The Spiralling Pit

The Creative Mind & Depression

Let’s consider that the creative mind and depression are synonymous. This is not a new idea — even if depression is regarded as a disease of modernity. It doesn’t take much to cast back to common references of such stereotypes as the ‘mad scientist, ‘tortured artist’ throughout human history — there has to be some inherent truth in the link.
Personally speaking, there’s a maddening synchronicity to weaving art through mental ill-health. I loathe embracing this affliction as an illness; it’s an evil twin that’s attached itself to my core. But there’s no wavering — it is an illness. Maybe one of the soul as much as the brain. It torments the creative mind like a captor. For some of us, the relationship becomes a sort of Stockholm syndrome, an inescapable symbiotic horrorshow.
I abhor it, maybe as much as I was conditioned to despise myself. Then I wonder if that instinctual over-analytic contemplation, the drive to understand and develop answers and solutions — a catalyst of change, a fuel of creation has some essence that fills a need — even when it leads to nowhere on the external. With depression’s tightening hands around life and art’s (those too are synonymous) throat and no words, shapes or colour come in any sort of sense, with the abandon of insanity. And the heavy, sticky, tar-like stuckness of it. With maddening, head-bursting introspectiveness and reactionary to stimulus, even of a thoughtless kind. Those stimuli can be hardest to shake — that processing of depression, like art, can be sickeningly narcissistic to an observer. Beneath that appearance, it can be more from an altruistic nature, one that can never find peace from being consumed by so much needless suffering for deplorable reasoning. An internalised, ever-raging war of sadness, anxiety and frustration and their armies.
There’s a kindred spirit amongst those who suffer (I’m not keen on that word too, though it is accurate) at the hands of this demon. Depression; the stalker. It certainly tortures and bates like one. Of course, I point the finger at depression itself, but maybe that creative drive is too a demon of sorts; a need, compulsion, addiction. That need, that drive can be as desperate as the most basic needs to survive. Creativity is the thirst of the soul that demands quenching.
While there’s no hard, scientifically proven link that I know of (I could be entirely wrong), its long-running prevalence cannot be denied. Some of the most cherished artists have made their afflictions known; undeniable tales slithered through brush strokes and words and musical notes, pouring blood through ink. Van Gogh, Plath, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Cobain, Staley, Cornell… there’s an endless parade of those who’ve broken into utter submission to their affliction, how many more unknown names bound together alone? Scattering pieces of themselves before their demise, with vultures pecking at the bones for generations after, or they blow away ashes to the wind… forgotten. There is a desperate need to live in some form of immortality living in loops and repeats, words cascading through eyes in minds; breeding and living on when that mind has long ceased being. Depression when it dances with suicide and for those whom it jumps into bed with, it’s an oxymoron in a creative who scatters seeds that, for some outlive, that immortality craving, notes from the grave, the cry for help or the declaration of: this is just how it is, beneath it all.
Many years ago, a doctor (or therapist) remarked how maybe there was no way out for me, that my deep dark maddening downward spirals of self-torment and heavy sadness, the depression and suicidal ideations and (at times) planning, were a part of me… Victim blaming? Professional incompetence? She (like several) didn’t know how to help. I’m a hopeless case. Miraculously, therapy didn’t push me straight off the tightrope. I embraced that message to a degree, though. Therapy (for me) was utterly useless. (For some of those, the mentally unwell are fodder to their ego-mania of saviour, even if just in prescribed works, it lines their bellies enough.) More than that embracement, it added to the weight of hopelessness — even with professional intent, sometimes there’s no one to help but oneself — in that, I’ve had no choice in the toughest of times.
I sometimes lull around the button. The whisper has never ceased, it bides its time; the one that says, “you’ve fought long enough”, “waited long enough”, “it never gets better for long”, “just give up!”, give in”, “finally, make the pain stop….” Lifelong mental health battles have steeped into my bones, I’m almost convinced it’s the culprit for a multitude of ailments. Dancing with physical pain like a lover, spawning one chronic pain to another.
I have my tethers, strands that force my nostrils just above the murky water, choking and gagging with that whisper, taunting to submit to the deep.
It’s interesting, though — I mulled over this recently whilst amid a major dip. It’s funny the terms we use for mental ill-health, there’s a flippancy that almost minimises this beast’s brutality. When I hear the buzzword ‘wellbeing’, I feel the same way — it’s wishy-washy, a platitude coined by the utterly clueless desperate to appear to care. A painfully overused marketing ploy. Along with the flippancy, there’s still such stigma for when mental ill-health is discussed sincerely and from places of genuine life experience — not just a mere observer. Not that I dismiss the validity of good, unbiased observations! As a highly sensitive introvert type, I’m an observational questioner — constantly to the point of unbearably annoying.
Back to the point — yes, I’m almost sure the creative brain (certainly, my own grey-matter) is in an ever-constant dance-off with depression and her tormenting sisters… I’ve never been a good dancer, they toss me around like dead meat.

NaNoWriMo — Not this Year

This year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo didn’t hit the goal. Winter always seems to be a time of heightened drama, in opposition to the slower, warmer, more reflective side I long for at years end. Quieten the noise, slow down the pace.
It doesn’t seem to matter the ingredients placed in the cauldron; there’s no slow and steady blending and simmer, it’s a sporadically exploding bomb — spewing shrapnel into the eyeballs and the roof, and right now it’s barely holding up. With that my focus was and still is in tatters, December may be more about finding all the pieces again and trying to fuse some sanity and peace.
Anyway, my Backyard Asylum novel project only reached 14k – quite a distance from the 50k goal! I beat myself up throughout November with exhaustion and lack of creative time to drive into it. That’s been quite prevalent this entire year more than just the month, but it did feel more saturated. Such is life; she likes her curveballs and depression likes to wrap her fingers around my throat for periods of total torment. She’s a cruel demon indeed. So, it’s been a case of prioritising basic practical needs over desire. Although creativity is certainly a need, when it’s embedded deep, which fuels desire — without the sparks of passion there is little will to trudge through the more mundane, life has to be more than that — the fight continues. I’m rambling now, this slump shall pass!
So, while Backyard Asylum is written in my head, I have to sacrifice some sleep, muster some energy from the ether and hit the keys — though maybe without the daily word-count pressure, which did me no good this first time around.
Regardless, I am happy with what’s down for this WIP novel — its bones are horrific in a promising way. There’s a lot to work through and develop, but I’m confident it will in time progress so I can nail this first draft and go deep into sculpting and editing through the rough edges. The characters have meat, and there’s some strong scenes pinned already. I spiralled off into research more than physical writing a little more than planned, such is the ‘panster’ way.
As much as I tried to avoid the temptation, I have my eye on a few open-calls for short stories. Nothing new and substantial has been written on the front yet, but there are some ideas stewing, so I’ve some snippets of poetry to go back to and work on to develop into a full-blown piece.

In summary, my first NaNoWriMo died in week two. But, the story itself will come into being, I am pleased with what’s been written so far, it’ll just take a little longer to get there. It’ll be a priority for 2021.