by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
Some people complain that responses to bad things happening in the world today have dissolved into a #hashtag for people to post in social media and make themselves feel like they’ve done something. Continue reading
This is part two of our series on creative people and mental health issues.
I want to say I am not a medical professional, only a fellow creative interested in exploring this subject. Nothing in this post should be considered medical advice. Please see your health care professional for advice concerning a diagnosis of clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Please don’t self-diagnose.
Depressives who in spite of their depression struggle led/are leading very creative and productive lives include Winston Churchill, Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie, Abraham Lincoln, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Janet Jackson.
Comedian Stephen Fry, singer Britney Spears, media innovator Ted Turner, actress Patty Duke, kickboxer/actor Jean Claude VanDamme, author Virginia Woolf, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, author Graham Greene and possibly Vincent Van Gogh are a few of the more famous people who have struggled with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression.
Depression and bipolar disorder can be extremely disruptive to the sufferer and his or her spouse, family and friends. Manic episodes can allow for lots of productive work and creativity or it can be episodic chaos. Depressive angst can drive creativity or bring it to a standstill. The most important thing to know is that you are not alone, don’t be afraid or ashamed of your struggle, and seek medical, psychological and spiritual advice to stay on the healthiest path you can for yourself.
As creatives, we worry that our creative path will be stymied. How can we protect our creative practice if we are in a cycle that seems unmanageable?
“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, they fail because of my foes….Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish…Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorry, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak…” (Psalm 6, 25, 31, NIV)
There is a lot of speculation that the Biblical King David was bipolar. I won’t address that, but he captures in his sacred poetry the drowning pit that is depression. I think through the Psalms we not only see him crying out to God in his anguish, but doing something that counselors and psychologists now call positive self-talk.
“My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
Whether it is a scripture, a positive thought, a mantra, or a happy melody, speaking positive words will help you refocus.
Speaking positive words won’t ‘fix’ things, but combined with a program that is moving you towards being your best you, it will help. If you tend to depression or depressive episodes, don’t overdo it and let your tank go empty.
If you are struggling, eradicate self-judgment. Some days accomplishing one thing is an accomplishment. And that’s okay. Be patient with yourself. If not, tomorrow is a new day, a new slate. Add one thing if you can. Reject the pressure, especially the pressure you put on yourself.
Writing and journaling especially helped me as I dealt with a depressive episode. Freewriting let me take my thoughts and create the start of an essay:
“The dilapidated aluminum siding walls matched my buckling confidence. I stared at the ceiling fan above me, each wide blade caked with mold and neglect. It didn’t cool the steamy stale air that hovered like my depression, a cloud that threatened to suffocate me.”
Need more ammunition to eradicate the blues? Check out these great links:
The weekly Friday feature of Write Anywhere venues here on kristin nador writes anywhere has been a personal challenge as well as a challenge to my readers that we can discover the fuel for creativity anywhere. Whether you are a writer, a painter, a photographer, a musician, a seamstress, a crafter, a poet, a performer, or a creative of any type, you can energize your skills, abilities and inspirations by taking yourself out of the regular routine of life. Allow yourself to hear what’s going on deep in your brain cells and your spirit so it can be expressed through your creative pursuits. The beginning of a new year can be one of the best times to take stock of your creative goals and I found a very unusual place to seek my muse.
The sun warmed the crisp winter air as I climbed up a small hill to The Labyrinth in Hunter Park. What’s a labyrinth you might ask? You mean that weird movie with David Bowie? No, labyrinths have been around since ancient times. They are intricate mazes or paths of different shapes that seems chaotic but have a distinct thread that will take you from the outside of the path to the inside. They have existed in many cultures with accompanying symbolic meanings, but there has been a resurgence of interest in labyrinths for spiritual meditation and stress-reduction in recent years. There is even a Labyrinth society where you can search for labyrinths in your local area.
This labyrinth is at the high point of the park where a basketball court once stood. The circular maze is painted on the concrete in bright city-curb yellow. The area was deserted; park visitors congregated at the more active areas of the park like the playground and the dog park below. Not as awe-inspiring as the one at the cathedral of Chartres, but inviting nonetheless. I felt a little silly as I started to follow the path, but I was determined to make this a productive experience.
I took slow measured steps, let the air fill my lungs and tried to empty my mind of all the usual clutter that vies for my attention. I felt a little disconcerted at having no media to consume: no breaking news, no Twitter feed, no email, no phone calls. That’s the signal that tells me I am in need of unplugging so I can concentrate on more important matters.
I thought a little, prayed a little, thought a little more. I can’t say I had some earth-shattering spiritual experience or got a thunderbolt of an idea for my writing, but it refreshed my body and my thought processes. When I sat at a nearby bench to write, the words flowed. Thoughts were expressed. Coincidentally (or not) it brought to mind a passage I had recently read:
Where did you write this week?
Each holiday season seems to get busier. We add more tasks to our already bulging schedules and more purchases to our shrinking budgets. Tempers flare and shopping lines get longer. It’s also the season we reconnect with our loved ones and focus on giving. This week’s writing venue brought a time of reflection and meditation.
I visited the grounds of Our Lady of Sorrows convent. It was built in the 1960’s and closed its doors about three years ago but still retains its peaceful beauty. A marble bench invited me to sit, write and meditate. No phone, no email, no constant media stream to distract, only the trees and grasses whispering in the cold wind.
I looked in a window to see the small chapel, its wooden pews now silent and empty. It made me think about the women who sat in those pews, giving their entire lives in service to their faith. Admirable. And isn’t that what this season is all about – giving.
This place helped me think about the things that are important to me that sometimes get pushed to the back burner in the hurry of life: faith, worship, prayer, service.
And here’s a little Christmas cheer I give to you from my friend Flea. Please enjoy her reading of ‘A Cajun Night Before Christmas’:
I pray for you all joy, peace and love this Christmas.
Sometimes when things seem overwhelming in your life, you need to get completely out of your element. You need to find a harbor of peace in the midst of the storm. I heard somewhere that looking at a fish aquarium will lower stress. Well, I found the biggest one in town.
On a cold blustery Thursday I visited the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, Oklahoma. I explored the exhibits before walking into the coral reef exhibit, where I settled down on a bench. The beautiful creatures gliding effortlessly through the water makes you think of something majestic, ancient and immense. Daily problems shrink in comparison.
My favorite creature was an old rainbow parrotfish sauntering through the reef, unruffled by the schools of faster fish hurrying here and there.
The aquarium was almost empty that day, and allowed me about an hour of uninterrupted writing time. Then I wandered over to an area in the back just in time to see the sharks feeding in their tank. The sharks performed a graceful and mesmerizing ballet (with no blood involved). I took a video on my phone that turned out okay, but check out this video of one of the biggest aquariums in the world for a ballet of epic proportions.
Where did you write this week?