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Mary Saville

Educator - STEM, ACTS Homeschool Teaching Support

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How can creativity and chronic depression coexist?

Ever since I spent my 18th birthday in a psychiatric ward, I've struggled with chronic depression. I'm 35 now and don't feel defined at all by such an unwelcome mental companion since I have many coping strategies including medication. In this phase of life I am learning, creating and innovating at a much faster rate than in many previous years and would like to know how others handle having a mind that can rapidly sponge knowledge and churn out fun ideas one part of the day, and need to close down another part of the day.

I find that if I spend a few hours "producing" with my brain I often need a subsequent reboot of sorts - a retreat into quiet, a nap, a shutting down - before I can begin again.

Sometimes I have to stop and let sadness have a turn. Working late at night is helpful. Why? I'm not sure.

This is quite relevant to me and I would appreciate any thoughts, tips, or musings on the subject. Are you coping well with depression and still enjoying creativity? Do you have a helpful pattern of work to share?

Thanks everyone, this is a great forum.

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    Mar 26 2011: Well, I think that when we're depressed, we're more focused on ourselves. This implicates a lot of daydreaming which evokes creativity. When we're sad, we easily get distracted and start thinking. Creativity is a natural consequence of it - being misereable becomes not enough to express ourselves (that's of course simplification ;)
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      Mar 26 2011: Whoa. The inward mind, drawn into a tighter spot, actually can create more? That's an incredible thought. I like it. Part of my mental picture of how creativity is fostered comes from watching kids. My own have an overabundance of toys and when I let them have "free reign" they often end up throwing them on the floor and being cranky. When I limit their choices and say, "It's legos time" or "Painting time", that's when I see them bloom and play becomes deeper, more fun and yes, more creative.
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        Mar 27 2011: You're right, I think when people are somehow forced to be limited, they start to find ways to expand their territory of creation and do more exquisite things
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    Mar 24 2011: You could be chronically depressed about your creativity
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      Mar 24 2011: That's hilarious. I could be, indeed! Or I could be chronically creative about my depression. Either way, you made me laugh, which ↓ depression and ↑ creativity.
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    Mar 28 2011: I don't think that the coexistence of depression (or some other mental malady for that matter) and creativity in one person is very unusual--there are plenty of examples throughout history of famous artists and other great men who have managed to be wonderfully create in spite of, or perhaps because, of their ailments.

    I've never been in ward before, and I don't take medication, but I am often sad. My depression is more the result of life circumstances rather than biological predisposition, so maybe there are differences between your situation and mine; still, the pattern you described of "producing" and then "rebooting" is familiar to me. I am a very energetic person, and sometimes I get these great flashes of inspiration where I will write and write for hours on end--afterward, I may be pretty tired or have to stop because my mind is simply worn out. During this down time, I never nap; instead I usually eat or travel or do something physical for a while, but it's important that I'm not using my mind to do anything strenuous. I'm functionally on auto-pilot during this time, which lasts for several hours sometimes, and afterward I have to wait until I get inspired again before my brain feels up to tackling some new project.

    I've been pretty prone to sadness since I was like 11 or so (I'm 18 now), but I feel like I cope well with it because by now it's just so familiar and normal for me. When I'm doing something or socializing, my sadness usually goes away, so it's not like I don't like relief. I feel like some amount of sadness in life is totally appropriate, and even helpful, especially when it comes to contemplating or working on art. Maybe that's just a weird thing with me, but I feel like it grants me a new perspective or dimension on things--like without my sad spells, I would not be able to fully appreciate or understand things.
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      Mar 28 2011: Really, only 18? You have a lot more life wisdom than that. Thanks for your thoughts. I think that I have a predisposition biochemically and some butt-kicking life circumstances as well. In a lot of ways I detachedly observe and categorize my feelings, that helps me when I'm trying to tell the difference between rainy-day sad, broken-world aching, or deep-pit depressed.
      I like your description of what you do post-"producing" and agree that for me a mental shutdown is pretty essential. A nap, however short, really does seem to change something in my thought processes from snarled and knotted to smooth and ready to think again.
      I'm working on structuring some of my routines so that I can be responsible when I need to be (communication, marriage, kids) and be creative at my best time of day and when I can be uninterrupted. I hope that you have the same structure as well.
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        Mar 31 2011: Aw, thanks! I think this is getting off topic a little bit, but I have no idea how you keep up a job and stuff like you mentioned while being depressed; I know I couldn't do it @.@ I understand how creativity and depression can coexist because the two aren't really exclusive--a tougher relationship is depression and responsibility. For me at least, I've found that those two things really don't go hand in hand xp. So my structure is pretty chaotic, but fortunately I have a lifestyle that supports that or else I would be stressed out all of the time I think.
      • Apr 4 2011: A nap is not my way of recovering creativity or drive, but getting away from all humans and animals by driving in the countryside is! When I am awfully depressed and contemplating either exploding with violent action and smashing the world to smithereens, or just committing suicide, I have to get away quite often and suddenly. When I am well-medicated I still need to get away from humans for a certain number of hours every few days- I get very restricted in my thinking when my partner hangs around in the house all day for 2 or more days in a row! Sometimes I cannot bear to go out to dinner with friends as I feel my brain or brainpower will just be destroyed! These are very strong feelings, but not psychotic as I am just a down-cycling depressed person- I don't have highs. What I do know, is that I must follow these needs to be alone and away from stimulation or I become even more depressed and just cry for hours or days without getting comfort from anything. of course my productivity during these "getaway" spells is nil.
        When I start "needing" naps in the afternoons, that is a sign my depression is coming back and I need to up my meds or see a doctor.
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      Apr 2 2011: Aaron, that last sentence was truth. Good thought
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    Mar 25 2011: I learned that it is good to have a steady everyday rhythm that includes food, sleep, moving the body, relating with others and withdrawing inside. When I live in circumstances where that rhythm is supported from outside it is even better. The mind follows the body, but that is easy to forget. So first rule is: Take care of your basic needs,as if you are the mother of yourself. And if that is to much for you or you do not know how, ask for help with that.
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      Mar 26 2011: Great points Anna. I've come to realize that a good life consists of good days. And the elements you point out make for good days.
    • Mar 26 2011: Its been only few months since i could control my panik attacks and got better with depression. one thing that i notice now is exactly the same as miss Hoffmann said. i do not have a rhythm in my life and without it its so difficult to remember and take care of important things. My first step is to go to bed and wake up on exact time everyday, and that itself is taking lots of time and effort. if miss Hoffmann or anybody who is familiar with this topic have some important suggestion and some tips on how to take care of basic needs, i think it would be really helpful to lots of people including me.
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      Mar 26 2011: I totally agree with you Anna - having a rhytm and tasks to do keeps us in check
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      Mar 26 2011: Anna - thank you for your wonderful charge to take care of my needs, as if I were "the mother of myself". You've hit a large nail on the head. I am a mother of four and I know how true it is that, phrased in the positive, I put my family first, and phrased in the negative, neglect myself. If I were my own mom I'd fuss at myself a lot more to just be nicer to myself! It does relate to depression too because when I am struggling mentally it's almost like a reverse survival of the fittest going on - I'm down and out so my brain should rally to my cause - instead it withdraws into loneliness. True as well that rhythms help with sleeping, exercise, community, and eating well. I'm am trying to find a way to work creativity into that rhythm, to make a time and place for it even when I'm sad, and everyone's answers are so helpful.
  • Mar 24 2011: In a psychological study I read a couple of years back a question was brought up to my attention about the difference between artists and crazy people? The result of the study can be resumed in this strikingly interesting phrase “artists are people who flirt with the doors of craziness but have the ability to come back”.

    Without knowing your case and thus without judging, but taking into account that according to your post you are not pinned to your bed by the weight of the world I must say that I believe depression is to be seen as an illness only in very few cases.

    A black view of the world should not be seen as an erroneous one. Having Dark thoughts probably means you have a more precise view than others about how the world really revolves. Your high sensitivity and understanding of things puts you in a situation were you have to deal with an obscure mind setting. It’s not a bad thing but it is hard to deal with.

    Pills and medicine, in my opinion, are there to give you the strength to climb out of the well when it becomes too deep to climb out of it by yourself, to get out of a situation that seems so tied around in knots that it virtually seems impossible to better.
    Once the pills have done their job of rescue, it is up to you to learn to live with the view of life you were meant to live with. You are born with the curse/gift to see the world in a more dark and realistic way and sooner or later you are going to have to embrace that fact.

    What you have to do, I believe, is find ways to express that melancholy and profound sadness that you are blessed with and not try to suppress it or drown it because in the end it is what you are.

    It requires wisdom, strength, devotion, discipline and time to try and compartmentalize all these feelings and questions that bombard your happiness with obscure bullets. I’m trying, and I’m still in the process of it. It’s a beautifully ugly condition, a curse, a gift, who knows but then again, the same thing could be said abo
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    Mar 23 2011: Hi Mary,

    Much like you I have had a past with depression. Although I will refrain from using the word chronic to label my past I will admit that it's something I found myself having difficulty with since I was a small child. I've always also been a very creative individual, filled with much existential angst.

    Today though I'm leaps beyond where I used to be, thanks in all likelihood to the way I have reprogrammed my mind.

    I cannot understate the importance of exercise, fresh air, a good diet and proper thinking routines. If put to practice, you WILL see a tremendous improvement.

    I think feeling sadness is an integral part of artistry. Perhaps in many ways more integral for the artist.

    On the other hand, I don't believe any of us are capable of turning out ideas without some down-time.

    Just some thoughts. Best of luck.
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    Apr 2 2011: I have no experience with depression, still I can easily agree with Aaron Nielsen co-existence thesis. I dare to take it one step further looking at Niki de Saint Phalle: She was sick of depression - and "cured" herself by making art.
    Creativity might be good for more than balancing - be it troubles, sadness or depression. However - is there any research or medication of this type? I have never heard of it. creativity today is promoted and appreciated as a factor for more wealth and future, not yet for more health. Are we missing a major source and power?
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    Apr 2 2011: Make friends with depression. I've had my highs and low but I had two major Lows of note. I7ll skip the story there, but after that, I realised it was worth "learning" from the experience.

    Until i hit my third one.

    If you can, work with the methods by everyone else. Use mine if nothing else works.

    I didnt bounce back from the third. It's been a year now. I gave up, stopped figthing. From this dead place, not a place of productivity, get used to the scenery. Find a way to express this dead weight. I can't play piano but I pluncked away at one. Music felt like the best way (i didnt care about writing or performing at the time, my best strengths.) I tried to give depression another voice. Experience it with other senses. It was sad, soetimes it sucked but I got used to the scenery here. New sounds came out too. (someimes angry. Very angry.) Sometimes I still hit lows, and sometimes I'm VERY volatile. But a little like what Anna mentioned...little shoots are starting to appear.

    Give the depression it's voice. It deserves to be respected.
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    Now I'm going to ruin that poetry by adding more.
    Examine Process psychology, developed by Arnold Mindell. (I recomedn "Riding the horse backwards" or "working on yourself alone. ") You'll find other methods to give depression (or any kind of setback) its voice. Theres a message there but sometimes we need to tranlsate it through a medium we understand. If you feel depressed...how does it sound? Play it. Roleplay.Puppets. Or draw it.
    Examine the process described in "Hero with a thousand faces" by Campbell. (It's NOT a simple breakdown about how to be a hero and fight dragons.Its about submiting yourself to the intolerable, letting yourselfget eaten by this terrifying experience.

    I didn't want to mention this but I'm in Japan, 1000km south of tokyo. We're unaffected but it reminded you how easy life can be wiped out. (I have a yong son too, that's hardest.) My third low though prepared me for this so we're staying.
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    Mar 31 2011: I don't know the reason/s of co-existence of creativity with some special state neuro-psychological condition, but have a vague idea about some bio-chemical substance named neurotransmitter to cause such specific states. I also specifically know there are lot of creative and famous people in the history of mankind who experienced similar co-existance of different kind of neuro psychiatric state, to name a few are Socrates, Alexander , Julius Caeser, Van Gogh, Dostoyvosky,Tolstoy , Lenin (all didn't have same situation) .............. list is really long
    Wish you have seen the film named "A Beautiful Mind" which was based on true story of Nobel winning mathematician Jhon Nash.
    All depressive conditions mayn't be possible to be managed properly either by medicine or counselling alone, I feel it is better stick to your physician's advice. Active life style , socializing, mental strength etc also helps a lot..... Have a good day
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      Apr 2 2011: Those are all good suggestions, thank you. I have seen "A Beautiful Mind" and it was deeply affecting. I think Aaron's point about the co-existence of depression and responsibiility being difficult to manage is perhaps even a better question.
  • Mar 24 2011: It requires wisdom, strength, devotion, discipline and time to try and compartmentalize all these feelings and questions that bombard your happiness with obscure bullets. I’m trying, and I’m still in the process of it. It’s a beautifully ugly condition, a curse, a gift, who knows but then again, the same thing could be said about love and who wouldn’t want to live without that…

    All my wishes of courage to those with the same condition…
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      Mar 27 2011: Thank you Frederic it sure is helpfull to listen to some one else in the same boat who has a "positive" take on things. And you are rigth this is who we are. It's our curse, it's our gift. Take care brother. and thanks again.
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      Mar 27 2011: I think I am just going to thumbs up everything you say. Thanks.
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    • Mar 23 2011: I removed my post, ater reading yours. I tried to say what you did, and you've done it much better. Thank you:)
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      Mar 23 2011: fantastically helpful and beautiful poem. I like the understanding of cyclical emotions as necessary in this composition. This was balm to my soul, thank you.
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    Apr 5 2011: Hey mary, good question eh...i live and coexist with depression...brought on by the loss of 4 very close people to me about 5 years ago , i lead 60 staff in an innovative company, am married, two kids..house...cat...lawns to mow. i to feel my absolute best when either laughing or creating.. i have dabbled in stone carving, drawing and now really enjoy photography. The down times can be tough...i do have less and less of them as i understand that its ok to be down...in fact quite normal, the trick is to tell the difference between every day flatness and depression, most of the time i can tell myself...for the other times i have a wonderful wife and friends who will always be there. As for patterns too much coffee (certainly dont drink anymore)...doing to much for others (outside of family) and neglecting myself leave me flat......i think we are all different though.
  • Apr 4 2011: Mary- I can relate to your tale very much. Normally my brain is churning over multiple topics, analysing some things, synthesising others, crunching numbers, writing words, making music, designing with colour...but when depression grabs me I gradually descend into a place where I can't "make myself" engage in all the things which interest me. I become more of a passive receiver of information on the topics I usually work on. It seems as though depression severely restricts my "channel capacity" so that I can really apply myself to only one thing for a period of hours or days, rather than skipping happily from task to task without missing a beat. My intellectual performance also declines. I noticed the decline when I decided to use my last long search for a medication that would really work by enrolling in a Masters in Public Health. I found it very hard to concentrate when I had to produce essays and projects, although I was able to contribute very well in short classes. When we had exams, I either failed or nearly failed because I could not hold all the topics in my head for 3 hours while writing answers. I know I knew the material as I actually taught some of it years ago! But I could not perform and caused myself to be rejected for advanced work in topics I REALLY wanted to study. Almost one year ago I found someone who could prescribe me high enough doses of the medication I needed, plus had a few weeks of talk therapy. Now I am fine and beavering away on multiple projects again- I might even get a job again. I am not quite so good with the multiple topics as I used to be, but the calibre of my ideas is really good when I apply myself. My thoughts tend toward the hypothesis that now I am nearly 60 and have not had full-time work for 12 years (being depressed) that my brain hasn't been able to reach a high enough level of function once again. Hopefully I'll be 100% again some time- I'm working on it! So I see creativity being lower while depressed.
  • Apr 2 2011: My age and experience of depression are seemingly very close to yours Mary. One of the most interesting experiences I have had in relation to creativity and depression was a little more than a year ago when I had my first encounter with anti-depressants; to cut a long story short I ceased to be creative at all.

    I have a great many friends who are also artists and some have had the same experience upon taking medication to treat either anxiety or depression. A friend of mine came to realize that his badly depressive states were usually a precursor to coming up with a great idea, that his mind somehow needed to go into hibernation in order to devote more energy to it's maturation even if he wasn't cognizant of it at the time. Years ago I read one psychologists view that a 'healthy' depression is the minds way of telling us that we need to change, to do something differently, and an 'unhealthy' depression is when we are not able to effect that change for whatever reason and we become stuck. Your observation about the need to "reboot" struck a real chord with me and, in relation to that, I think the three observations become very valid.

    My experiences with medication did not 'cure' me, but having the creative well dry up on me and then slowly come back made me more aware of the role of depressive states in my own creative process. The nature of creativity, to me, is a constant state of metamorphosis; changes in our ideas, our materials, our subject matter, the way we look at something, all are in a constant state of flux as a necessity. I don't think it takes any great stretch of the imagination to view the need for the reboot as a necessary step our brains go through in order to explore new ideas or subject matter in a wholly unconscious manner. As various other people have mentioned, this is not isolated to artists but to thinkers in general including politicians, philosophers, scientists and psychologists.
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      Apr 3 2011: Thanks. I am always a bit leery when anyone self identifies with depression. There is to be sure some cases where there is a biological cause, or the depression has been lingering long enough that it has causes brain damage, but often it should be better to see it as a symptom of something that wrong in life. Much like hunger, in that there is need that is not being met and once it is met it goes away, or at least is replaced. Spend to much time hungry though and you will develop other health problems. Some people have a greater need to be creative and if that craving isn't filled depression seems like a reasonable response.
    • Apr 4 2011: Re: Creativity dive on anti depressants. My interpretation of your experience would be that you were on an anti depressant that wasn't suitable for your type of thinking/creativity. I have experienced different effects over the years on different anti depressants. The old-fashioned tricyclics (Nortriptylline etc) could lift my depression quite well for periods of weeks or months before failing. While they worked I felt creatively "numb"- there were no highs and lows in my creativity or intellect, but I could putter along performing well enough to cope at work and at home. On other meds I could feel happy enough occasionally and have a creative day or two, but overall there wasn't enough return to normal to justify continuing the pills. These were: Duloxetine, Aurorix, Cymbalta and a couple of similar things. On Prozac I had 6 years of relief from depression, plus I was very creative and productive- eventually the effect died off even on a massive dose. Now on Effexor in a huge dose for a year, I am quite happy, I am almost back to my old levels of creativity and intellect and will stay on this for the forseeable future. I can write, do statistics, create with colour and write music as well as look after the household and have a full social life. If you ever get flattened by bad depression again, I can recommend trying some different anti depressants. They don't ALL seem to kill creativity. I have had my writing accepted by international journals and my photographs by a top advertising company while on the "good" antidepressants, so I get a really good effect.
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    Apr 2 2011: Oh lordy. I've been dealing with depression for a great deal of my youth & young adult life too. I find that it's a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to creativity - it can make for good material, but that same depression is also what makes me not want to get out of bed or be motivated to do anything. The day they invent a method to do things by thinking I will be very very happy!
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    Mar 27 2011: That is a very interesting way of viewing depression Anna. I'm not sure I want mine cured anymore as much as i would rather have it managed instead. :) I do agree with you in that one does focuse more in one self when one is depressed and that in turn does cause one's mind to comme up with a bevy of stories, images and all sorts of original ideas that would have value (to quote Sir Ken Robbinson) How ever my problem (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) is that while being deppressed does triger a world of ideas in my head the very same depressed state keeps me from actually lifting a pen or keyboard or even a phone to get assistance in bringing that idea to life. That in turn causes a whole effect of guilt and just makes matters worse. Truth be told in the end the idea is ussually rescued but it takes a lot longer than i guess it would take someone feeling with more drive to take action into its ideas. if any of you get what im saying feel free to dispense your srategies on how to manage it better. Take care Anna. Good day to all.
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      Mar 28 2011: What if that time when those ideas are created, but not realized, are like the winter in the Nordic garden. A lot is going on under the surface of the earth and inside roots and trees, but nothing visible. Everything seems dead. But when the season changes, like the mood might change and the depression leaves your system, new things sprout. And they have a certain quality because of the season change, that no garden in tropical conditions, that never experience this have. Here in Sweden many are depressed during winter and suddenly come alive as spring and summer arrive.
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    Mar 26 2011: Maybe sadness allows for some much needed reflection that is sometimes not possible when we're happy
  • Mar 26 2011: Thanks Ed, Vladimir Craig for making my message that much shorter by including your ideas! Mary I feel like I've been in a similar place to you while trying to claw up from rock bottom so here's my insight on depression.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness.html
    After watching this talk I really thought about what Matthieu said regarding the soul being like water in cup (where every movement might cause a spill) or deep like the ocean, where the weather at the surface can be sunny or stormy without affecting the water below. Solution: among all of the other things people have listed I'm going to add meditation. I'm an artist as well and I can understand the existential angst, not to mention when the world seems so full of pain it overwhelms completely. BUT amongst all the change and the uncertainty there always remains an anchor, you. Even as you're always changing, you change with yourself (okay stupid statement but you see what I mean, you are your only absolute constant in your life) Which makes having the best relationship possible you can with yourself so important. Learning to love yourself is a cure for depression (not sadness mind, but the debilitating mental health issue we name depression) and just like positive thinking its much easier said than done.
    I think you can beat depression, and it's one of the most difficult fights there is because really it is the fight to love your mind, body and spirit in order to honestly tell your story to the world.
    (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.htm)
    All the best through your journey, and always keep your sense of humor :)
    • Mar 28 2011: brene brown really sized it up.
      her one sentence on debt, weight, medication and addiction really brought it home.
      we pretend, we numb. Well she said it all.
      thanks for sharing that.
      I just want to 'manage' depression like diabetics manage their disease.
      I just don't really feel like doing the things I know will help.
      But I keep trying.
      keep breathing in and out
      try to be kind to myself
      keep trying.
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      Mar 28 2011: Aaron, yes!!!
      Kate, love and courage to you!
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    Mar 25 2011: i've come see depression as the gateway to creativity. it like chills and fever. . the depression loosens some of the store of memories which were never let surface, so maybe we are grieving the past that never was. and invariable on letting the past tear from our being, water the dreams that spark off our creativity, it like finally emerging from the shadows of our past. and nature being kind enough to give it to us in manageable doses. So for me, it was never about fighting it, just letting it go . . . falling silent. . some times for ever so long. . when our mind is working at another level of consciousness.

    remember too that every cell of our being is programmed from within. including all the breaks, bells and whistles to function according to its programming. would not the same speak for us? which would then having our schooling read of a who lot of time, that we could not be employing ourselfs to what our spirit wished have us tend to.

    From all the talks on Creativity, how our mind flat lines when some expert begins to speak. . unless it light up our own with all th lightbulb moments of this how it all fits into the big picture. . .
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    Mar 23 2011: Mary,
    Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on nurturing creativity might answer some of your questions: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html
  • Mar 23 2011: as someone struggling with borderline personality disorder i can tell you i've learned to embrace every element of my mood swings (the strong anger the strong happyness the strong sadness) rather than to mediocre any one of them.

    as for depression, checkout http://www.amazon.com/Against-Happiness-Melancholy-Eric-Wilson/dp/0374240663

    happiness is flow, that means the brain without recipocripocrity keeps repeating the same activity in an endless chemical cycle. depression is when flow breaks down when we start to feel the presence of an absence, this truely existing void. but depression allows our brain to make new connections, people who suffer and go through a great deal are given a unique perspective on life. why do you think we dream in nonrem/rem sleep and why does nonrem sleep always make you optimistic and rem sleep wakes you up depressed? natures balance of reinforcing old ways but pressing onward (through depression)
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      Mar 24 2011: Thank you for the book suggestion, I just placed an order for it and am looking forward to its arrival. I have noticed that those who create do tend to have melancholic cycles and I don't quite know how they coped in the pre-depression medicine era. Maybe sadness was more socially accepted then as a part of life. Some here have suggested that I lower my medication doses but my primary question is not how to get rid of my depression (as I said, I have many ways of dealing with it and it still remains) but rather how to live with, through, despite it and continue working productively.
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    Apr 5 2011: Since I was 6 or 7 years old (and I am now 44) I have been depressed; but a more accurate description of my experience is that until I turned 33 and lost a job that I loved, I was more aptly described as having melancholia. When I got fired from the job and had sue my former company for breach of contract, the stress and the feelings of failure triggered full-blown bi-polar disorder. I grew up creative, as a classical pianist and threw my time and passion there to bury my depressive feelings. Even as I was growing up, I had those nights when I simply couldn't sleep -- but my family thought there was nothing wrong with me hating myself or not sleeping.
    To me creativity is not the opposite of depression, but the depression is the mother of the deep insight necessary for my best creative output. I honestly believe that without my suicidal lows, I would lack the insight and compassion necessary for my work as a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem for abused and neglected children in my community. With the help of my caring and compassionate psychiatrist who was patient to help me find the right combination of medication, I no longer have those extreme highs (which are so gratifying), but I still have some hellish lows. Through writing a blog where I choose to write every day on a topic that is inspiring (not religious), I am able to have a continuous stream of inspiration to create. This is how I cope and I hope it is helpful to the discussion. Best, Lisa
  • Apr 5 2011: Dear Mary,
    I am 17 years old and have suffered with chronic depression since I was 12, 2 of my friends have committed suicide in the last three years and of late I've found it necessary to talk my brother out of doing the same on a near weekly basis. But to answer your question I believe the answer is already there, what is depression but the lack of life and enthusiasm, a lack of seeing anything good? While on the other hand what is creativity but the opposite of depression, a thing that is all about bright lights, vivid imagination and a joyful sense of living. One cannot exist without the other, they are ultimate opposites and both are a constant in life.
    As for those times of lows when you need to reboot, I believe you just need to find a balance, if you over spend on one side then the balance will be over weighed and it will just take time to let it work itself out. Personally I find comfort in the fact that I am so in touch with myself and my emotions, it shows you what it means to be human, to be happy or sad, high or low, to care for something other than yourself so much that it has an effect on your own emotions and feelings. Try and embrace your creativity and you will feel yourself become lighter and more free, enjoy your own ridiculous imagination.
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    Apr 5 2011: historically, most artists have been found to be depressed or have some issues with depression. This seems to be an element of their success.
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      Apr 5 2011: I think that depression's very harsh spiritual and sensory deprivation is the fuel of the creativity of those artists who have struggled with it. When you've been to hell, as you come out of it, every taste, smell, touch, thought is so precious and meaningful and it becomes very easy to see the connectedness of all areas of life.
  • Apr 4 2011: Letting yourself out to the closest friend will definitely help when you are having bouts of depression. It is not always that their suggestion would help but just having the feeling of freeing yourself from burden to the person who cares about you helps to relax you. Our existence and our creativity are surely contigent on our friends and family.
  • Apr 4 2011: Your "muse" needs to be pampered and respected, the vacillation between creativity and down time as you describe it is in my mind the nature of creativity - which is to often pathologized. Not to say that you have not been depressed. A muse is a sensitive being who wants to come and visit you - yes sometimes late at night - but then will exhaust you and be gone, until she arrives again. Creativity is a gift and a challenge.
  • Apr 2 2011: Some basic assumptions seem to help my understanding of this subject. Depression is a mood that we define in order to communicate and define it to ourselves and others.
    To suggest it does not serve a purpose, though we do not understand what that purpose might be, is a bit short sighted. Depression, the expression of mood, whether reactive or otherwise, brings an unintended level of what I call self-consciousness. In some personalities, this seems to be satisfying.
    Creativity has various forms. I suppose if the level of depression is profound, it would be difficult to concentrate or focus the minds attention. In fact this is often the case with some forms of depression. Depression however, does take a person to a place in their thinking that is otherwise inaccessible. In that state, perhaps we find the source of inspiration for writers and other artists who are able then to express those notions in symbols.

    Depression brings on a level of acute awareness- senses alert to stimuli, unable to filter the information may be a sensory overload. When in a state of heightened happiness, this seems not to occur.

    Depression is as much an aspect of happiness, as darkness is of light. In fact it is essential. Such an interesting question.
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        Apr 5 2011: Thank you Mr. Dawson. Kay Redfield Jamison's work taught me these principles and drastically improved my outlook with bi-polar depression. Now if we can just get everyone to comply regularly with their meds, that's the next big step in improving quality of life with depression.
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    Apr 2 2011: My dear friend, all forms of human creativity is an outcome of particular space and time where particular pressure will electromagnetically work in our brain cells and will emerge as a negative or positive power. This is the cosmic cycle in which the human mind is caught for ages. Here, the creativity of the so called evil and good, hatred and love, truth and untruth are also magnetically related with the particular space and time which moves based on the nature spectacular law of equilibrium..

    Indeed, the great Renaissance of the 18th century was associated with the attractive character of capital and its birth time gravity. The forthcoming Renaissance of the 21st century will be associated with the repulsive character of capital and its death time gravity. In other words, the law of repulsion is connected with the law of detachment.

    In the forthcoming days, the strong compressive wave of financial repulsion will give birth to a sudden change in the psychological velocity, density, pressure and temperature of the entire humanity and will spiritually move towards the long awaited Utopian dream of commune way of living.

    It is the space-time that generates idea, not the human mind. Whenever the human mind or nature witness inner energy crunch it will cross the threshold of chaos and will emerge in the form of a dynamic force or an idea in correspondence with the particular space-time.

    The most brilliant ideas in the history of mankind are also an outcome of the particular space-time. When the time is ripe it emerges through particular individuals with the force of revelation. William James says, "An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation".