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Submitted on
January 27, 2007


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Due to notes of support and interest, the chatroom BlockBusters is now open.  If you are interested in moderating and have a calm, patient moderator personality, note me.  I'll be there from time to time but definitely would love to have someone with experience and understanding of creative block, burnout, depression and so on who will be there more often.  Note me!

It's been suggested by many researchers that creativity and depression are often coexistant in many individuals.  Some say there is a biochemical factor, while others point to the fact that the areas of the brain that are most active during creative processes are also the areas most active during depressive episodes.  Whether the emotional instability spurs the creativity or vice-versa is not certain, but what is certain is that there are many, many of you artists who suffer from manic-depression, schizophrenia, crippling depression and paralyzing burnout.  

Someone very near and dear to me is suffering greatly from the inability to draw, which is how this person earns a living.  What used to be a joy is now terrifying and where once they could spend 16 hours a day happily creating art, they find themself shaking and in tears at the very thought of picking up a pencil.  It's surely the stress of having to please art editors and the critical public, but what I want to ask you all is this: are there any of you who also experience this?  If so, what do you do?  How do you get past the self-doubt and anxiety attacks to become prolific again?  When all inspiration is gone, how do you push yourself through?

I hope some of you will post some of your own wisdom of experience.  And I hope that any of you suffering this right now will find some comfort and guidance.  I hope this can open a discourse on burnout, depression, and work-related problems.  And finally, if anyone wants to open a chatroom (or join one if I open it) focusing on support for the seriously depressed (not just emo.  I'm talking clinically depressed) then post a note here.  I can't fix my friend.  I don't have the experience to fully understand.  So please help.

F102 - Burnout by markus71

Articles of interest:
Brain Regions May Sap or Spur Creativity
Eccentric Artists and Mad Scientists
Defining Mental Illness
Creativity and Burnout
Anxiety Disorder

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andrewfphoto Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007
Well, this is me coming out I suppose - I have suffered since my early teens, 12 was my first real episode, so it's been a long time.
The depressive parts are bad bad bad, and contrary to the thinking of some people, there is absolutely NO benefit to creativity in these phases....... and the manic parts are just as bad. As you pointed out above, the maxing of cards, buying of cars, animals, everything is a symptom.....and lasts for years as you struggle to pay off the debts - exarcebated by the fact that you are then not in the position to work due to the low swng.
I was prescribed Lorazepam for 10 years, which stole virtually all of my twenties... I am just finishing two years of Citalopram. And now IS a reasonably bad time, but I avoid any alcohol or cannabis, or any drug and try to keep my mind occupied - BUT, these short cold days are nightmarish.
I would love to write more, but haven't time at the moment, so YES to a forum!

jaspenelle Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007
I get burned out and depressed, especially at the end of December and January are my big bad months. I get SAD (seasonal depression) and while a lot of people think it is not a real disease, I can assure you it truly is. Does your friend go through phases of depression, perhaps she has SAD.

While it has by no means cured me I bought a special for my craft table that helps me so much so that the block does not slam down on my crafting fingers. I also take a vitamin D supplement.

When I just get general depression (which is not very common for me) but normally comes with cabin fever, I just need to GET OUT of my studio and get with friends and nature (things that inspire me) so get my craft bone relocated. Sometimes, so matter how much you love doing something you just need time away from it.

I hope that was of some help.
Onnagata-stock Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2007
Something that a friend of mine with seasonal depression tried was putting a full-spectrum lightbulb at her work table. The added sunlight -- simulated though it was -- seemed to help take a little of the edge off of her depression.

And if nothing else, it's better for your eyes than other lights, anyway. ;)
eidotink Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007  Student
Hello there! I just wanted to throw my two cents in here, as I have also had experience with the depression/anxiety/stress/medication route.

It sounds like your friend would really benefit from talking with a counselor and learning a few relaxation techniques (deep breathing, yoga, etc). If they do see their GP, please ask them to really research any medication that may be prescribed, and the best way of weaning off them. Sometimes the GPs are not sufficiently informed about side effects and ESPECIALLY the withdrawal effects of anti-anxiety/anti-depressants. And some meds are better than others, though everyone responds differently to different drugs. But some are just evil. Like Paxil. It's been banned in parts of Europe, but for some reason it was being handed out like candy here in the U.S. That's some hard-core-no-fun-at-all withdrawal.

Sometimes lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, caffeine, nicotine, etc. can have a heavier effect than people realize... and stress can become a monster to people who haven't yet crafted their own kind of shield.

Good luck to you and your friend. Maybe some blind contour sketches, just for release? Abstract geometry, or upside down simple still-lifes? Anything that's not a "required" creative effort.
KateSpada Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007
I just went through a long period of about the same thing but probably not for the same reasons. I just didn't have it in me to do anything artistic for about a year. I was very depressed and whenever I began to work on something I lost interest and could find no joy in it so I would just stop. Eventually it went away. I had no inspiration for a while because of the depression. But it has come back with a vengence. I feel more creative now than I did before I stopped creating a year ago. So I hope your friend gets through this and finds their spirit again. Best hopes and wishes for them! :hug:
ravynnephelan Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
I'm very open about the fact that I have suffered from depression on and off all of my life. The first and longest episode started when I was 15 years old and consumed my life until I was 33. But my depression was born from a repression of my creativity. In high school I was told I had no talent. I was told that I would never become an artist. I was told this almost every lesson, and after a while I believed it.

My parents and friends were never openly supportive either, so with my dreams blown to oblivion I went and started a hairdressing apprenticeship instead of going to college to study visual arts, and I did not paint or think about painting again for almost 13 years.

Honestly, I was never medicated because I was taught to hide my deepest hurts by my father who did exactly the same thing. I never told anyone I was unhappy. I hid it behind smiles, drugs, alchohol and sex. I am surprised I lived to see my 21st birthday, but I did, and when I was 23 the man I will always love came into my life and saved me. I stopped drinking. I stopped partying. I stopped trying to kill myself through choices that were let me just say ... risky.

However, when I had my kids my depression worsened with anxiety attacks. The next five years were truly even more scary than the eight years before. And when I gave up smoking after 13 years I went totally off the deep end and landed myself in hospital with some rather nasty psychological issues. I was diagnosed with long term clinical depression and they wanted to medicate me as they believed it would be the only way to bring me some relief. Maybe if I had said yes to the medication I would have healed a lot faster, but I didn't because I have what is classed as a genetic predisposition towards addiction, i.e. my aboriginal ancestory makes me more vulnerable to both psychological and physical addiction and I was terrified of replacing several addictions for another.

I battled on for another year before visiting an old family doctor. He had always been open to talking, so that is what we did. We talked about the issues that were haunting me and through our talks he discovered that I had once loved to paint and introduced me to the concept of healing through creativity.

It didn't take much after that to rekindle the desire to create and I've been painting on an almost daily basis ever since. To create is to heal in my case and painting is a form of meditation. I can turn off everything else and literally clear my mind of everything but the artwork in front of me.

Not once since I began to paint again have I been blocked in any way. In fact, I need to paint. If I don't I get ... irritable. That's the politest way to describe what I become. However, I always take some very simple steps to prevent burn out. I 'create' every day, but I always take several days downtime after finishing a painting. Instead of painting I draw, or write, or take photos, or work on my websites.

I've been told that to paint a picture is the same mentally and emotionally as running a marathon. An artist is not meant to pump out art on demand and working as a professional illustrator can truly have some detrimental effects. Oh, it can be done, but burnout and creativity blocks are the risk the artist runs as a result. I won't force my muse, and I don't go against my muse. If 'she' is not interested in painting a certain hire then I won't take on that hire.

*grins* and now I am going to hush before I write a whole book. I'm not sure if anything I have said will help, but one very important thing I have discovered in my years of ups and downs is that the only right answers are the ones that work for the individual and sometimes all the best advice needs to be graciously ignored and instead the voice within listened to.
Rachastock Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007
That's some good advice about listening to yourself. As far as the medication goes, I'm not an addictive type and I was put on anti-depressant medication that I did get addicted to. So basically, I don't think you should regret not going on medication... Talking it through is really the only way. Medication really doesn't help a lot anyway, just gives you a false up for awhile, but the issues are still there. It's a wonderful thing that you found something to be passionate about.
Onnagata-stock Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2007
Well, I've known people that medication has actually worked for (myself most certainly not one of them) :giggle: ). If done correctly, a regemin of medication is supposed to alter your body chemistry to a favorable balance, then as you wean yourself off of them, your body picks up the slack and corrects itself.

That's at least how it's supposed to go. Everyone's reaction is different, however, and the real key is to find what is the right resolution for the individual. In *artoftheempath's case, I'm really glad that it turned out to be what she had been wanting (and denying herself) all along. :)
Rachastock Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2007
I've heard of people that medication has worked for as well. From what I have heard it seems anti-depressants were only designed to be taken for short periods and at one tablet. It's when you take it for longer and with a higher dosage that you get addicted. I looked my medication up actually and there are lot of people who have had a lot of trouble getting off it, but there are no labels on the medication warning of this.

You're right though, everyone is different and recovers from these downfalls in different ways. Mine was through writing and *artoftheempath's was through painting. Maybe yours was through your art as well. It's good to find some something to be passionate about... even if you take a long break sometimes, like I am.
ravynnephelan Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
Talking about it is sometimes the only way to find healing. Many of my problems stemmed from events that occurred in my childhood and teenage years. While a good part of what I suffered from was born from having felt unimportant and worthless. Medication is not going to change feelings and banish hurts. Only time, forgiveness and awareness will do that.

Like one of the other DA peeps who posted, I had to totally rewire my thought processes. I had to look for destructive thoughts and turn them around so that I began to think in a more positive manner, and thankfully because I write as well I was able to pour out a lot of the hurt in the form of poetry and letters that nobody but I will ever read.

However, the most important thing I realised I had to do was to forgive myself for not being perfect. None of us are, and we become so hard on ourselves when we cannot live up to the sometimes unreasonable demands we place upon ourselves.

*smiles* I'm passionate about a lot of things, but my art, my love, and my children are what sustain me.
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