Yesterday was mental health awareness day or something – so lets pretend I posted yesterday when it was timely.
I’ve been putting this off.
I set up this blog account ages ago, thinking I would have something to say. Hell, I’ve had multiple people suggest I do this. A blog explaining my work. My process. My ideas. So I set this up.
And I let it grow silent for long periods of time. Months of silence.
It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. Far from it, I’m prone to ramble on about anything. Art, animation, ancient roman good luck charms, history, gender politics, board games, video games, pulp novels, grave robbing, pirates, the list can go on. (Though I probably won’t write about all of these things here on an Art Blog.) I’ve got a whole folder of half started entries – and a pile of ideas in the drafts folder (hell this entry is from that folder, it’s been in there for months).
I have ideas. But it’s more that I am afraid that I have nothing worth saying. Nothing anyone would care to read. And by putting things out there for people – it just makes me look pathetic. Or foolish. (I’m currently keeping this writing going by reminding myself a woman recently wrote and published a diatribe about mayonnaise being the lynchpin of the American dream, so I really can’t do worse.)
Then I had guilt about the silence and that just made me even less likely to move, cause what sort of asshole makes a blog – abandons it and then expects people to come back it?
That’s how depression is. Keeps you quiet and stuck in your own head. Which is a miserable place to be. Everything is wrong and your fault in some way, if it isn’t you just aren’t looking hard enough.
This is a common problem I deal with along with a whole plethora of other anxieties. But it occurs to me that I am a poor judge of what my own words are worth. Like all art or creations the judge isn’t the artist or creator, it’s the audience. If I bore anyone, well, they can quietly close the browser window and move on with life and I probably won’t know the difference. Now that that’s established, let us get started.
The artist with depression at this point is such a cliché you can google it and find 50,300,000 results in less than a second. The starving depressed artist, you get a mental illness and a coupon for ramen when they hand you your art degree.
“Anxiety is the handmaiden of Handmaiden of Creativity” is apparently a T.S. Eliot quote. Psychology Today has an article titled “ Positives of Depression on Artistic Expression.” and there are way too many sites pasting that Van Gogh quote “the sadness will last forever.” on everything. So I guess I should just take my lumps and accept that this is the price I pay for art. Accept that this is how things are, how they have to be. Right?
This is largely bullshit.
Depression is not art, Depression is the folder of half written drafts, the unposted entries, the deleted photos, the sketches ‘not good enough’ to share. Depression is the pile of junk stacked on top of my scanner for months – the inability to allow myself to order supplies for conventions. (Why order supplies when nothing is going to sell? Why order supplies if the world is on fire?)
Anxiety, that handmaiden of creativity, keeps me second guessing and feeling like I have a knot in my chest. Why go to art market- I don’t belong there. Surely I didn’t really get accepted, I must have read the paperwork wrong. Filled out something wrong. I can’t run a table, what was I thinking?
None of this is conducive to getting anything done.
Depression is less an emotion than a stagnation. A voice in the back of your head telling you nothing matters. Keeps you from leaving bed. Makes eating a chore. Replaces joy and anger and sorrow with a hollow feeling.
Sitting there in the dark starving yourself while wrapped in blankets may be very bohemian but it doesn’t create anything. Nothing gets done. Nothing gets made.
Frustration feeds art. Anger feeds art. Sorrow feeds art. The drive to pay the bills. They give you something – a color- a feel – a ball of righteous indignation to throw on a page – something to share a smile with the world- inertia to get up and move. Take your pick. This is how art is made. With sweat and tears and determination.
But why am I talking about this?
I’ve dealt with too much recently, too many people who decided this was it. That they should just accept things. That they needed the anxiety or they’d be “lazy” despite the fact it keeps them in circles beating themselves up. Or, they have depression and think about ending things, doesn’t everyone? There’s no point. The sadness never ends. They are artists – it’s part of being a creative. They are busy – that’s life. They are fine. Artists starve, artists wrap themselves in ennui and art is supposed to come from their pain. Adults are supposed to suck it up and deal, joy is for kids.
It’s not true. It’s not true and it doesn’t ‘have to’ be like that.
I’m not saying that it’s all sunshine and rainbows – or that I’m cured and see the light now. Cause I don’t. I still have the folders of discarded ideas, my scanner is still covered in junk. My depression is still around – but I’m working on that. Every day I make myself get out of bed. It may take longer than I’d like, I may not get all I wanted to get done but I try.
With luck I’ve managed to afford meds to keep the edge off. I found therapy at a sliding scale rate I can afford. I’ve had friends help me keep moving, shoving me out the door. It’s not perfect, I still have bad days, but it beats feeling hollow.
So I guess what my point is- is depression is not a thing that has to be. It’s not the ‘necessary price’ for creativity. You don’t have to be silent about it. There are ways to handle it. Also I guess as an apology to anyone who reads this and assume I have my shit together. I really don’t, I just pretend to be a functioning adult.