Have I ever mentioned here (on Untangling Tales) that I wrestle with depression? Usually seasonal, and usually manageable, but there are times and varieties that just eat my mind and (as a result) basically freak me out.
Well, this post is a chewing on that variety.
Last summer I went back to Weight Watchers for a while, to see if their new system was a good match for me. The first group I visited was a convenient time for me, but I was “twilight zone” weirded-out by the emphasis of the majority on consuming.
That is, they never talked about recipes they were discovering and trying out with their own twist (what I was used to from my old group) so much as they talked about the right websites and recipe designers.
Now, this is a subtle distinction, so it took me a while to decide what felt so off. These were women who were not (as a group) creative people. They didn’t experiment on their own (at least from their talk). They were good at sussing out the “perfect” recipes and following them exactly for perfect results.
Objectively I see nothing wrong with this, but it is (to use an Alaskan analogy) like warm dark. I know it exists, and is even normal to some people, but it is so far from my life-history I can’t be all that relaxed in that environment.
Shifting groups actually helped me stick it out longer in WW. My later group was (as a whole, at least in what they shared) much more creative.
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I have found a fairly tight correlation between creativity and managing depression. That could be why a non-creative group felt dangerous. Depression feels like zombie-mode to me, so being surrounded by folks who didn’t need it… Well yeah, was just creepy.
Because the majority of my depression is darkness-related, I feel worst from November to January. Emphasis on the back-half of January, probably because I’ve been hanging on so long.
For the last two years I have chosen to participate in NaNoWriMo as a sort of creative therapy. It happens in November, so it’s a good strong push right at the beginning where I need it.
There is the back-of-my-mind terror that if I can’t keep up, or if I crash, that I’ll tank even deeper than otherwise, but since I’ve been able to maintain it both times the combination of enforced creativity plus proof-of-competence has been very stabilizing both years.
And that sense—of active creativity staving-off a more debilitating depression—explains why attacks on (or even questioning the need of) Creating feels like a threat.
I’m reminded of those old commercials for… what was it, Head and Shoulders? A dandruff shampoo. A friend would notice what shampoo the good-looking lead used and protest, “But you don’t have dandruff!”
And the lead would flash that white, straight-toothed grin and say, “You’re right.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a less-gleeful version of that commercial. I do 16 things (I’ll make a list someday for the real amount) to maintain a level state, at bad times preferring to be exhausted rather than consumed by depression, then (as the result of that effort) be stable enough to present a level front to most of the world. So I get people who don’t understand that, yeah, *I* can get depressed.
I don’t think this is about being un-genuine. Usually I feel it is a service to others to keep my issues to myself. Sort of like collecting my baby from the church nursery when he started screaming. It’s my life, my responsibility. I don’t think I’ve ever rejected help I could use, (even for the boy), but knowing my resources are usually at capacity managing my own world, I’m not in a hurry to put more on anyone else.
The point is, I find creativity—both recharging, discovering and expressing it—a key player in my personal stability.
This week I had the delight of presenting on the topic of Myers-Briggs personality theory, and how it connects to parenting.
The next day, yesterday, I was exhausted.
I watched at least three body-a-week type shows yesterday.
These are my quick story-fix when my life doesn’t have room for a novel. They serve a dual purpose; not only do I get a complete (usually well-written) story in only 45 minutes, but they are of the physiologically soothing type.
What? You don’t find murder soothing? Well, I don’t either. Really. I’m not that sick. The reason these stories have value to me is because they seem to be the last hold-out in our society today for absolutes.
Somebody was murdered. That’s bad. It’s good to find the truth. And they do.
- My kids were invited to play in town this morning, giving me three hours to line-out my mind and projects.
- I dreamed last night. A good, thought-provoking story-dream.
- I woke up with how to fix POV issues on two different novels
With these gifts, the ideas and the time to process them, I felt life coming back into me.
I’m still as physically tired as I’ve been (short nights for about a week) but my mental state is back from zombie-land. I’m not as scared I’m going to lose my grip. I am so excited about where my stories can go now, and I’m reminded of a definition of HOPE I picked up somewhere:
Hope is the assurance that now is not permanent.
That might sound a bit negative for some tastes, but most of the time when I’m in need of hope it is because the *now* is not welcome after all, hope that we can see is not hope.