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Old 04-14-2019, 08:10 AM
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hmshood5 hmshood5 is offline
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Depression and creativity issues

Hi folks... been awhile since I posted anything in the Creativity forum. As the title says, I'm battling depression right now, and it has affected my artwork. You can't steer by the stars when you can't see them. I've totally lost interest in model building and drawing; many of my drawings are half-finished and I just walked away from them. I still paint, but lately I've been having to force myself to do it. I've also started painting abstracts as a sort of therapy. They're mostly shades of gray with a splash of color. Yes, I am seeing a therapist right now, and I know that it may be a long road, but I just want to be happy and creative again. Has anyone else dealt with this? How did you get through it?
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Old 04-14-2019, 09:21 AM
lambentLogic lambentLogic is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Doing anything is a struggle in depression. It is good that you are getting through your days and managing some painting.

Holding onto your hobbies (and/or work) isn't easy, but when you look at it from the standpoint of sometimes in depression you have to force yourself to get up / eat and drink / practice hygiene ... just because you had to force yourself to do something doesn't mean you aren't getting something out of it. If you feel better when you accomplish that task, prescribe it to yourself or tell your therapist/doctor about it and potentially get the weight of an expert party's viewpoint behind that prescription. Try not to focus on what you don't get done out of these tasks that you need to push yourself to do; focus on appreciating what you did get done. Some days that'll be painting an abstract work. Other days it might be getting out of bed, or being able to enjoy a movie, or a friend's company.

Schedules can help; at least for me having a solid plan and obligation in place sets me on autopilot enough that unless I'm feeling bad enough to call in sick, I can make it through the actual steps of accomplishment even if unmotivated. I also don't worry as much about what I am or am not getting done outside the schedule, though that's more a salve for anxiety.

Being happy when fighting depression, that has been possible for me in the past but it is hard to say whether or when that will be possible for anyone else. In the same sense that can be hard to get to 'feeling well' when sick with the flu. Count and appreciate smaller victories at functioning and times where you can breathe easier in some way. Gratitude still helps but it takes some recalibration when you do not feel so well, or are having difficulty feeling at all.
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Old 04-14-2019, 10:03 AM
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sykirobme sykirobme is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

I have struggled with depression my entire life, and it got especially acute in the past 10 years or so as I struggled with job and marriage issues, a separation and a divorce, and now I'm watching as I'm losing my mother to mental illness. Many days of getting home from work and just sitting on a living room with no illumination save that provided by a TV feeding me depressing news, feeling the walls get closer and closer each day until it felt like I was living in a box. In my youth, I was insanely creative, writing stories, writing songs, drawing and painting...as things got worse for me it became an effort just to do simple things like make coffee.

I will say up front that I have always rejected psychoactive meds, though I have had problems with self-medicating. I believe in talk therapy, but I've found the therapists I can afford tend to be ineffective, while the effective ones are just too much for my budget.

I'm still not out of it, but I've found ways to get that spark back. In no particular order:

- Schedules, as lambentLogic mentions. Sunday is my meal prep day. I have to clean my pets' cage each week. Saturday mornings I have a little painting "class" with my niece and her kids.

- Pets. I rent so I can't have a dog or cat, but I have fancy rats (don't balk, they're like little dogs mixed with a tiny bit of cat). They are super intelligent and affectionate and help with scheduling as alluded to above. I know I have to take them out of their cage every day for exercise. I have a feeding schedule to keep. And because they're rodents and don't respond (except by fear) to raised voices when they're naughty, I have to always treat them gently...which can help my mood even when I'm in a dark place. These guys literally saved my life when I got my first trio a few years ago.

- Outdoor activity. In the past year, I've taken up hiking as a hobby. Even got snowshoes this past winter so as not to stay cooped up during the worst months for mood. Not only does it give me necessary exercise, I get to be outside in nature, using my camera to collect ideas for new paintings. Studies have shown at least 30 minutes per week in nature has enormous benefit to mental health, and at least 15 minutes per week of exercise will do the same. A good, challenging hike can provide both benefits...when I get home from a 7-mile walk, I am energized and ready to do anything.

- Healthy eating. I love cooking, and I try to make sure I have nutritious meals prepped for my whole week: breakfast (usually a breakfast casserole, but sometimes I just prep veggies to make morning omlettes), lunch (leafy greens, fruit, yogurt and a different hot dish every week), and dinner (hot dish and a simple side). Sometimes I'll make healthy snacks like roasted chickpeas or a fresh loaf of bread, too. Too much sugar or junk food can really affect your brain chemistry...I do allow myself to indulge a lot on weekends, though.

- Forcing it. It's difficult sometimes to get up off the couch to do what you really want to do. But sometimes I find I just have to make myself go downstairs to the studio space and just work. It might take a while to get going, but eventually I find my flow and get lost in the work.

- Stay away from the internet. This is probably the most difficult thing for me. Browsing Reddit or even WC can sometimes become an excuse for not doing anything. "Ah, I meant to start at 6:30 but I've been looking at memes and now it's 6:35...I'll start at 7:00.....Ah, it's 7:05 now, I'll just finish this article and start at 7:30....That article was long, it's 7:45 now, I'll start at 8:00...." And so on.

Those are some off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions for strategies to keep the depression at bay. They're not always easy to implement, and I still have wasted days, but I find when I can stick with at least a few of these, life becomes a little bit easier to take.

Last edited by sykirobme : 04-14-2019 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 04-21-2019, 02:47 PM
brusher brusher is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Your work is wonderful, I always love seeing it in the Acrylics forum, and I'm sorry to hear you are going through this right now.

Is there any medical reason for your depression, did you get advice from a medical doctor? Could it be age-related?

I wonder if an antidepressant might be of help, if nothing else does. The only problem is, they can be addictive if taken long-term, and it can be very difficult then to come off them. (But, I think a few weeks or even a few months only, wouldn't have that result.) For what it's worth.

You've gotten excellent on-point advice above, there's not much I can add. Some of the above advice is a great help to me also, by the way! But I hope things will look better for you, soon. If you're still painting - at all - that's a good sign.

Cathy

Last edited by brusher : 04-21-2019 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 04-21-2019, 04:45 PM
theBongolian theBongolian is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

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Originally Posted by hmshood5
I know that it may be a long road, but I just want to be happy and creative again. Has anyone else dealt with this? How did you get through it?
buPROPion and lorazepam.
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Old 04-21-2019, 06:08 PM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

I can't paint when I'm depressed, so what I do instead is study. I read about various art movements and artists and watch videos about techniques. I look for reference photos outside of the ones I take myself.

I went through a tough patch recently due to serious eye problems. Was quite depressed and full of fear about the future. So I did all the above but also spent time indulging myself in reading AskReddit (I like the stories about people's lives) and various spooky stories on youtube. I also have a penchant for industrial catastrophe films, so I watched as many as I wanted. Yes, it's a weird thing.

Then I got sick of being paralyzed with fear and dismay and pressed the f***it switch. I am alive now and can see well enough right now. And I appreciate that.
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Old 04-21-2019, 07:39 PM
theBongolian theBongolian is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

I'm onboard with all the suggestions- I would just add, don't let it go on too long- life is short. How long is too long is your call. I waited until I hit bottom - don't do that. Meds work. At least they are for me, and millions of others.
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Old 04-22-2019, 09:17 AM
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Thank you everyone for your replies. My therapist brought up a point that has gotten me thinking long and hard: the possibility that PERFECTIONISM may be a problem with me. The more I think about it, the more it seems that it may be the root cause of everything: my reluctance to try new things creatively, my social anxiety, and ultimately, my depression. They say that perfectionism and social anxiety are a basic fear: fear of being judged, criticized and ridiculed.
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Old 04-22-2019, 09:19 AM
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Unhappy Re: Depression and creativity issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harold Roth
I can't paint when I'm depressed, so what I do instead is study. I read about various art movements and artists and watch videos about techniques. I look for reference photos outside of the ones I take myself.

I went through a tough patch recently due to serious eye problems. Was quite depressed and full of fear about the future. So I did all the above but also spent time indulging myself in reading AskReddit (I like the stories about people's lives) and various spooky stories on youtube. I also have a penchant for industrial catastrophe films, so I watched as many as I wanted. Yes, it's a weird thing.

Then I got sick of being paralyzed with fear and dismay and pressed the f***it switch. I am alive now and can see well enough right now. And I appreciate that.
My close-range eyesight has steadily deteriorated in the past few years. I just got my first pair of reading glasses!
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Old 04-22-2019, 09:26 AM
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hmshood5 hmshood5 is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by brusher
Your work is wonderful, I always love seeing it in the Acrylics forum, and I'm sorry to hear you are going through this right now.

Is there any medical reason for your depression, did you get advice from a medical doctor? Could it be age-related?

I wonder if an antidepressant might be of help, if nothing else does. The only problem is, they can be addictive if taken long-term, and it can be very difficult then to come off them. (But, I think a few weeks or even a few months only, wouldn't have that result.) For what it's worth.

You've gotten excellent on-point advice above, there's not much I can add. Some of the above advice is a great help to me also, by the way! But I hope things will look better for you, soon. If you're still painting - at all - that's a good sign.

Cathy
No, no real medical issue that I know of, although this could very well be the result of a chemical deficiency in the brain. I am open to anti-depressants, but only as a last resort. (I'm a big baby when it comes to meds!). I'm hoping to take care of this with "talk" therapy. And i have been reacting creatively: I've been doing more abstracts, which you can see in the Abstract section.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:35 AM
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Perfectionism can definitely feed into the depression cycle. I think that's a very good insight.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:23 PM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by hmshood5
My close-range eyesight has steadily deteriorated in the past few years. I just got my first pair of reading glasses!
I've had poor eyesight since birth. One eye has always been very weak, 20/400. The other one has been my "good" eye. I've worn glasses since I was two, was told I'd be blind by 40, wasn't, got bifocals in my fifties. Now the sight in the good eye is threatened by inflammation of the area behind the retina. The diagnosis ends in severe vision loss within three years for 50% of the people who have this. Other people have a backup eye; I don't. So that got me quite depressed. I couldn't do anything. Just felt panicky and really scared. I figured I could do some kind of 3D art, but how would I support myself??? My Social Security is only $750/mo. I have to work for the rest and have my businesses, but without sight??? And I looked at the various text-to-speech software out there, and it stinks. Not doable.

Finally I just had to put it all aside. Not ignore it, but just know that all any of us have is now. That has been what helps me. So I got off my ass and not only am I painting but I think actually am doing better paintings.

I am still applying for disability, though, just in case. They told me to when I called them just to ask about what my options would be. They have a fast track for people going blind.

Last edited by Harold Roth : 04-22-2019 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:30 AM
Sarah Rose Sarah Rose is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Harold, I am in a similar boat. I have a neurological disorder and my hands and arms are getting very weak. I just applied for disability a few weeks ago. I was a sculptor most of my life, and am now trying to paint. The idea is I can switch to holding a brush in my mouth when my hands quit on me. This is, of course, very depressing and a lot to cope with. Like you I will still have to work to make some income on top of what I will get from disability. It is a very overwhelming ‘transition’ and I should step back now and then to enjoy the here and now. The present moment is all we truly have, as you said.
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Old 04-24-2019, 01:40 PM
BeLing BeLing is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Exercise?

Walking to the point of exhaustion always works for me. Takes some time though; and sometimes, physical discomfort.
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Old 04-25-2019, 06:14 AM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Depression and creativity issues

Sarah, friends of mine told me to get a lawyer re disability. Turns out SSA has a fast-track for blindness, but for other things, it can take two years and multiple application. The lawyer gets a cut of the back pay when you get approved. SSA told me that with blindness, they make a decision in 5 weeks, although actually getting any money takes months. And the approval process is much more cut and dried with blindness.

Anyway, I applaud your determination to make another kind of art that you can do as a workaround to physical issues. Your paintings are beautiful. I love the color work especially. Other artists have triumphed over physical issues. So can we.
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