Creativity and Depression: Getting out of the Hole
There's no doubt in my mind that without the love of my parents, support of great counselors, and access to the anti-depressant drug called Zoloft, I would be dead now. I drew this self-portrait in the initial stages of my bout with panic disorder and depression back in 1988.
I remember showing it to my mother who looked terribly disturbed when I told her that my brains were coming out of the top of my head. (She had hoped it was just a strangely-knitted cap.)
I know I can't expect to feel happy and wonderful all of the time, but mine were not ordinary ups and downs. At that time I was always physically exhausted. I had little or no appetite for food or for life for that matter. Nameless despair, fear, and hopelessness overwhelmed me. I cried all the time. Well-meaning friends and distant relatives told me to smile, to cheer up. That just made me feel worse. My parents knew better; they got me the medical attention I so desperately needed.
I don't know if my problems with depression are tied to the fact that I'm a creative person, but research suggests that creativity and mental illness especially manic depression are closely linked. The good news is that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, "of the mental disorders, depressive illnesses are very responsive to treatment."
In my case, I went to my doctor and the psychologist my parents chose for me just to pacify them. I knew in my heart that I was a lost cause, that all the special treatment was a waste of their money. I felt terribly guilty about that especially. I couldn't remember a time when I didn't feel miserable. It was just my personality.
But a month or so into my treatment I was seeing the psychologist a few times a week and had begun taking Zoloft I was delighted to admit that I'd been wrong about everything. I was really starting to feel better. It was as if I'd been driving down an unfamiliar country road in the dark without my headlights, and suddenly they'd been flipped on. I could see where I was going and it didn't look half bad. (I should tell you, of course, that even with my medication, I still have some very bad weeks, but I get by.)
The doctors told me that some people have to stay on anti-depressant medications their entire lives and others can take a short course of the drugs and then be done with them. It appears that I am among the first category. I've tried to taper off my medication and I've tried to stop taking it altogether, but each time I was right back where I started in the hole.
I tell you this not to discourage you, but so you'll know that it really is possible to feel better with help. There is seldom a quick fix, but, the good news is, there are ways to cope.Back to Things to Do Instead of Killing Yourself
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