creativity and the burden of depression

sitting outside in November with coffee
A November morning with coffee.

There have been times that I've let my little projects fall away because I let my naysaying brain take the lead. It likes to tell me that these projects are pointless in the "real" world. And I often let myself believe it.

What is anyone going to do with a cardboard TV, or a pop up book, or a weird illustration? It says.

I think that's what the real struggle is with being a creative person. Allowing myself to do these things for the sake of doing them. Because I enjoy doing them, they keep my overactive mind busy, and I get to work with my hands and make something from nothing.

When I ignore the ideas I have for projects instead of getting to work on them, I sink further into my already terrible depression, which deems me "out of order." I have the kind of depression that is debilitating. It passes eventually, but when it's bad, it's really bad.

Without my projects I have more time to think about things that make me depressed. My mind becomes a snowball of negativity. When I'm working on putting something together with my hands I get my materials together, put music or a podcast on, and I get into the flow. It makes it harder to become depressed.

It's that flow state that keeps my head above water.

And when I have an audience for the things I make, that's when I'm happiest. It's the little kid in me receiving validation for the thing she made.

Things like positive comments on posts, people replying to my emails, or other artists complimenting my work at shows. And of course the unbeatable high of a live audience cheering.

That's where the good stuff is. Even though the making of the thing rewards me in its own way, I like knowing that I'm not the only one who enjoys it.

Focusing on the small stuff

Since I started taking medication for depression a little over a month ago it's become easier to manage the self doubt and negativity. The thoughts are still there, but they aren't running the show as much.

More and more I can find something more positive to focus on, even if it's the smallest thing. Lately it's been the comfort of my bed when I wake up in the morning or sitting outside in the cool air under a blanket with coffee.

My mind wants to dwell on my failures or lack of...anything. Now I feel more able to stop it before it takes over.

I try to focus on the fact that I have a mind that comes up with really creative ideas and that I have the means to bring them to life. I have two working hands, a lot of ideas, and some talent. That I have an audience that wants to see what I have made, even if it feels like no big deal to me because it came from me, is wonderful.

Do creative people get depressed because we are suppressing the urge to create and believing the negative thoughts and the self-doubt? Could illness be from not allowing ourselves to express the things we want to express and making things we want to make?

I have certainly had my share of being chronically ill having dealt with Lyme disease for many years.

The spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle once said something about how if he hadn't written The Power of Now he's convinced he would have become terminally ill. That it needed to flow from him. And look at how his teachings have helped so many people.

So I think I'll keep making all the things instead of ignoring my creative urges and weird ideas and try to think of them as a gift rather than a burden.

If it really is my suppressed creativity that is contributing to my depression, that is much too high a price to pay.