What Can Depression Look Like in Art Making?
Creating art is a long-loved pastime of mine. It calms me and give my brain something pleasurable to focus on. I’ve been singing karaoke since I could hold a microphone. As a psychotherapist, covering heavy material most days, I find art making a useful way to heal myself. I love playing guitar, singing, crafting, writing, and drawing. Currently, I’m wanting to work on loving movement through Tai Chi and recently purchased my beginners sculpting supplies.
Other times, I can get in a funk and call those same pausing periods “lengthy dry spells” of art-making. In those periods, whether you consider them dry spells, breaks, pauses or inhales, they can be simply and non-judgmentally explained as our creative spark having not happened yet.
With an appreciation that acknowledging the creative spark as something “not yet happened” may be easier said than done, when those spells of lost inspiration or motivation last longer than I want them to I can start getting down on myself and get quite frustrated. I experience the mental health equivalent of how someone may feel like they are coming down with a cold—sluggish, with a desire to lay in bed. And after a couple of weeks pass, I’ve come to recognize that this experience could be part of a depressive episode.
If you have ever wondered whether you might be dealing with some depressive symptoms, here is a list of how symptoms of depression may look like:
When you sit to create, your mind can't stop racing and lately the motivation to create or being inspired has been lacking.
You've lost interest in creating art when it used to bring you pleasure and joy. You may even feel doubtful that inspiration will return.
When you do manage to create something, nothing you create seems ‘good enough’ or you think you're a fraud or a 'terrible' artist.
You feel irritable about other artists’ success even though you like the person and find yourself comparing yourself to other artists in self-deprecating ways.
Without art making, you're experiencing weight changes or a disturbed appetite. You may find yourself procrastinating more and not being able to meet deadlines while subsequently losing sleep worrying about your future.
With each type of art that I create, I know all too well that there are times of pause that inevitably come. If I am in an emotionally well-state in my own writing practice, I call it “taking a break” alternated with the phrase I’ve adopted from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, of the “artist’s inhale.”
While any single or combination of these do not make an official diagnosis, if you or someone you know has been dealing with a handful or more of the above experiences, for 2 weeks or more, it may be a good time to seek out the support of a professional.
For immediate support, if you are having thoughts of dying by suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-TALK or text ‘help’ to 741-741.
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Chopsticks Alley Pinoy Contributor
Cynthia Siadat is a proud second-generation Fil-Am Licensed Clinical Social Worker (CA #76525; NY 083721-1). She acknowledges and is grateful that she is inhabiting, living and working on Tongva land. Committed to normalizing and destigmatizing mental health conversation, Cynthia received her graduate training at Columbia University School of Social Work and has been in the mental health field for over 15 years. She works with individuals and shares tools and resources typically reserved for the therapy room through her speaking, writing, and organization consultation around mental health.