creativity: a way out of depression?

john over at storied mind writing and depressionhas taken up the thread of the discussion on creativity that i started a while ago with Psyblog and, creative person that he is, is talking about it in connection with depression. let me add a bit to that discussion.

first of all, i’d like to say that if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to label myself, i would say “artist”. if i don’t get to play with language and ideas, if i don’t get to dance once in a while and gorge my eyes on beautiful images – well, i don’t know what would happen because i never let it get to that point.

my work as a counsellor, too, is in my eyes an act of creativity. together, my client and i collaborate on seeing their lives as a work of art and on creating experiences, actions, attitudes and thoughts that help them live better lives and through that, ultimately help others around them create more goodness as well.

also, i have experienced depression from a number of different angles, including myself. just establishing my “authority” here : )

in reading over john’s article, what i was thinking was that at least in some situations, creativity doesn’t so much chase depression away but can help us experience it in a different light.

years ago, when i was doing a lot of work in the area of chronic pain, a friend asked me, “so – are you including depression in your research, too?” he saw depression as chronic emotional pain.

i think there is a lot of truth in this. and just as we can experience pain in many different ways, perhaps we can experience depression in different ways.

for me personally, the worst part of depression is a significant change in e-motion – in my inner movement, as well as in the actions that are influenced by that movement. when in a depression, the decision of whether to wear black or white socks is overwhelming because my decision-making apparatus has slowed down to a tired old snail’s pace. leaving the house, if i manage it, can take two hours because putting on a coat and finding my keys present almost impossible-to-overcome obstacles. fright or flight don’t work anymore – there’s only freeze.

the urge to create can be one of the few e-motions, or motivating drives, to get me moving again. that’s where depression can become qualitatively different. the pain is still there but its place inside of me and its colour and texture change. if i follow the creative urge and find words to describe the depression, things start to move, and a bit of momentum builds up. it may not last long, but the depth of the creative experience helps me remember that there was movement, not just way back when, when i wasn’t in that black cloud, but just a few hours ago. that helps me put the depression in perspective, can remind me that depression is an experience, it’s not me, it’s not my master, it’s “just”pain, and i know i am not pain.

in those moments, i can sometimes be grateful for the depression for giving me creative impetus.

john asks,

there is something about creating … that draws out a force within me that dissolves depression. what is that? can i package some and pull it off the shelf when i need it?

in my experience, creating does not dissolve depression, it changes it for the better, it changes it for the different. what creating helps me “pull off the shelf” is the realization that depression is not my master.

(image by nicasaurusrex)

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