View Full Version : Artists & Depression

Sherry Barrow
05-28-2007, 03:58 PM
Hi all, I read a thread in "Creativity" or "Oils" not sure wich. But there was an artist who has "Severe" depression and is suicidal. Now I have dealt with my depression since about 1994. I am 37 right now. And I still have not been able to find a "competent" Dr. to find the right "combintation" of meds for me. It is a day to day struggle and it really affects my art and being able to "focus" & relax and just paint. Of course, my 3 little girls are not really accomadating to me working on my art either. And I get so frusturated at the constant interuptions that I feel like throwing all my art stuff in the trash and just "give up". Or break down in tears.Now, I have tried doing it after they are in bed, but they just "Suck the life right out of me" and I am to exhausted to do anything but collapse onto my bed. And they are "Early Risers" a lot earlier than I like as well.
I know another artist in my area who painted while raising (6) kids at her feet! And I don't know how she did it. But she is very successful. I have a problem just painting with two home while the other is in school. I read a lot of the replies to the post and was not aware that "SO MANY" artists suffer from "Depression". And I am curious, if that its the "type" of people we are and the way an artists mind works....or is it just "coincidental"? Suggestions where made that the poster come to this area and they would find several likewise fellow artists. I have to agree though, that his depression sounds more like it is due to his "circumstances" right now and not something that is chemical in the brain that he has dealt with for years. I would like to hear from other artists on this subject wether they have depression or not and get some opinions. And especially if there are any other artists with small kids at home who find it difficult to "balance" everything and still manage to turn out a nice painting once in awhile.

05-28-2007, 04:39 PM
I know folks who struggle with the med combo problem. Finding the right doctor is the first & hard part. They're human and fall into traps, like having favorite meds, disregarding patient input or not differentiating between patients. I've seen people struggle on unhelpful meds for a while because the doc wasn't really working with them on finding better ones.

The hardest part is, you're trying to overcome this problem while in the midst of the depression, when you're feeling the least up to it.

05-28-2007, 05:50 PM
I was depressed before I was an artist so I really don't think they have anything to do with each other. Honestly, my Dr. suggested I got a hobby to help me with my depression and I chose art.
I was diagnosed with PTSD 3yrs ago, 2yrs after a very horrible experience.Though I had had anxiety problems as teenager and depression. I took up painting 2 years ago. I've gone through a lot of medication in the past 3 years. The medication made me even more depressed than I had been and I started becoming suicidal. I also stopped painting. I got myself off Zoloft almost a year ago. Continued to take Xanax for anxiety, a birth control shot triggered my depression again late last year. I stayed off antidepressants. my doctor pushed another antidepressant on me for 4 weeks. after the 4 weeks I refused to take them again. I stopped taking Xanax a little over a month ago. I'm still dealing with withdrawals. But I'm happy to say that I have not had any depression for a while now and I'm dealing with the anxiety without drugs. After getting off my meds and my doctor insisting I needed to go back on them, I got rid of him too.
Now I'm drug free, bad doctor free, and depression free.
Now I am planning to start painting again. I've started working on my drawing recently.
I don't really buy the whole "artistic temperament" thing or the suffering for your art.
I have 3 children myself which made it very hard for me to paint as well. So, I get my kids involved. my girls have their own easels, I give them canvas and paints. My son is just a toddler so I buy him color wonder fingerpaints, so he can paint too but not make a mess all over himself or the room.
A lot of the times its my own laziness that keeps me from doing anything. When my kids nap, I could do something, but I'd rather just enjoy the quiet and read a book. I have noticed now that I am not on drugs that I had/have plenty of opprtunities to paint and that the kids aren't all that bad. I think that it wasn't my kids that were annoying or frustrating. It was my own mindset.

05-28-2007, 06:07 PM
Another artist with depression here. I think it is just a co-incidence; though many therapist reccommend art, gardening, etc as activities that can help us live some sort of life while depressed.

I have such empathy with you; three small children and depression. It can not be easy for you!

My reccommendation for you would to see phsyciatrist to treat your depression. I began seeing on two years ago and was surprised that I was totally wrong about what they do. They evaluate the patient for what type of depression and medicate according to the patient and they monitor the patient and the affectiveness of the drugs. They do not do counseling.

I have seen two in the last two years actually. One I found with the Department of Social Services; paid for by first Medicaid and now Medicare. The other was ordered by Social Security when I applied for disability. Both seemed cold to me. Not heartless just detached. That is when I learned their true role in our health care. A therapist is often still needed.

There is a thread here in the Cafe and in my signature for Differently Abled Artists and many of us have depression. Please come on over!

Good luck to you! And you are dealing with a lot. But please do not throw away your art supplies. Your kids will get older and as they age you will have more time for self. Kids are draining! LOL It is a full time job plus l lots of OT!

05-28-2007, 09:17 PM
Here are some natural remedies you might want to look into if prescription meds aren't working for you (or if you'd just rather be off the prescription stuff). These should not, however, be taken in combination with prescription meds.

St. John's Wort
Rhodiola Rosea
SAM-e (S-Adensyl Methionine)

I personally think RR is the best. It gives me energy and I actually want to get up and do things. Great stuff! :)

Sherry Barrow
05-28-2007, 10:10 PM
Thankyou, Is that stuff over the counter in the "Herbal" area? I would love to be off of the meds, but I am scared to go off them for fear of "What COULD happen" I have been on them for so long now, that I fear going "crazy" or off the deep end or something. But the idea of being DRUG FREE is very appealing to me.
Thinking about it.....
Might have to do some research. And I know exactley what my Dr.Quack would say to the idea. So I will make this decision on my own I guess.LOL

Thanks again!

05-28-2007, 11:32 PM
I would suggest trying to find a Naturopathic Doctor to help you with adding the supplements and weaning off the meds. NDs are much more open to alternative remedies and much more sympathetic to your desire to get off the prescription stuff than the typical MD.

05-28-2007, 11:36 PM
Sherry, it is a shame that you do not have a doctor who is open to alternative medicine! That stinks. Is there a chance to find another doctor who would be willing and open to discussing this with you? You may want to read over your medical insurance policy to see what they will pay for and then insist your doctor give you a referral. Going to a licensed Herbalist is well worth the money and perhaps ask for references.

My oldest daughter didn't believe in herbal medicine despite the fact she had huge fast growing ovarian cysts and mutilple surgeries. She finally went and he (her herbalist is Chinese) put her on a regime of herbs and the cysts were gone in two months. The doctors and the ultrasound techs could hardly believe what they saw on the new images.

Becareful and good luck!

05-29-2007, 09:23 PM
I would think that alot depends on what kind of artwork an artist produces. Watercolour landscape will need space, time and material to work from, often completing the work in one session. Wildlife or any kind of detailed work can be started then left to carry on with later. Finding time to sit and paint is difficult for most people. Having peace and quiet is important for an artist to be still so they can draw on their creativity. To produce art is also a process, walking, being somewhere beautiful , looking at other artist's work, even writing thoughts down can be helpful. I can paint for a few days and the work is not that strong to begin with by the fifth day it is starting to come together. I have recently found abstract art a wonderful way to paint when I am unable to paint my usual landscapes. It gets me started which is the hardest thing to do when painting from home and I don't have children. The work of Hans Hoffman is so bright and uplifting so I started painting in bright pinks and yellows and orange, something I had not done before. To make paintings should be fun, its creative and exciting. I am very depressed if I cannot paint yet yearn to paint, so painting in fun way is so helpful. Instead of pills and potions which can deaden the creative spirit Iwould suggest grabbing a canvas and just throw paint on it and have fun and not worry about the result. You may be wonderfully surprised at the results.

Be open to change and make things happen.

06-01-2007, 08:30 AM
Just wanted to say a word about herbal meds.
St Johns Wort, is one of the oldest remedies known it's gentle but extremley effective, a word of warning though, if you live in a hot sunny climate then my doc advised against taking them, apparently they and the sun don't mix.

lacey sprocket
06-01-2007, 03:37 PM
I think that there is no one "type" of person who is an artist. I think that everyone has artistic potential of some kind, but most people have suppresed it. There are, of course, the kind of artists who are not happy if they are away from thier art for long. I'm one of those, I think. I'm a very cheerful and friendly person, positive and optamistic. But if I had to stop painting, I'm pretty sure I couldn't function, or I'd at least be very unhappy about it. I draw almost every day, quite often for hours. I've tailored my life around having enough "me time".

It must be very hard for you not to have time to do what you love! I would suggest maybe taking a small travel sketch kit with you and doing little 15 minute sketches whenever you can find a bit of time in you busy day (it's loads of fun drawing unsuspection people while waiting at the dmv, for instance). I've been participating in the scavenger hunt over in the art from life forum, that's a great spot for ideas of things to draw.

Also, try not to be to hard on yourself! A really great method I learned from my best friend is that every time you have a negative thought, you immeadiately think of something positive about it.
eg. Oh rats! There's stupid traffic!-It's okay. Now I will have some time to listen to music and slow down a bit.
This drawing sucks! I suck!- I know that's not true. I will stop judging, and just enjoy the act of creating.
Or Barn's burnt down. Now I can see the moon.
It seems a bit hoaky, but it really help you change your attitude!

Apparently, when you establish an emotional pattern, the neurons in your brian create a faster path to that emotion. So if you can break your negative emotional response and replace it with a positive one, it will become easier and easier for the positive neuro-net to fire instead of the negative one. Could help alleviate some of your symptoms of deppresion, I dunno. Worth a shot, right?

Sherry Barrow
06-01-2007, 04:19 PM
Thankyou for your replies. I will definatley look into herbs more before I go buy any. It can get pretty hot here during the summer months. I do need to change my way of thinking. So much of what you said is true and makes alot of sense. Try to find good in something, even if it is little or simple.
I went of Zoloft 3 days ago, and so far so good....I just don't want to rely on meds anymore. I need to change my attitude and "relax" more and enjoy life. Paint and enjoy being a mom. I just posted under creativity, and it was quite long, so I want to make this short and go look and see what new paint supplies I need. "Its always fun waiting for new stuff" to arrive!
Then maybe I can relax and work on a painting. I will research the Herb stuff more, Because, if my mood goes bezerk, I would like to be able to try to "intercept" it so to speak, without or before having to go back on another Med. Well, hope to talk to you all soon! I am sure I will. I am sure enjoying the people here. Very understanding and friendly!
Thanks again!

06-01-2007, 05:45 PM
Jumped over here because I saw the thread about Artists and Depression.

Some how I do believe that there is more of a connection between the two. The "artistic temprament" does exist for some, if not the majority, of us. It has been posted recently that artists are super sensitive to their surrounding and I believe that is true as well. There are some very interesting conversations popping up around this subject. Recent events in ones own life and the recent happenings around the world has influenced this.

I wonder however if we are "over drugged" - hence my extreme hesitation to go on medication. But people close to me that love me very much told me how serious the situation was becoming.

I post know because of my concern of people considering getting off of their prescription medication. I am no where near a DR, but I have a DOC who is/was very adament that you do NOT go cold turkey on these pills.... any of them. Please consult with your doc first..... even if they are not respondent to you wanting to get off - you just flat out tell them that you ARE getting off and you want suggestions on the best way how. Or ask another doctor.

Homeo pathic remedies are great and I fully suggestion you persue them with a homepathic professional. I have had many practical successful experiences. Migraines, menstrual troubles etc.

My Doc had me wean off of the pills.


06-01-2007, 07:12 PM
Speaking of positive thinking, I found an exercise for myself that helped me with depression. At night, I would go through and think of everything that I was grateful for that happened during the day. Pretty soon, I found every day, I would start to look for things that inspired my gratitude. It made a big difference in my thought patterns and my mood.

Also, absolutely get help getting of any medications. Having been there, I can tell you it can be quite uncomfortable, and even dangerous to go cold turkey.

06-02-2007, 12:40 AM
I don't think depression has anything to do with profession of beeing an artist. There are milions of people in US suffering from depression no matter what they do or who they are. I am not american, but I am here long enough to notice far too many people are diagnozed with depression and put on all kinds of strong drugs to "help them". It is much easier for the doctor to prescribe medication than to deal with the problem any other way. I am an artist and had depression only once in my life for about a year. I got depressed because of very serious surgery. After few months I got sick and tired of beeing controlled by Zoloft and beeing happy no matter what. I didn't want to be a "robot" controlled by drug. I slowly quit Zoloft under doctor supervision and never had depression again. In my opinion this is a trap. Once you start treat depression with drugs, you feel dependent on it and you are afraid to be on your own, you don't know if you still need it, but just to be sure, you stay on it and you are turned into controlled machine, walking on drugs. This is not really you. Your brain is controlled! What do you have to loose if you slowly quit? If depression comes back you can always go back on drugs. If it doesn't come back, you will be yourself, feeling better, free of drugs. You know all of those drugs help one thing, but damage other. They have nasty side effects. I gained so much weight on Zoloft I hated myself. I was artificially happy mentally and at the same time couldn't look at myself.
It is all about attitude, personality, outlook at your life, positive thinking, not worrying but trying to solve problems, enjoying little daily good things, do what is right, accomplish something every day, be nice to everybody........
List goes on and on. If you have the right attitude and positive thinking even in chronic pain you will be much happier. Don't count on miracle pill. There are none of them. We have to change ourselves slowly to be positive and happy no matter what and this will take care of everything in our lives. I know what I am talking about, I did it. I am free of any drugs, have aches and pains, but I am happy every morning to meet a new day. Try it. I am sure it will work.

Mariette Deveau
06-02-2007, 12:48 PM
... I didn't want to be a "robot" controlled by drug....you are turned into controlled machine, walking on drugs.
This is not really you. Your brain is controlled! ...
I gained so much weight on Zoloft I hated myself. I was artificially happy mentally and at the same time couldn't look at myself.

:) I felt the same way too, every time I've been on anti-depressants. I hated looking at my eyes in the mirror. And I felt as if I wasn't really myself.
I've been off antidepressants for over a year and half now, and I feel much better off of them than on them.

06-02-2007, 08:23 PM
Hi Sherry, It is true a lot of artists do seem to have depressive times. I don't think it is a rule though. I have been on meds for 8 yrs now and still have down times. The creative process is a draining one and if you really want to do it and find you can't then it can be a problem. I have times when I am totally driven and feel wonderful. My psychiatrist calls them "windows of wellness", which I am using as a theme in my work. I can relate to katzarecool as well, I procrastinate, read a book, find something else to do and become overwhelmed with the big picture. I can't even imagine what it is like with 3 kids!!! I don't have any. I was a teacher for 24 yrs and did no artwork in this time. I think there was a reason women in the early 20th century chose between marriage and art. We find it difficult to distance ourselves from the day to day responsibilities.

Mariette Deveau
06-09-2007, 01:26 PM
... Finding the right doctor is the first & hard part. They're human and fall into traps, like having favorite meds, disregarding patient input or not differentiating between patients.
So very, very true ! They just don't have the time. And for the most part, they just don't seem to listen very well to the patient, no matter what you're going in for. Even "specialists" don't seem to actually listen to you, to symtoms. I always leave an appointment with a doctor (whether it's for me or my kids) feeling like they just "didn't get it", or that what I said just fell on "deaf" ears. I always feel like I've wasted my time, and obviously, in some cases their's. It seems that this applies more so for female patients. Men seem to be taken more seriously, and women viewed more as "complainers", or sometimes "hysterical".

06-09-2007, 05:10 PM
To add my two cents for what it's worth, I've dealt with chronic illness since I was 17 years old and am now 59. At first I wasn't depressed, but as the years rolled on and life got complicated I began a constant low level depression that has never really left me. I have tried antidepressants a couple of time only in the past few years, but they all bother my stomach terribly, feel like I have the flu really, so I never make it past a week or so with them.

I will say that one thing that did help me tremendously was something another member wrote to you. That was keeping a gratitude journal. It turned me into an optimistic person--something I certainly am not by nature. :) I began by taking scrap paper and listing 100 things I was grateful for. You do that just to get the obvious ones out of your system, so to say. From then on you get a little journal and write down five things you are grateful for every night before you go to bed. Things such as "that smile my neighbor gave me at just right time today" or "seeing my daughter's glee when I handed her that cupcake" count in the book as much as winning $500 would. Whatever touched you in a good way counts. After a few weeks of doing that faithfully each night you won't believe how your mood and attitude miraculously will change. (This all comes from Julia Cameron's book, "The Artist Way".)

I agree with you. I also have often wondered about the connection betweeen depression and artists. The member who mentioned the fact that so many artists are extremely sensitive people may have just put her finger on one of the very big links between the two. Strangely, I also notice that artists, almost across the board, seem to be very much interested in nature and animals, particularly their pets. (Yes, I know lots of people like their pets, but so many artists seem to be REALLY close to their pets.)

I also have 3 children and from looking back at the days of raising them, I can truly say it was the most tiring, all encompassing thing I ever did in my life. I also stopped doing art while raising them and only began again when they were much older than yours are and I became so physically ill that I had to rest. In the boredom of my resting, I picked up my old paints and brushes that had been tucked far away for a dozen years or so. Please hold on and know that it does get better. You are living in a very emotionally and physically demanding stage of motherhood. It's no wonder you have nothing left to give to creativity or artwork. It takes an enormous amount of creativity to entertain three little ones every day!

Feeling drained from your day in the house with very young children is normal. Please don't judge yourself by the woman with 6 kids who continued her career, either. She must either be superwoman or there's a lot more to that story. I would highly doubt that she carried on any kind of very productive art career if she was the sole laundress, nanny, cook, driver, listener, planner, playmate, food shopper, social director, referee, etc. for her six kids when they were all young! If somehow, she really did accomplish it all she's an exception, believe me. NONE of my friends, who paint now, painted when they were in the midst of child rearing. So again, please hold on. It does get better as they get older.

If you really feel the need to do art, perhaps (along with the gratitude journal which takes very little time every evening) you could keep a regular journal and illustrate a page here and there when time allows with small sketches, doodles or paintings. Journalling is often suggested to help relieve depression, anyway, and the artsy part of your journal might help you to express your artistic creativity in small bites that you can squeeze in time for.

Good luck with whatever you do. You'll be in my thoughts. Having been a young mother of three myself I feel for you. IT IS NOT EASY. It's hard work physically and emotionally and it can also be very isolating. Please know that other mothers DO understand.

Best to You, Judi

06-12-2007, 07:24 AM
Hi everyone, i thought i would share my self too..I have suffered depression on and off for years. Mine i am sure is circumstantial..rejection, guilt, worry, fear etc..I had an emotional breakdown 11 months ago, i am still recovering. I was on Ciprimal for about 8 months..taking myself off them slowly, its been a month now, but i feel more myself, on the meds i dont get emotional, i dont cry, and i still got depressed. I have my up days and my down days, the past few have been down. But i have been learning the power of positive thinking and it really does help. Amazingily. Also, today, i thought to myself, ok girl, get in the shower, get your act together, you arent going to be down today, (some days this doesnt work) but today i made myself laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more..and believe me, it was awesome, i got so many good endorphins running through my body that i was happy, myself..I have been having some councelling with a friend, for the positive thinking mainly, and realising the negative that came out of my mouth, about myself. I have been trying hard to turn this around, i have to continually remind myself though. I think the artist thing and depression could be true, even though i have only just started painting, but thats my opinion, im a very sensitive person, i take lots to heart, i let that determine whether i am happy or not..or if i can paint or not..its frustrating..very annoying..i sympathise with you all, especially with little little children...just keep on being positive, learn to love yourself, i am working on this..We are here for one another, when one is up the other is down, phew. If at anytime anyone wants to talk, im here most of the time..im a kind compassionate person, who does care about others..and their welfare and happiness. I find also that if i am helping others i am less likely to be down.

06-12-2007, 07:36 AM
Judi, you said a mouthful there woman and I so agree. I also put away my art when my kids were small. Twenty something years. I did sneak some alone time late at night when everyone was asleep and got lost in drawing. When I lost my job due to my health; out came the art supplies and they multiplied and anyone coming in this place knows an artist lives here. Every container holds pencils, tubes of paint, brushes, canvases stacked every where. LOL

And I love your job description for moms! And I also felt constantly tired chasing after three little ones. Great advice here!

06-29-2007, 04:23 PM
Not a doctor? don't give medical advice! never start or quit any drug unless you are under care of a doctor. many of the clients i see started to the slippery path of addiction by trying to self-medicate, some died from suicide when they stopped taking drugs without telling their Dr. The withdrawals can be severe and need to be done only as prescribed by the Dr. Joining a group where others talk over their concerns in a supportive manner can be helpful. AA/NA help me with problems that don't seem related to aasubstance abuse, but everything is related. My 2 large dogs often make it as difficult to draw as 10 kids, especially plein aire. There is always a light at the end of a tunnel, you will feel better just by sharing on this forum, keep posting.

06-29-2007, 07:21 PM
Hi Sherry, many of us have struggled with depression at one time or another, for some prescription meds; have been the answer but not for others, we are all individuals so you need to find out what is right for you. One thing I know is don't give up your creativity through frustration, be kind to yourself & tell yourself it's okay, there is a time & place for everything. Have you tried exercising or walking, if it is possible to pop your little ones in a pram go to a park or child's playground, once the oldest is at school I know it is all time consuming but even once a week to start with, wear the little treasures out & at the same time working on those endorphins as study has shown exercise does help. At first you may have too discipline yourself to get out there & do it but you will in time feel the benefits of your labor & maybe inspiration for your creativity will benefit also, routine is an important factor as well, so be gentle on yourself don't look at the big picture & be devoured take little steps.
Kind Regards

06-29-2007, 08:08 PM
Hi Sherry -

Another "mom of three" here. Don't dawg yourself for what you can't do...when mine were very little I used to just read and reread Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" knowing that I was sending my intention out there into the universe. Now my kids are 7, 9 and 11 and I know that I'm still a looooong way from being able to paint as much as I'd like, or think I "should be able to". If I can get in a few hours a week I feel I've REALLY accomplished something....and it can be weeks and weeks between painting opportunities! I have suffered from a low-level depression on and off over the years...and I REALLY agree that it's important to make any decisions about medication with your doctor.

Take it easy on your sweet self. Know that the kids will be up and out before we even turn around, even if it doesn't seem like that right now!

06-30-2007, 07:16 PM
Just a quick note, you must find a good herbalist or naturpathic md. I actually run a supplement store and have had so many customers find relief by going natural, it will take a little longer but the side effects are way less. Please go by referals and do your own research on the supplements cause just cause they are np md's does not mean some are not cooky. Some supplements my customers have used and myself included are...Tyrosine, Theanine, Bach Rescue Remedy, green tea , high potency b-complex, and st johns. Be very carefull using st johns or 5-htp if you have any tendency towards manic depression, as those two can make the manic or high symptoms worse. Hope that helps.

*prayer is also very important no matter your beliefs*