Even as I typed the title of this, I realised that it could be read two ways; it could say that I am a Creator, who happens to have depression (accurate). But, it could also say that I am someone with Depression who is working on creating (also accurate). It’s a good demonstration of how something – in this case, a blog title – can have multiple meanings depending on how you experience them.
The same is true of depression. I have Major Depressive Disorder, and I am a Creator (a writer, to be specific). These two things interact in a lot of different ways, depending on a lot of different things, and can leave a lot of different impressions – depending on one’s experience.
This is mine.
What is Depression?
More than anything, depression is an experience of symptoms. It’s the physical weight and slowness, the headaches, the hypersensitivity to pain, and the drag at your muscles as every movement becomes harder than it used to be. It’s the self-doubt, the absent interest, the sadness, the feeling that even when you’re happy it’s muted and dull. It’s chemicals, and outside influence, and memories, and PTSD, and all sorts of other things coming together to drag you low.
And, as a writer, part of my experience of depression was nearly two years of writer’s block.
I remember having been a writer when I was seven years old – sitting on a concrete wall outside of my elementary school, scribbling with a #2 pencil, getting into words how incredibly angry and sad I was (because, yes, the depression isn’t a new thing for me). There was, and has almost always been, a sense of relief in getting thoughts out of my head and onto a page; it made the feelings, the impressions and thoughts, more knowable, more understandable. Where before I had a head full of color and sound and shapes, once I wrote it down, I could look my thoughts in the eye and get to know them better.
Which is why having writer’s block for nearly two years was so hard for me; it left my thoughts lodged in my head, where they keep changing and shifting, moving and evading me. And it took me nearly two years to figure out what I was going to do about it.
Giving Myself Permission
It seems obvious once it’s decided; what does one do about writer’s block? Or any other type of creative block? How do you solve a problem like a creator who isn’t creating?
Well, after much therapy, giving of advice to others, deliberation, some fighting with myself, and a few bouts of mindfulness, I realized what I had to do; I had to give myself permission to have writer’s block. It wasn’t easy. I fought myself tooth and nail about this, mostly because I thought that I was giving up, instead of moving past. But once I figured this out, it was like waking up from a fitful sleep; I could see a clearer, and I realized – with total trust that it was true – that this bout of writer’s block would, absolutely, come to an end.
It was, and is, a relief. The end is out there – and I found it, eventually. When the writer’s block was hanging on me, weighing me down as much as the depression, I could assure myself that the end of my stagnation was out there; perhaps not close, but it existed and I would reach it some day. There were days when I would open a notebook, pick up a pen – and nothing would come of it. And that was alright. I took a second to make sure I didn’t beat myself over not having written anything. I actually rewarded myself (I made banana bread), because when it comes to overcoming depression, even just the urge to create was a thing worth encouraging in myself. If I had responded to that experience by punishing myself in some way – gnashed and bitched that I wasn’t doing anything – it may have unconsciously taught me to not even try, and would have dimmed the faint light that I had felt slowly coming back me.
A lot of noise gets made about self-care.
I’m here to say that it should be listened to. It may not all work for you, individually, but it each and every piece of it works for someone, which means that some of it will work for you.
Sometimes self-care is putting pen or pencil to paper, and spilling your mind out into images and words.
Sometimes self-care is creating something that isn’t up to your standards, in order to allow yourself to learn and grow.
And, contrary to even my own thoughts for a long time, sometimes self-care if giving yourself permission to put the pen, pencil, or keyboard down, and take some time to heal.
I am overjoyed to say that the writer’s block did come to an end (I’m still not back to my old level of creating, but I’ve got something back, and I am so happy about it).
And the lesson that I learned in the meantime? Breathe, sleep, socialize with friends, take your rx meds if you have them, see your therapist if you have one, and take care of yourself so that your creativity has a home to return to.
Want some one-on-one help working through what we call ‘writer’s block’ (but which usually has some bigger things going on)? Book a session, and we’ll talk through the block together.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this complicated topic. Reach out to QandACreative@gmail.com to share your thoughts and ask questions.
Thanks for reading!
This article was updated from its original publication on PaperDemon.com, an artists’ and Art RPG community. Are you a visual artist looking for community and support? Check them out!
Development Coach for The Quill & Anvil: Creative Development
Having lived with mental health issues most of her life, Maya has become very in tune with emotions. More than that, she’s also learned tips and tricks for staying creative in even the most challenging situations. Part of that has been giving back – she runs a local writing group offering support to science-fiction and fantasy writers, she volunteers with The Dancing Cat (cat rescue and adoption organization) putting on events to raise money for the charity, and now offers her writing/development consulting on ProlificWriters.Life.