I need to go deeper into my depressions to get out of them, and use Jessica Dall’s suggestion number one, “Only write what is cathartic.” Writing something dark can take a lot of the bite out of a depression. I feel irritated when people tell me to cheer up, even though I know that they might be saying it with all of the best intentions. When I let myself go dark when I write, I feel spooked by the vividness of horrible images — and fascinated and illuminated. I would never deliberately read or write such things. Suggestion number one is refreshing.
When I am in my deepest depression, art is the last ability that I lose. Reading and writing are the very last skills that go, except breathing, swallowing, and blinking (yes, those become skills). I write quickly and keep my focus on the next word, so that I don’t have time to read or judge my work. I know that I might have to write dozens of pages to produce one keeper. That’s OK, because the keeper is exciting and rewarding, and makes the experience worthwhile. So, I want to proclaim suggestion number three from the rooftops! “Don’t hold yourself to any standards.”
Consider the statistics that Jessica cites, while you keep suggestion number three in mind. Consider that mental illness diagnoses are human constructs (standards) to help professionals to communicate. Therefor, perhaps art doesn’t make people crazy, and crazy people aren’t artistic. Perhaps the people who feel less pressure to be conventional, and more drive to be unconventional, are diagnosed as “crazy artists”. This idea makes suggestion number three all the more sensible.
Another sensible suggestion is, “Figure out if schedules work for you.” Too many people who think that they know about mood disorders insist that time management must help. It is only helpful when I feel well. Otherwise, it is enormously frustrating as I can’t accomplish what I aim for.
You see, suggestion number five, “Know it will get better,” is the one that I have the hardest time with every day. No one has persuaded me that “this too shall pass.” For example, when I have been down for a while, and then depression persists, then I am sure that I am deteriorating. I know that how I am feeling will never improve. I know that I will never be able to finish the many projects that I started. Instead of backing out to where I remember the light was, and not being able to find even a glimmer, I accept that I am in that state of mind forever. With practice, I am learning to reorient myself to accept my limitations. Even when I can only imagine what I want to write, that is something. I can’t imagine that I will ever feel better, but I find it easy to imagine that I could feel worse. Then is a good time to return to suggestion number one, and write my heart out!
Jessica Dall offers remarkable insight for people who deal with depression personally or indirectly. I hope that more people will see these suggestions.
Once again, it is American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day. Before, I talked about the use of mental disorders in fiction (something that can both be done very, very well and very, very poorly); today I’ll be talking about mental disorders on the other side of the keyboard (or typewriter, or pen).
In a statistic that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, those who work in creative fields have some of the highest rates of mental illness in the general population. As this article puts it, “People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, especially writers, according to researchers at Karolinska Institute” (emphasis mine). They go on to state, “Like their previous study, [Karolinska Insitute] found that bipolar disorder is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors…
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