I am going to be honest. I have just emerged from a really long, and really brutal depression. It started in late Spring, and slowly tapered off over the last month which I find so curious since this time of year usually is when I go down given the colder weather (which really aggravates my chronic health condition) and the darkness/shorter days.
I’m not really sure what changed and how I climbed out of it. Or even if I am fully out of it but, I do know that I tried to think of the things I really love, and if you have experienced depression you’ll know what I mean when I say, I forced myself to do them.
At first there were days I would wander into my studio, unshowered, and just gaze at the the mess of it all, feeling the overwhelm hit me square in the chest. I’d quickly retreat back to my bed, or my couch, or the floor. There were moments I told myself I should probably give up making art, that voice in my head telling me that I’m not creating anything awesome anyway, and that I should stop trying to be creative.
But I kept trying to walk in there everyday. Slowly I started to tidy things up, put things away. Mind you, these were micro movements made over many weeks.
I began trying to make things. The first several weeks I felt like everything I touched just turned to complete shit…I realised I was rushing myself, taking shortcuts that I should not and making a lot of crap. There was a lot of that. To some extent there is always that.
Over the summer, I made a new friend. She is also a creative who goes through the ups and downs of mood challenges and happened to be having a similarly bad time at the same time I was struggling. We planned art dates where we created something in a new to us medium, we went to nearby museums, we haunted yard sales and flea markets looking for objects that would shake up our inspiration, and we texted almost everyday. At first I was grumpy about the texts asking “what did you make today?”, but I began to slowly appreciate them for the nudge that they were.
One of the things standing in my way I found was all the projects I had started over the year and abandoned. Pieces and parts were laying all over the place and I felt it was impossible to move forward until I figured out what to do with them. I took things apart, I abandoned ideas, or I decided to complete things. My goal became to finish the things I chose to finish and then move on.
A funny thing happened…once I began to do that… it was like a heavy door slid open in my mind and new ideas, good ideas, ideas that excited me started coming in. This became something that motivated me even more to complete those half finished pieces…so I could get to the new stuff.
I brought candles into my studio, I burned sage, I planted spring bulbs to force, I found and placed many small totems around my space, and the energy began to change, Suddenly, I could not wait to finish work, or responsibilities and get in to my studio. And I worked. And I answered those texts, and I worked some more.
I feel as if this “fog lifting” is very tentative…Having lived with mental health challenges my entire life, I’ve grown accustomed to false starts and full stops, but I also know that being in my studio, doing what I love in the brightest room in my home with my sweet puppy on his chair, having impromtu dance parties….all of it is healing me. Again.
Be patient with yourself. You don’t have to create masterpieces every time you make a thing. Let yourself be in that quiet space of creation. Let yourself be messy. Cry, laugh, dance if it helps, but don’t give up. Sit on the floor and just be. Write. Sing. Scream. Remind yourself why you create. Look for ways to get out of your own way. Reach out to others. Hug your pet/kids/partner/self.
Just don’t give up.
The worst of you is not the all of you.