Being a Creator with Depression

Even as I typed the title of this, I realised that it could be read two ways; it could say that I am a Creator, who happens to have depression. But, it could also say that I am someone with Depression who is working on creating. It's a good demonstration of how something - in this case, a blog title - can have multiple meanings depending on how you experience them.

The same is true of depression. I have Major Depressive Disorder, and I am a Creator (a writer, to be specific). These two things interact in a lot of different ways, depending on a lot of different things, and can leave a lot of different impressions - depending on one’s experience.

What is Depression?

More than anything, depression is an experience of symptoms. It's the physical weight and slowness, the headaches, the hypersensitivity to pain, and the drag at your muscles. It’s the self-doubt, the absent interest, the sadness, the feeling that even when you’re happy it's muted, and dull. Its chemicals, and outside influence, and memories, and PTSD, and all sorts of other things coming together to bring you down.

And, as a writer, part of the experience of my depression has been six+ months of writer’s block.

Related article: 3 Strategies for Overcoming Artist's Block

I remember having been a writer when I was seven years old - sitting on a concrete wall outside of my elementary school, scribbling with a #2 pencil, getting into words how angry and sad I was (because, yes, the depression isn’t a new thing for me). There was, and has almost always been, a sense of relief in getting thoughts out of my head and onto a page; it made the feelings, the impressions and thoughts, more knowable. Where before I had a head full of color and sound and shapes and impressions, once I wrote it down, I could look my thoughts in the eye and get to know them better.

Which is why having writer’s block for over half a year has been so hard for me; its left my thoughts lodged in my head, where they keep changing and shifting, moving and evading me. And it's taken me over a half a year to figure out what I’m going to do about it.

Giving myself permission

It seems obvious once its decided; what does one do about writer’s block? Or any other type of creative block? How do you solve a problem like a creator who isn’t creating?

Well, after much therapy, giving of advice to others, deliberation (and some fighting with myself), and a few bouts of mindfulness, I’ve realized what I have to do; I have to give myself permission to have writer’s block. It wasn’t easy. I’ve fought myself tooth and nail about this, mostly because I thought that I was giving up, instead of moving up. But once I figured this out, it was like waking up from a fitful sleep; I could see a clearer, and I realized - with total trust that it was true - that this bout of writer’s block would, absolutely, come to an end.

It was, and is, a relief. The end is out there - maybe not near, but it exists and I will reach it some day. Heck, the other day I actually felt the itch to pick up a pen and a notebook! I didn’t end up writing anything, but the urge and want was there! It was a great feeling, one that I’ve missed for six months. And when the urge came back, but didn’t end up in anything being created, I took a second to make sure I didn’t beat myself up about it. I actually rewarded myself (I made banana bread), because when it comes to overcoming depression even just the urge to create was a thing worth encouraging in myself. If I had responded to that experience by punishing myself in some way, it may have unconsciously taught me to not even try, and would have dimmed the faint light that I feel coming back.

Self Care

A lot of noise gets made about self-care.

I’m here to say that it should be listened to. It may not all work for you, individually, but it all works for someone and some of it will work for you.

Sometimes self care if putting pen or pencil to paper, and spilling your mind out into images and words.

Sometimes self care is creating something that isn’t up to your standards, in order to allow yourself to learn.

And, contrary to even my own thoughts for a long time, sometimes self care if giving yourself permission to put the pen, pencil, or keyboard down, and take some time to heal.

The writer’s block will come to an end. And the lesson that I’ve learned in the meantime; breath, sleep, socialize with friends, take your rx meds if you have them, see your therapist if you have one, and take care of yourself so that your creativity has a home to return to.