Saturday, March 21, 2015

Depression/Anxiety vs Creativity

Linda Lee Greene in the heart of Ohio, USA, March 21, 2015  

“The poet Rilke was afraid that if he got rid of his demons, he would lose his angels as well. Of course the danger of clinging to our demons to save our angels is that our demons may well take over.”[1]
Boy, do I relate to that statement. I bet a gang of you do too. My demons began to take over when I was the tender age of sixteen and developed a hyperactive thyroid, wrongly diagnosed at the time, and under-treated for many years thereafter. During those most important years of marriage and childbearing, when, if one can possibly arrange it, it’s a good idea to be at ones best and on top of ones game, too much of the time, I seesawed between depression and anxiety, in my case, depression manifesting as feelings of dissatisfaction, and anxiety as restlessness and a sense of uninterrupted urgency. Believe me, I get the angst of victims of mental disorders.
My children grown and on their own, I ventured into New Age Practices, gave Buddhism a look, tried Yoga, joined a church, read enough spiritual tomes to fill the library of Congress, hunted for a better me in the eyes of lovers who hadn’t a clue (I was divorced by then), all in an effort to just feel better. I finally got diagnosed, the lights came on in my brain, and the mood swings began to level out (but not completely). As a result, I have a life-long dependency on Synthroid, a thyroid replacement hormone, which most of the time, keeps me just level enough that I don’t tip over into total insanity again. Now and then, though, the mood swings get out of control, which requires an adjustment in the dosage of the Synthroid.
During my famine years, and before I knew there was a bona fide organic disorder responsible for my troubles (in large part, at least), I gave various antidepressants a whirl—or more precisely, I contemplated giving them a whirl. The truth is, I got prescriptions for them filled, took them for a few days, and then never touched them again. I was afraid of them! Like Rilke, I was afraid they would kill my creativity, my spark. I was afraid I’d descend, if not into the blackness of full-blown depression/anxiety, but into the gray gloom of a medicated zombie state. I bet a slew of you have also experienced that same fear.
“Blake, Byron, Tennyson, Woolf, Poe, Plath, Kierkegaard, Pound, Hemingway, Van Gogh, Tennessee Williams[2], Stephen King, Robin Williams, to name a few in an endless accounting of artist-sufferers of depression/anxiety, some of whom are among the eighteen percent of creative people who have committed, or are more prone to commit, suicide than depressed people in the general population. Other mental disorders among artistic people present similar terrifying statics.
In tandem with my faulty thyroid messing with my moods, the fact that I’m primarily a right-brained individual—an author of fiction, an artist, and an interior designer, also presents tremendous “real-world” challenges for me. When a fire is burning in my right brain, and its light-filled, stress-free, happy, and filled with understanding people hovering steadfastly in the periphery of my existence, encouraging me, supporting my efforts, giving me space and time and freedom to do my thing, life is good for me. But once the project is finished—the book is published, the artwork is hanging on the gallery walls, the rooms are arranged and decorated down to the last knickknack, my Muse retires to her cave; she pulls its blackout curtain across its door, and wants only solitude and nothing to do with the other side of all her efforts, namely the business associated with them.
That’s where I am now! The cool, silent, seclusion of that cave is calling to me—beckoning me. And do you know why? It’s because the reissue of my novel GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS ( in ebook is available for purchase again. The email from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing came through to me yesterday informing me that it is up and running. I had to do a reissue because the original publisher went out of business, rendering the novel no longer available. I will publish a paperback version at a later date. One consequence is that I lost all of the reviews (all of them 5 star reviews) the first edition accumulated. In essence, I have to begin a whole new marketing campaign for it…and since that’s a left-brained activity in which I dislike hanging out, depression and anxiety are back in full force again.    
How about you? Where do you stand on this subject of depression and/or anxiety vs creativity? If you are a seamstress, scrapbooker, photographer, furniture refinisher, cook, gardener, artist, musician, writer, composer, singer...whatever your creative outlet, do your creative efforts get waylaid by depression or anxiety? This is your forum to talk about it. Talking helps!
Linda’s novel Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch, is at
Linda’s artwork is on view online at
Linda’s Twitter handle is @LLGreeneAuthor.

[1] The Sun, March 2010, “Tim Farrington On Creativity, Depression, And The Dark Night Of The Soul,” by D. Patrick Miller, p 8
[2] Ibid, p 5

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