I have had a longlasting bout of depression that I am now on medication for. I am talking a decade of Major Depressive Disorder. I don’t mean a bit of ennui although, yeah, I get that too… don’t we all? But depression is a beast. It is quite effective medication for me. And you hear about artists and writers are more prone to depression. And that medication ruins our creativity. Are more creative people more prone to mental illness? Or are people who are mentally ill more creative? Or both?
Depression sucks but…
I was a very prolific writer with depression. Pure escapism from my reality I think. So I wrote a lot. Many of the WIPs I have are from then. And I wrote and self-published my Haven series. So yeah very creative during that time in my deepest pit of despair.
But, on the flip side, I didn’t market it. And that is a loss it is much harder to market it now. A lost opportunity that it never got my full attention because I had limited energy and motivation to even learn how to do that. So I am quite behind in learning to market my work as a result. I thought of writing as a hobby because I couldn’t fathom anyone liking anything I wrote because my self-worth was sub-zero. And because I was constantly on disability and just trying to survive financially, and not doing well,( like with this leave from work due to illness)… I couldn’t afford to have a professionally done cover or an editor. So I thought my work would remain subpar. And I still feel that because I still cannot afford those things.
Taylor first looked at whether creative people are more likely to have a mood disorder compared to non-creative controls. She looked at data from from ten studies involving fine arts students, creative writers, and eminent figures from creative fields, and found that yes, there was a clear relationship between being creative and having a diagnosis of a mood disorder, such as depression (overall the association had a moderate-to-large effect size). This finding held across different ways of measuring creativity, such as musical performance or tests of divergent thinking (finding new ideas or solutions). Creativity was most commonly associated with bipolar disorder (a condition marked by periods of low and high mood). It was not associated with all mood disorders – for instance, dysthymic disorder (mood depression that is longer-lasting but milder in nature than clinical depression) was no more common among creative people than controls. Research Digest
Not being depressed is better but…
After my depression was treated I wasn’t as prolific of a writer. I have written five books since then and self-published one of them. And I didn’t lose my love of writing, my creativity, or the quality of my work. Medication didn’t kill my creativity. But it can because it affects our mood. And I know people on antidepressants that struggle to write as a result. But it didn’t for me on Abilify. It just… levelled me out. I don’t slide down that slippery slope to hell. And for that I am glad. But a lot of the thoughts and beliefs and pessimism remain. The cynic in me… well is all natural.
But are we more creative with depression?
Maybe in the sense that suffering compels you, as a writer or artist, to express it. Like I suck at poetry but I wrote a lot of it when depressed because of the fact I had this deep intense pain to express. And in my books, my characters suffer because I have suffered. But on meds, I still suffer. Well, we all do. But I mean like with chronic pain and so I still have this powerful need to get it out there in some fashion. I was extremely creative in many ways. But the deep pit of despair that frequently assaulted me was dangerous.
If low mood does have a (often hidden) beneficial effect on creativity, one possibility is that it can initiate reflections that lead to new ways of seeing the world. This could explain why the deep dives of depression were associated with higher creativity but the chronic, less extensive dip of dysthemia was not. Moreover, by combining lows with motivation-charged highs, perhaps bipolar disorder combines the deep dives with a return to the surface, giving a chance for these insights to manifest. Research Digest
And here is the but to that
I am actually a pretty goofy person with I highly enhanced sense of humour and always cracking jokes. I am cynic but I am a happy one. And I am perfectly capable of writing while being happy. I am a depressive person even with medication. Prone to bouts of rumination. Get stuck on thinking really negative things. Yeah, I still have depressive patterns of thought, And maybe that gives us a perspective on reality. Like my chronic pain does. But it isn’t necessary for creation and we should celebrate our happiness and our creativity. All I know is that I was suicidal. I needed medication. And the fact it works like this makes my life a better quality of life than it was. And I am still a creative person. I still have this need to write and express myself.
I am not going to deny our creativity and our projects change when we are not depressed. It does change things for sure. Different ideas roll in. Different perspective. But even with depression treated by medication a lot of the habitual aspects to depression remain. And I know I still have a grim outlook on the world. Maybe if I was truly satisfied with life I wouldn’t be compelled to create? Maybe if I wasn’t this melancholy personality I wouldn’t feel the desire to express myself. But without treatment… that was a deeply scary place to exist I wouldn’t wish on anyone. We cannot be afraid to lose our creativity with medications. And medications are not forever, just to get us through the bout… usually. I am thinking of going off mine now… and just seeing how I feel. But I am honestly afraid to do that.
I am thankful to be alive, really. Thankful I was able to get treatment that worked for me. But I would loathe it if it affected my creativity. I have no purpose in life other to be found in my writing and I think it would be the worst thing ever if I were to not have it.
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