Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Depression and Creativity

I've made it no secret about my struggle with depression over the past year and a half or so. I have, however, glossed over a bit as to how it's impacted me creatively. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and have decided that it's time for me to be more public about it and ask for advice.

I have been on Zoloft since October of 2012. It took over a full year for me to finally get to a dosage that suited me and actually helped. During this time I was a mess and life seemed more overwhelming and frustrating than ever. Mainly because I was ON medication but it simply wasn't working. Until November of 2013 when the doctor upped my dosage one final time and everything seemed to click into place. At least, I thought it did.

Ever since I started taking the Zoloft I have been blocked creatively. I simply haven't been able to write, read, or do anything that I used to enjoy that involved the written word. I used to write around 1,000 words a day; now I'm lucky if I get 100 words a week. I watch TV a lot now (which I never did before). I think because it's mind-numbing and something I don't really have to think about much. Watching people pick out ridiculously expensive houses in the Bahamas is easier than pounding my head against the laptop in shame.

It's not that I don't want to write. I DO. DESPERATELY. I have always had big dreams and goals. This may sound weird but I've never really failed at anything. Not when it mattered, anyway. And the fact that I'm failing at this makes me sick to my stomach. It then brings up the argument I always have with myself about not being good enough, not being a "real" writer, etc. Which is a slippery slope for me and probably everyone that deals with anxiety/depression. Once one thing goes wrong, everything follows suit and you're soon in a cycle of self-doubt that you cannot see the end of. 

I write all that to ask this: Are you on any medication for depression or anxiety? Do you feel like it hinders you creatively? Did you change medications? Did it help? I'm not against changing medications. However, I'm not looking forward to the side effects of going off one medication to try who knows how many others. It's frustrating to me that I feel like I have to choose between being a sane person and being a writer and it saddens me to see how often the two go hand-in-hand with each other. I'm finally at a good point mentally and I don't want to mess that up, but I refuse to believe that it's simply impossible for me to be mentally stable AND write. I also refuse give up on my dream. Not yet, anyway.


  1. I took medication for a looooong time. And it did help me. But I found that it made me a zombie. I lost my creativity, my passion.... a lot of the things that made me who I am. I tried other medications, but the result always seems to be the same. I stopped taking meds because the trade off became not worth it. I completely understand what you are going through. I remember crying to my therapist that I was better but worse. He reminded me that medications for mental illness do not fix the problem. They aren't like antibiotics that kill a virus. They are like cold or headache medications; they treat the symptoms. And sadly depression is not "fixable" in a tangible way with medication. The symptoms can be managed but that's as far as medication goes. Now I am not saying you should stop or change your meds. I cannot say what is best for you, and would never presume to know the best course of care for anyone. I wish I could help more, but all I can do is offer my own experiences and my support. If you ever want to chat, I am totes here for you friend :)

    1. Thank you! I know therapy would help me (and probably be the answer to most of my problems), but I have exhausted that route. I have been stood up by three and called countless others that aren't taking new patients. To the point where I have called literally every therapist that our insurance covers. And sadly I cannot afford to go without insurance. Blah.

  2. (@kerravonsen here via @rj_anderson's retweet of your @StephPellegrin tweet)

    I too am on Zoloft for depression. I haven't noticed it impacting my creativity, but since I'm a hobbyist, that may simply be due to me being able to take up and put down my projects when I feel like it; being under less pressure to produce. Mind you, of late I've turned from writing (fanfic) to the less brain-intense creative outlet of making symbolic jewellery because I find it more relaxing than writing - including the fact that it's quicker to finish a necklace than a story! (I like having things *finished*) But that doesn't mean I've turned away from writing completely, I'm just taking a bit of a break. So perhaps it might help if you worked on shorter pieces for a while, rather than expecting to run a marathon immediately? They could be part of the world-building for a future novel, giving you a better feel for the world and/or characters that inhabit it.

    As for therapy, yes, people have suggested it to me from time to time, but I'm not sure what I would *say*. I had therapy a while back to help me get over a bad relationship, but that was something specific, and Depression doesn't have something specific to point to, so I'm not sure how it would go forward.

    My mantra in regard to depression is: Depression Is Not Rational.
    When I'm in the midst of a depressive episode, everything that is said, everything that I think, is twisted to make me feel worse, no matter how sensible or rational the thought is, no matter how optimistic or pessimistic the thought is, it is all turned to black. It's like being surrounded by Dementors. Indeed, I find the analogy of Dementors a helpful way of thinking about it, because it helps me to realize that I don't have to own those black thoughts - it isn't *me* thinking them, it's the Depression. It's as if there were Dementors around me sapping my ability to think sensibly. And while I may be weeping and sad and upset right now, it will not last forever, it will pass.
    That doesn't stop the episode, no, but it does help me to hang on in the midst of it.

    I do hope you find a way forward for your creativity. For me, making beautiful things helps to keep me sane. :-)

  3. With the words of Art Buchwald I want to say that,"Sharing our depressions felt like having survived a war.The experience bonds you to the other person for life."Best wishes.

  4. Creativity is all about thinking, so it only makes sense that all of that thinking would lead to manic episodes of feeling hopeless, alone, or like a failure. Maybe you’ve felt those emotions a lot yourself.

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