On depression and creativity
I’ve just realized the full text of my essay about depression and creativity, ‘Never real and always true’ is available for download on the Griffith Review site. Unfortunately it’s only in pdf format, so I’ve taken the liberty of cutting and pasting the text onto this site. And remember you can subscribe to Griffith Review by visiting their website, or purchase individual copies of Essentially Creative online from Gleebooks, Readings or bricks and mortar bookshops everywhere.
‘Never real and always true: on depression and creativity’
Thanks for putting that up, James, I have read it with great interest and a bit of sadness as well – such a long time to have no diagnosis! I am enjoying reading Adam Phillips’ short book on Winnicott at the moment and take your point about the jargon of psychology, something W. himself disliked enormously.
Quite a bit of content online in that issue!! is that usually the case?
Thank you – I appreciate it. And yes, a lot of that GR is online, which isn’t normally the case (at least not in my experience). Maybe it’s a new policy?
I am ashamed to admit I’ll have to look at my article for Cordite or the Wayback Machine to refresh my memory on whether they had more content or less available earlier on.
Cannot remember :-d
Brilliant article James. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to wrestle with the Black Dog and it’s affected your writing. I grew up with a father who is clinically depressed and I know first hand how god-awful it is for all. He has cancer at the moment and will tell you he would prefer the cancer to the depression any day. I tend towards melancholy but have never had to be medicated (touch wood and make the lucky devil sign) I do know that if I’m not writing or painting my mood does get worse. Thank you for writing so bravely about this topic.
I just read the exerpt of this piece that was in the Age newspaper.
I am a 4th year medical student, and have just finished my psychiatry term. While of course the little bit of your story that I read is not enough to base a diagnosis on, there was one thing that troubled me. In one part, you wrote of a consistently elated mood, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts and increased confidence. This reads as a classic description of a manic episode, which would confer the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. What worries me is that the treatment for bipolar disorder is not SSRIs – in fact, anti-depressant medication can be bad as it can precipitate manic episodes.
I’m not sure how much of this has already been discussed between you and your doctor. It may be that I am lacking in some important information, or things have already been sorted out. There may not be a problem. I was just concerned that if these episodes had not been properly discussed with your doctor, things may not be being managed as well as could be.
All the best,
I was just talking with a friend last night about my own lifelong tendancies toward depression, and the idea that the amorphous, shifting ‘black dog’ (especially when it’s a ghost in the machine and not the dominant force) opens up parts of the personality that are otherwise hard to access; In short, that as long as it doesn’t dominate it might actually be a gift, albeit a difficult one.
I’m ‘out’ with my depression. I’ve worked long and hard to learn how to live with it and how to take care of myself when it starts to seep in and i want to be open enough so that people around me can see that it’s part of a ‘real-life’ life and feel like perhaps they can ask me questions or for help, and also so that when the shit hits the fan (as it occasionally does) the people close to me will know what’s happening, what may help.
And what helps best- absolutely without a doubt- is regular creative effort. sometimes it’s sustained and to the point, sometimes (especially if things are bad an the thought of sitting at a table with a blank page is nauseating) it’s taking a really long time over cooking a meal and sometimes it’s an afternoon spent making a drawing that no one ever needs to see, but whatever form it takes, creativity has been the missing link in my effort to live as full a life as possible. exercise, herbs, sleep and having someone to talk to all keep the balance, but creative production not only eases psychic distress, it contributes enormously to the pleasure of life. there’s no way i would ever glorify depresion- it’s too frightening an experience to ever really romanticise, but i have to say i’m glad of who i am and i wouldn’t change things even if it ment i didn’t have to live with this anymore, i think i’ve been forced to reach for bigger things than i might have if i was born happy-go-lucky. sorry if this is long winded, it’s a topic that struck a note.