Why Depression and Art Don’t Mix
little PSA that i feel the need to get off my chest (under a cut due to some possibly triggering imagery/descriptions of an episode)
the idea of artists is synonymous with a lot of things. smoking, eccentricity, a sort of laissez faire attitude towards society at large. one of the ones i have unfortunately been a part of is a big one: depression.
it is a sad truth that a good portion of the world, despite saying they understand and are supportive, simply don’t comprehend depression for what it is. it is not “just being sad” and it is not “being moody/seeking attention”. it is not glamorous, it is not edgy, and it is–contrary to popular opinion–not conducive to being a great artist.
a small story to illustrate; last night, i had an episode. what triggered it precisely i can’t be sure of. this is not to say that episodes are due to single points of pressure, but that’s usually when they spill out. my heart was racing and i could not seem to catch my breath. i was shaking violently. the only way i could conceive escape was to lie on the floor outside my friend’s dorm. it was cold, which was soothing for a few moments. i couldn’t bring myself to move for an hour. i just stayed there, still and crying, my curled limbs going numb under me. at least 11 people walked through the halls during that hour. two stopped to ask me if i was ok. one actually bothered to try actively talking to me. all of them left me there. i suppose it’s not that surprising. it was a friday night, people were partying. perhaps they assumed i was drunk. but all i could think was how i was invisible. uncared for. it wouldn’t make a single difference if i just disappeared.
i was suddenly consumed with a need to gather everything i owned and hold it in one place. somehow i felt this was they only way to grasp my slipping control. if only i could have one stable thing. i began furiously throwing my bags together, running back and forth between the friend’s dorm and my own, trying to keep myself from falling apart. it didn’t work, of course, but the need to have something to do, something to cling to, was beyond logic. i was still crying hysterically, simultaneously willing myself to breathe normally, for my heart to calm, and to just drop dead. my vision tunneled, and i fell back, sitting among my piles without closure, and without air.
just a few hours before, i had finished a picture i was going to add to a calendar, made with other friends’ work. the colors were vivid, and though i complained about having to fill in large swaths of color for the background using only marker and chalk pastel dust, i was having fun. i was proud of it. i must have spent at least 10 hours in total on it. my dorm was having a “gallery night” and i put it on the wall among other beautiful pieces.
it was a miracle i didn’t tear it off the wall and destroy it.
as i was sitting, my friends trying to console me, i kept thinking about how much i hated it. i wanted to just throw ink and paper in a pool of chaos. because at that moment, chaos was all i understood. my brain was literally incapable of anything but hurt and disjointed thoughts.
it occurred to me later that night after i was exhausted out of my misery and into a sort of catatonic catharsis that if it were always up to my depressed brain, nothing of my art would ever survive. the moment it would be born into this world, if it were lucky enough to even get that far, it would be immediately destroyed. how could anything made by the empty pile of shit i felt like be anything but a larger pile of shit?
and this was not the first time i’d had thoughts like that. i struggle with telling myself that people don’t hate me, or keep me around as a sort of pity-driven project, or worse, as an outlet for malicious entertainment. i struggle every. single. day.
and so my dear readers, if ever you find yourself watching one of the countless documentaries or movies, reading any of the books, seeing for yourself someone depressed, and had their work glorified, called genius–just remember it is pain and chaos, not genius, that drives the work. it is not fun, it is almost never enjoyable, and the fact it exists is almost always because something more beautiful, more joyous, was struck dead before it had a chance to hit paper. depression does not make a great artist, it makes a broken shell of the art they have the potential for, but not the will of heart.
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- 01.19.13 / 10am