I have been thinking a lot about the connection between depression, anxiety and art. There have been lots of studies to show the link between depression and creativity, and it largely has to do with rumination. Chances are if you are reading this and have anxiety and/or depression, you probably have above average intelligence and interest in something artistic. This is because we A&D types tend to think, and think, and think about things.
For many of us, depressive periods can also be a time of heightened creativity. Whether it’s writing, music, poetry or art, it can feel liberating to express yourself and your complex feelings in a way that’s more abstract than talking to someone about it.
Lately I have been journaling in the bathtub in the evenings. I use an old-fashioned notebook and pen. I’ve been writing more in the past few weeks than the past several years. Before, I would try and construct a cohesive narrative about my day or recent events. Now, I just use stream-of-consciousness. Whatever is on my mind, whether it is connected or not. For instance, yesterday I wrote:
I read some advice today, that to beat depression you have to get out of your own head and live in the world. This is good advice, but how do you do that without sacrificing the unique qualities that make you you?
Two lines of poetry from my teenage years have been rattling around in my head this week.
Break, break, break on the cold grey stones, O Sea!
Show his eyes and grieve his heart, come like shadows, so depart!
Going to Amanda’s baby shower made me feel more depressed. I hid it well under a cheerful exterior, for her sake. I do not belong in their world, of contented mothers and normal happy people. 34 is a very lonely age to be a non-mother. It feels like all the old fun and hope for the future is gone, replaced by onesies and diapers and mindless chatter about receiving blankets. I still grieve, inside, for the end of the fun adventures we used to have. Why should all the fun be in the past and not the future?
This is what depression feels like. It feels like you are screaming , and no one can hear you.
It feels like you are always on the outside, looking in.
Tonight, I got out the drawing book I checked out of the library, and I drew. It did not turn out at all like the drawings in the book, but it didn’t matter. It was the process that felt good, and felt healing. My drawings were unique to me. I loved the way the birds look, even though they’re far from perfect.
I am reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write and it is just the medicine I need now to give myself permission to just create. Instead of trying to “think up” something, or worry about being perfect, just do it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t second-guess. Just write down what is in you, or draw it, or paint it. I think this is good advice for us ruminators, because we get so stuck on when we make mistakes, or when someone criticizes us. I used to love drawing and painting, until at the end of a very fun high school art class, a teacher criticized my work and gave me a low grade. I gave it up after that, and it is a huge regret for me. I should have done it because I loved it, and to hell with him. The same went with giving up on singing because I didn’t get in the choir, and acting because I didn’t get cast in the school plays. Seriously, eff all the haters.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t create art just because you’re not Leonardo da Vinci.