’ll sleep a lot and stop caring about myself (snacking way too much, no exercising), and apathy makes it impossible to do anything creative. I get trapped in these loops of negative self talk: nobody wants to read what you have to say, what makes you so special, why bother because you aren’t any good, what’s the point? And this will go on for months, or sometimes even longer than a year.

And that brings me to why I think I’m so much worse at creating now than I used to be during these same episodes.

When I was younger and my depression pushed itself front and center, I’d kind of socially turtle myself away from the world and I’d create. In fact, all of my waking energy went toward creating. I’d go weeks and months without leaving my house or talking to anybody. I’d sleep 12 hours a day, and create for the rest. My output was huge.

Now, as a mid-thirties mom, my depression seems to bully me into silence on the creative front. I think it’s because now when I’m depressed, I don’t really have the ability to create with the stunted energy levels, because the preciously small reserve of my energy goes toward my number one priority: being a mother and taking care of my child. So, my creativity sits on the back back burner for a while.

Some days after working full time and parenting (currently both of these from home thanks to COVID-19) my brain is fried and just wants to do something passive for a while, and I know that I need to allow it that. I also know that I can’t continue to allow my creativity to atrophy because one of these days I’m worried it won’t come back when I’m ready for it again.

Photo by Cristian Palmer at Unsplash

4 Comments

  • Rebecca

    I very much feel this. My depression comes in waves too. Thankfully it never takes me out entirely but every so often I’ll have a day or two where I “feel like I’m high school again” (when my depression was at its worst) and it’s just so damn brutal. The parenting part, as you mentioned, definitely takes a lot out. That mental balance is a hard thing to strike, especially when all I want to do is take a few moments out for ME and I never get it dealing with the kids.

    Thanks for sharing this. Your content is pretty much the exact kind of stuff I look for in personal blogs. Keep writing! I’m pulling for you! 🙂

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