Creative and depression irony
There is an irony that comes with being creative and having depression, that irony being that the creative thing that you need to do to help you with your depression, is something that is the biggest struggle. When I went through my worst depressive season I lacked the energy to do pretty much anything. I lost all interest in things that previously I enjoyed doing. Focusing on reading anything was impossible so I was lacking inspiration or escape. Turning to magazines to read because of the combination of pictures and words, the advertising focus would be another drain and the pretty pictures of a life that did not reflect my circumstances made me anxious and comparative which, in turn, did nothing to ease my soul. I couldn’t make anything because it all felt pointless, I lacked financial, inspirational and physical resources from which to draw upon to create anything. It felt empty and meaningless. I didn’t want to create something that just added to the crap that we carry around with us house to house, honestly, I didn’t want to create beauty, because I couldn’t see any.
We are all creative and thinkers
We are all designed to create and when we can’t, we lose something of ourselves. Something of what we were made to do, deep down who we feel we are. I read recently that creatives are more likely to suffer with depression because they ruminate on their thoughts. Writers, artists and musicians strive to find meaning in life and create to share a story, vision or truth that speaks to others, and find commonality. When we think about the deep things of life, it can hurt, we ruminate on the good things as well as the bad things; the essence of life. We try to make sense of the deep things or the troubling things through our art and as a result, that can cause us to get stuck on the heavy things that are too much for a soul to bear.
So in conclusion, how do we get creative when we know we need to, in part for our healing; to help us make sense of the heavy things around us, and in part to feel inspired and see the beauty that surrounds us? Here are some steps based upon my own journey.
Slow steps for creating when depressed
- Start by being kind to yourself. If I could say only one thing to anyone who is stuck it would be: be kind to yourself. We are so hard on ourselves. The stories we tell ourself about ourselves are often simply not true. You don’t have to create, you can just be. You don’t have to produce anything. Don’t expect too much from yourself.
- Give yourself the gift of time, decide on an amount of time and if you can’t actually do anything in that time, that’s fine. You just started to open yourself up to the possibility of having some creative time. Next time you give yourself a portion of creative time you might start to do something. If you keep showing up, eventually you’ll be able to do something.
- Pray. Put on some worship music. Sitting with God in surrender and silence, allowing him to minister to your spirit, is the best first step. Allow him to guide you in your next step.
- Next step, give yourself permission to play. We are God’s children, and what do children do? They play. Creativity comes from experimenting, playing, making things up as you go along. We get bogged down in our shoulds, “it should look like this,”, “I should feel this”. This is not true. Creativity is freedom. Ignore your inner and outer critics.
- Start small, choose one thing to do and focus on that. You are not going to produce a masterpiece, there is no pressure to produce a masterpiece! Follow the joy, or try and find the joy. Allow yourself to enjoy it, it could be as simple as playing with words or pictures on a page, taking photos on your phone. Don’t forget cooking, gardening, making music, colouring, are all creative practices.
- If you need to work out your thoughts because they are taking over your creative time, there are some tricks to stop that from happening. Keep a to-do list beside you to note down all the things that you’ll suddenly remember you have to do, right at that moment! Acknowledge your thoughts but refuse them access to your feelings for now. Hold them out and examine them as to why you are thinking or feeling that way, if it helps, write out your thoughts, or express them in some creative way, that will start to help you release them and make sense of them.
- Try and work from a place of gratitude, positivity or one good thing, using that as your inspiration. It’s like smelling the rose on the thorn bush.
- Finally, try and be present in the activity you are doing. Focus on the moment and the movement and rhythms of your hands. Be empowered by making a choice, as simple as a colour. You can make beauty.
I hope that this helps. If there’s one thing you take away from reading this, if you managed to read this far, it would be: be kind to yourself. You are loved. There is hope for the future. Creativity can come back and be enjoyable and the place where you feel most alive. You can connect to your soul with the working of your hands.
If this is helpful to you, you’ll like “6 ways to get creativity into your busy work day”.