Depression, Suicide and Being A Creative

While there’s less stigma attached to depression than there used to be, it’s still not always accepted or people have a hard time understanding it.

Many creatives, probably more than you think, struggle with depression.

In the last six months I’ve talked to a lot of people that don’t understand what chronic depression is like. This includes giving a talk at the USC film school to graduate and undergraduate students about being a creative and dealing with depression (Thanks Norman Hollyn!). I attended a funeral for a friend who committed suicide about six months ago and last week an uncle of a co-worker killed himself. Even at my friend’s funeral, someone giving a speech saying, ‘he was bi-polar, but it wasn’t like he was depressed and down-and-out’. As if being depressed and acting like a derelict were the same thing.


This blog post is:

1) an attempt to give folks that don’t deal with chronic depression a better understanding of it, how it manifests and, maybe, what to do about it (both as a sufferer and someone that cares about someone suffering).

2)  I know that many people who identify as ‘creative’ struggle with similar issues and I want you to know you are not alone. It’s a lonely disease, we isolate ourselves and feel isolated by it. Nevertheless, you are not alone.

And 3)  I want to start the discussion both for those suffering and those trying to understand and help those suffering. It doesn’t help anyone to not talk about it. Let’s de-stigmatize it.


My Struggle

I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for almost 40 years, since my early teens.  Please realize this post is talking from my own experience, what I’ve learned from therapists and what’s worked for me. I’m not a therapist. If you suffer from depression it’s usually very beneficial to see a therapist or psychologist. It’s really important you have help. I also encourage those of you who are therapists, or if you have struggled with depression to talk about your experiences and what’s been helpful (or not) for you. Please post in the comments!

Let’s start off by attempting to talk about what it’s like to be depressed. Or at least how it manifests for me. Everyone is different but my experience can give you some insight into the disease.

On a daily basis, as I have had for almost as long as I can remember, I have a voice inside me telling me I’m worthless, unloveable and that life is not worth living. All the time. Most of the time, that voice is just barely audible background noise, easily dismissed. But on some days it’s the sound and fury of a hurricane. On those days suicide becomes a tangible thing. I’ll talk more about that in a moment.

The rest of the time, dismissing the voice takes time and energy. It can suck the joy out of successes and it magnifies failures. It is a weight that I constantly struggle against. This is despite the fact that I have what most people would consider a pretty good life.

I’m fully aware I’m blessed… I run a successful company that I started, I have much love and support around me, a good partner. And yet…

The awareness that I have so much to be grateful for often makes it harder. On top of the depression, guilt and shame are piled on for knowing that I have all these good things yet I’m still depressed. The depression becomes like teflon. Rationally I’m aware of the love and support around me. I know such things exist. But they roll off the darkness like beads of water, unable to be absorbed to the depths where they would help. The feelings can’t be internalized.

I know I SHOULD be grateful but I can’t manifest it. Which just increases the frustration and pain.

I realize all this sounds pretty bleak. Probably bleaker than it actually is a lot of the time.  Remember that often the thoughts are mostly background noise. They definitely have a bit of a dampening effect but I can still feel happy or joyful or neutral or whatever. I don’t usually have a problem moving through the world like everyone else. That said, on the bad days, the above description doesn’t come close to capturing the depths of the darknesses. How dark the thoughts have to be to make suicide a viable option. But it can get there.


So what should you do?

If you want to help someone that’s deeply depressed, perhaps even suicidal, you have to meet the person where they’re at, NOT where you want them to be. Even if they say they’re suicidal. Accept that depression is an illness and hear them out. LISTEN to them. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Make them feel heard. Make them feel loved… by listening, by asking gentle questions (how did that make you feel? Why do you think it affected you like that? Is there anything that would make it better?, etc.), by making time for them, by being non-judgemental. Let them tell their story. But also be part of the conversation. Don’t just ruminate with them. Try to move the conversation forward.

However, it may be hard to get them to engage. Realize that there’s a lot of non-verbal things happening… Depression is more, and perhaps much more, something you feel in your body than something that’s in your head. So hugs without words are sometimes the best things. Offer to go out and get them their favorite food or bring them soup. Of course, you can just ask them what they need.

You’re not going to solve it. All you can do is support them in solving it for themselves.

If they are suicidal, you need to accept the fact that suicide is a viable option. Just because you don’t want it to happen doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. If someone believes suicide is an option and you tell them that it’s not, you’re making it more likely. You’re invalidating their opinion, invalidating what they’re feeling. By doing so you’re confirming that they mean nothing. And, again, be careful about how you tell them what they have to live for.  They are probably very well aware of the things that they _should_ feel grateful for.

In truth, if you suspect someone is depressed you should consult a therapist. I am not a therapist. I’m just relating my own struggle with chronic depression, and every person’s struggle is different. Everyone’s reasons for being depressed are different… in many cases, it’s not chronic but event driven (a divorce, death, getting fired, etc.). Listening is always a good strategy but a therapist will be able to offer better advice for the exact situation.

The other thing to know is that often those of us that have dealt with depression for a long time are good at putting a brave face on it. It may not be obvious we’re depressed. Which is why suicide often comes as a shock. Just because outwardly someone is successful and seems to have it together doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering and struggling underneath it all. In a lot of case, it’s up to the depressed person to realize they are not alone and that they can get help.

If YOU struggle with depression…

This is a lonely and difficult struggle. Particularly when you’re younger and you’re still learning what it is and what might help but it’s difficult at any age. You have to find the strength of will to pull yourself out of it enough to either help yourself or reach out and take the hands of those offering to help.

As mentioned, see a therapist or psychologist. It really does help to talk things out. Often a therapist can help you see things and patterns you can’t see for yourself.

One of the important things is to get out of the house. If you can at least find the strength to go be depressed in a park, a makerspace, gym, mall, whatever… you’ll find it helps. Go somewhere and do something you enjoy. Especially if you can connect with a friend, but I’ve found just being in a place where there are other people helps. If lack of people works better at least try to not just stay in bed or on the couch. Take a walk in a secluded park or something.

Connect with people. Even though it seems like no one cares, you’ll find if you reach out, you have friends who do care and will help.

There are other things that can help as well. They tend to be somewhat different for each person but it’s important to find what those things are. For some people it’s art or music or just sitting in the sun. Meditation can also be a form of therapy, especially with a good teacher.

I think many creatives forget why they started doing art in the first place. Make sure you’re creating art outside of your job. Doing art you love just for the sake of the art. It can be a huge outlet and expression of what you’re feeling. It really is important to make time for it.

For myself, exercise, particularly yoga these days, has always been the best anti-depressant. However, as I’ve gotten older and injuries more frequent, I’ve come to rely on anti-depressant medications a bit more. Getting injured is a double whammy… I get depressed about not being able to do something I love doing and, at the same time, my main coping mechanism for dealing with depression is taken away.

Medications are a mixed bag. Not all of them work and some can actually make things worse. So it’s important to monitor your state of mind when you initially start taking them. If it makes you feel worse stop immediately and consult your Psychiatrist. You may have to try a few different ones to find what works for you. However, after much resistance, I was finally convinced to start taking Cymbalta regularly (next generation Prozac-like drug). It’s actually been quite helpful. Who knew?


There is no easy answer.

What I’ve said here is meant to help and guide folks. However, it’s mostly based off of my personal experience. It is not the be all, end all. If you have other insights, please share them in the comments. I would love to hear other things that have worked for other people. We’re all different, men sometimes have different challenges than women, as do different age groups, etc., etc. There is not one solution.

Whatever the solution is, it requires work.

But it can’t hurt to talk about it and realize we’re not alone. To know that it’s ok to be depressed. It happens. It’s an illness and needs to be treated as such. If it’s chronic, then it comes and goes. Sometimes stronger, sometimes less so. By exploring meditation, seeing a therapist, taking medication or whatever works for you, hopefully we learn how to deal with it better over time. But even after almost 40 years and all the above things I’ve talked about… I still have incredibly dark days. I still have a voice that says I’m worthless and wants to drag me down. For myself and many people, this doesn’t just disappear.

As one of my therapists said… it’s like driving a bus. Those parts of you, those passengers, are on the bus whether you like it or not. At some point you have to accept the passengers. Once you accept them, you realize they are part of you, but they AREN’T you. They don’t define you. (it’s not easy to get to that realization and some days, you’re still going to believe that voice. It happens.)

So let’s talk. Be open about our experiences, what’s helpful, what’s not. Hopefully we can further de-stigmatizing depression and make everyone realize that sometimes asking for help is the most courageous thing you’ll ever do.


45 thoughts on “Depression, Suicide and Being A Creative”

  1. This is really good, Jim, thanks for writing it. I find it is very hard to explain depression to people who have never experienced it, especially when they assume that depression is just really, really bad sadness, which everyone has experienced. Sadness is a useful emotion; depression is toxic.

    I wanted to add re: suicide that it helps me when my suicidal ideation really starts up to remind myself that I probably don’t really want to die, I just desperately don’t want to feel the way I am feeling anymore and I can’t imagine any way to make it stop other than death.

    And also, just my .02, when I am depressed often going out and being around other people makes it immeasurably worse (and sometimes it makes it better, so it’s really hard to know what to do). Seeing other people who appear happy or at least engaged in a meaningful life that they have a connection to can make me feel even more alone, even more defective as a human being.

    I appreciate you taking time to share your experience. May it bring more compassion to the world.

  2. Thank you for sharing so openly. Very timely for many I am sure (this time of year).

  3. Thanks for sharing, Jim. You have offered some valuable insights into a struggle many people have.

  4. Hi Lisa, Thanks for commenting, very good thoughts. I’m sorry you struggle with this as well. I hear you about being around people. Usually it’s beneficial for me but I understand that it might not be for a lot of people. I was really trying to emphasize 1) getting out of the house… not lying in bed or on your couch (maybe walking in a forest, sitting in a secluded park, anything) and 2) connecting with someone… a friend, a therapist, whatever. I’m not sure that bit was written as well as it could have been, so I might tweak it. Again, thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this most intimate post. I am sure that you have already helped many people and doing things like this helps so many more. You are a very special person Jim, so talented, so thoughtful and so human.

  6. “The awareness that I have so much to be grateful for often makes it harder. On top of the depression, guilt and shame are piled on for knowing that I have all these good things yet I’m still depressed.”
    Thanks for putting this out there, and know you’re never alone. Keep passing the open windows. <3

  7. Jim-

    It’s amazing to read such a heartfelt examination of depression, especially from a toolmaker, who’s creating and selling useful utilities to simply make our work easier.

    There’s a lot to unpack here. As someone who has gone into depression and found very rapid and effective strategies to lift out of it, I’ll nitpick and enhance a few of your thoughts.

    I’m not a therapist either. My father was. He was a good one, a Cognitive-Developmental therapist, someone who had a taste Skinner and behaviorism in college, and veered of into human development through a gift professor . He did clinical work with very depressed folks, but mid-life, he moved into the treatment of childhood autism, and became a major force in the field. People with autism have a lot of lessons for us “normal” folk, and we all have a trait or two easily identified with those trapped on the spectrum. I would watch Dad take a tantrumming child and capture him with some neat activity, and when the child got comfortable doing that– Dad would introduce an expansion. There would be some resistance, but eventually, the child adapted, and over time developed a repertoire through adaptation. Dad was training the child to adapt.

    I’m not saying clinical depression is a form of autism. I am saying there symptoms in the disease that really respond to similar coping strategies which expand beyond it.

    When I create as an editor, I get joy and often bring joy to others. It’s not religion, it’s not drugs, it’s just pure satisfaction serving myself and others, a win-win coming from hard work, thought, and just being well-used. If you practice a faith, you have even more strategies.

    “Go somewhere and do something you enjoy. Especially if you can connect with a friend, but I’ve found just being in a place where there are other people helps.”

    To me, this is 14-carat gold advice. A selected social nexus is the most important aid to depression of any kind.

    So, I joined two Meetups, one for screenwriting, the other for board game design. Game design is incredibly craft like, and crucially interactive with others, and even when I lose a round, I’m contributing my sensibility to something new, and adding wisdom to my own designs, so I love it! It’s something I can carry with me.

    Screenwriting, like editing, is a craft that doesn’t age, and enhances my ability in both. In our group, one writer is under peer review each week. That’s huge. I’ve done it. The group gets to spout opinions and what if’s and the like which probably trigger a fabulous bummer in our writer. But next week– one of us is scheduled for the hot seat!

    In either case, I’m with people, doing something relevant to me, and helping me experience a reality check. Sometimes folks just need to hang out and talk about the Super Bowl over beer. There are Meetups for that. A thriving meetup is one of the 21rst century great inventions for combatting anomie, the disease of our times, which takes many forms, and sometimes lives. But yes, reading this blog, I’m imagining a therapeutic board game about depression. And of course, it has to be fun. Hm.

    These are some of the thoughts your brave blog has inspired. To me, you’ve succeeded in all three of your points.
    Now get back to work and play!

  8. :) this week recommended Deflickr to a friend, excited at how it was going to blow his mind.

    This morning, your email headline has me perk up as I’ve been down in the sludge of depression and finally being active to pull up.

    Thanks for your work on more fronts than I expected.

  9. Thanks Jim for sharing that, keep fighting the good fight. For what it’s worth, even though that little voice may be dragging you down and niggling at you you should know that you are amazing and you and your work helps and has repercussions way above and beyond your office space, I know for one that Flicker Free completely saved a massive drone project I was working on here in Ireland.

    It might be of benefit to you to do some research into your ‘shadow’ and possibly find a Jungian therapist (it would seem the negative thoughts are deeply repressed and unconscious elements coming to the fore).

  10. I hear ya Jim. Thx for opening up. I’ve slowly been opening up as well to deal with my shit. Let’s grab lunch soon and catch up.

  11. Thanks Joy. Yeah, I think that’s the piece many people don’t realize. If folks get one take away from this, I hope it’s a better understanding of that.

  12. Thank you Jim for expressing your thoughts so clearly………since my mom died, I’ve discovered that my youngest sister seems very depressed, with quite a lot of anxiety on top of it……she may have been this way for a long time, but its now manifesting itself in a big way…….I’m at a loss in this situation……I just let her know that I love her, but sometimes it’s hard to listen……

  13. Man, those are important words.
    An artist, a creator, is a whole person. Every experience, every emotion, every breath changes the way we respond and create. The darkness can sometimes bring a kind of clarity to an idea, or it can completely keep the artist from seeing anything at all.
    As one who has dealt with depression (though thankfully never felt suicidal), I do know a little about the struggle. Imagine the muses sitting around looking at their phones while I sat in a dimly lit room. For a year and a half. I made nothing. Still functioned in society, so I was mechanically sound, but mentally had an unsettled quiet. I discovered St. John’s Wort and began self medicating for several years and that helped. I later had to use a prescription antidepressant.
    One thing to note about antidepressants is that it might take several attempts to get the “right” one. In my case it was the fourth try to get one that worked without objectionable side effects. Medicine, like lighting, is an art of itself. Sometimes, if you get objectionable shadows, it’s better to try a different instrument than to add accessories (e.g. meds to counteract side effects).
    Thank you for this courageous post. May it bring greater understanding.

  14. Thanks Jim. The more we share our stories, the more accepted it becomes to talk about mental illness and depression.

    I’m mid-50s and was diagnosed with depression 10 years ago. I was fortunate to see a therapist and eventually we worked out together that I have Borderline Personality Disorder, and I’ve probably had it since I was 7 years old. It’s all about rejection and feeling you’re not part of the world. Suicide or self harm is common but personally I’d struggled to contain my anger when I was younger.

    Getting the support and discovering this diagnosis was the best thing I have ever done for my health. For decades I had wanted to be like everyone else and spent many dark and unhappy years trying to be ‘normal’. Now I take my whole self with me wherever I go. I know my Dark Passenger is always there (on the bus as you put it) but accepting that does help to deal with it.

    I want to give something back to others and, through my workplace, I mentor a couple of people with depression. But we have to be careful as it affects everyone differently and we’re not counsellors or therapists. Just listening and not judging is sometimes all it takes. The good thing is, we can all develop that skill.

    Medication didn’t work for me but Cognitive Behavioural
    Therapy has. So has stoicism, meditation/mindfulness and exercise. But the things that work best for me are the things that – unknowingly – I had naturally turned to earlier in my life: music and reading fiction. I know the music that can change my mood or release some of my anger; disappearing into a good book can be an escape from the real world. Spending time in the countryside, alone with nature helps me every time.

    It’s been said that all we humans need to make us happy are small acts of kindness, both receiving them and making them. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, to engage with strangers but I’ve been making the effort recently. Simple things, like smiling and saying good morning, or paying for the person behind’s drink in the coffee shop (don’t look to see who they are first, just do it). Accept that not everyone will know how to react to kindness (which says it doesn’t happen enough) but you will feel better about yourself and connected to the world.

    To anyone suffering with depression. Don’t suffer in silence, share your story and there will always be someone willing to listen.

  15. Thank you for this brave post! Sometimes depression/anxiety can also be caused by a mineral deficiency (often due to stress.) I recently had a hair mineral tissue analysis done and it revealed magnesium and calcium deficiencies – I’ve been supplementing and feeling a lot better and also reducing stress, improving your diet, getting sunshine and good sleep helps! Good luck to everyone!

  16. Great article, thanks for posting! I have found that as a creative professional for over 15 years, I was always comparing myself to other designers. I was measuring my success and skills as a designer based on what someone else had achieved. It took me a long time to realize that I should only measure my skills and success to my own set of goals. Each person is different and has different opportunity presented to them. So you really can’t compare what you have or don’t have with someone else. This approach is always a struggle at first, but it gets easier over time. When someone doesn’t like the design you loved making for them, it doesn’t mean that it’s crap! It’s just their opinion, and in the end your own opinion is really the one matters most, because you are the one that has to live with it. Remind yourself of the designs that different people did like that you did and don’t focus only on this bad encounter. In the end, if the client doesn’t like my design, I will make the changes request, but then only put the original piece that I like in my portfolio. It’s my way of flipping them the bird and getting what I want in the end. ;)

  17. Steve, thanks for sharing. Yeah, listening and not judging are required no matter what. Sometimes that’s all you can do and, as you said, sometimes that’s all that’s needed as they work it out for themselves.

  18. Definitely true about anti-depressants. There are a bunch of them out there and some make it worse. Wellbutrin _really_ didn’t work for me, but I know people that think it’s great. Just your body chemistry or whatever. Glad you’ve been able to make progress with depression. Thanks for posting!

  19. Thanks Jim, everybody else too,
    Timely, just what I, we all, require, people in the industry fronting up as full humans!
    Just the support, even this abstractly, helps tremendously.
    I have certainly mixed my priorities, especially important not to for highly creative personalities, we tend to attempt the impossible never done before mantra and too often give away our ordinary human strengths to specialist endeavours.
    So thanks for all the very pertinent experiences shared and salient suggestions everybody, especially to Jim for the instigation.

  20. What a courageous, soulful and honest article Jim! It’s something thats’s not just due in the creative industries, but in life in general.

    One of the things I talk about in my new circle (Veterans) is that we need to consider mental health treatment like going to the dentist. No one wants to, it’s definitely not fun to go thru, but it’s essential to healthy living.

    And we need to talk about it with our friends and colleagues in the same way. No one should EVER be mocked or minimized for seeking mental health treatment – it should be a shared (if unpleasant) experience. “Dude, sucks you have to see the dentist (psychiatrist). But you gotta do it, because the alternative sucks so much worse!”

    One thing that maybe needs to be a part of the user group experience is the peer support group. A regular group that meets not just to dive into the hardcore geek details of a render or new plugin, but a group that supports each other emotionally, with shared experiences and wisdom.

    We all have stories we share about an After Effects project gone right, why don’t we our stories of that job that got away, and how we coped with the loss?

  21. Hey Dan, Thanks for the post. I agree, it’s not just a ‘creative’ thing, but sort of framed it that way as that’s one of the labels I identify with.

    I disagree with the Dentist analogy though. Have you ever been in therapy and had a ‘oh, that thing I’ve lived with since I was 12 doesn’t happen to everyone? I don’t HAVE to live with it?’ moment? It’s kind of amazing. So much better than a root canal. (trust me, I know on both counts :-)

    I think a lot of people go into therapy without actually committing to therapy. This is probably a bit more common with men. You have to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to talk about stuff. You have to be willing to cry. Women get to cry, men don’t. Fuck that. Crying can be an amazing release. Going to therapy is only hard if you’re too ‘tough’ to be vulnerable. Sometimes being courageous means being able to feel. Feel the heartbreak, the sadness, the joy, all of it. Too often men are told to pour concrete and tequila into their wounds and keep going. Sometimes you need to keep going, but if you can’t take the time to stop, reflect, and do the work of healing… that becomes toxic. You never heal. It’s just an open wound that keeps giving pain to you and everyone around you. When you truly allow a wound like that to heal, it’s the best thing ever. Much better than going to the dentist, IMO. ;-)

  22. Thanks, Jim.
    Not only have you saved me thousands of dollars in reshooting costs (shameless Flicker Free plug,) you’ve also now saved me a few panic attacks.
    There’s a perception that people who suffer from long term depression just need motivation or to be reminded that they’re not alone, etc. Most of the time we already know this, but there’s a thick wall around that type of thinking and emotion.
    It’s like standing in front of a closed restaurant: you’re starving and you know there’s food in there, and there’s probably a cop one minute away, and you’ll so get caught if you start looking in the windows, and they probably don’t have a low-sodium menu anyway, and there’s no way you’ll make it to morning, and, and, and…
    I recently started reading the Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden and it has helped me through a few rough moments. Long story short: you need a plan and a process, then you need to forget about it. Don’t focus on anything else, just do the thing. Forget the goal. Forget the plan. Only focus on the work that gets you from moment to moment.
    For me, it was video editing. Even though I’ve lost most of the love I’d had for it, the work is out there and I’m not horrible at it.
    It got me on the mailing list for Digital Anarchy, and here I am revealing more to strangers than I ever have my own family.
    So thanks again, Jim. Good stuff.

  23. Jim, thanks for sharing this. Is it ok to post a link on a suicide prevention FB group I am part of?

  24. Thank you for this beautiful essay. I’ve never stopped thinking about a friend who took his own life, and always felt guilty for my total cluelessness that he was in such despair. Bringing this disease into the open is a great service, for those who are subject to it, and for those left behind when it claims a life.

  25. Hi Jim,
    My wife has been living with mental health issues for years. Many hospitalizations, Doctors, medications, and all sorts of treatments. She has found a great deal of relief in her creativity. So much so she founded a non-profit in 2012 called:
    Broken Light is a place for photographers living with or affected by mental illness to support each other and fight stigma by posting photographs, and the stories behind them.
    Broken light gets submissions from all over the world and serves as a true testament that you are never alone.
    Your post is wonderful, and I’m so happy there are more stigma fighters in the world. I have found by watching my wife all these years, that almost everyone is affected in some way by mental health issues. It’s time to stop acting as if it doesn’t exist.

  26. Thank you for your vulnerability and openness in sharing this Jim. There’s so much good wisdom here. For me, the struggle is with anxiety, but everything you’ve shared is pretty relevant there too, especially the part about just listening and meeting people where they are at. I think that’s good advice for everyone but especially for men. From talking to other women in hetero relationships who struggle with either anxiety or depression, one of the biggest challenges is finding men who can just be there when we are in the throes of either condition, and not try to fix it. There’s such a strong masculine pull to always want to fix things, and this was a source of so much struggle in so many of my past relationships. I’m grateful that with age and introspection has come the wisdom to be able to articulate what I need, which more often than not is just presence and not a solution. (And I’m sure there are women who also can work on that skill, it’s just been my personal experience with men that leads me to share what I’ve noticed.) And working with a therapist has been life changing. I can’t believe it took me so long to start.

  27. Hi Meredith, Thanks for sharing! I hear you, I think women, generally, are much better listeners than men. I’m not always immune to the desire to want to fix everything, and I know better. But I think it’s tough for most people. We’re not really taught how to deal with mental health problems and bringing about more education was part of the reason for the post. Some of the ‘right’ things to do can seem somewhat counter-intuitive. So explaining not only what the right thing to do is but WHY, I think is really important. Glad you found the post helpful! Thanks again for telling your story.

  28. Adam thanks so much for letting me know about that. I’ll definitely check the website out. Let’s fight this damn thing!

  29. Jim,
    Thank you for a wonderful article & for sharing it with so many. <3
    Having lost my brother in 1986 to suicide, having lost the same friend, having my own struggles with depression and knowing in our family it's a hereditary thing is at times overwhelming.

    I am always so happy when people talk about the struggle. In 1986, when my brother chose to end his life, there was no one to talk to. No resources for us to utilize. Instead we packed up & moved away. It was many years before I learned to start dealing with it.

    One thing I always refer back to is my husbands saying to me. "You lean toward the darkness because it's familiar & comfortable. You have to fight to get to the light."

    Thanks Jim for helping to be a part of the light.

  30. JIm,

    As a life long creative, I’ve never filtered the world around me, I let it all come in. It’s this process that makes my art and my business thrive. But, it’s what also drives me into the ground sometimes like a pile driver hitting a 70 foot H beam.

    I won’t stop filtering and I won’t stop feeling bad most of the time. It’s the path I’ve actively chosen and to cope with the down feelings is part of the deal.

    My life is good, work is good, resources are invested and working for me so it’s not all that bad. But there are days…

  31. The first time I suffered from depression I remember my dad saying “why don’t you do a bit of work, as a distraction”. I wanted to – I desperately wanted to be ‘normal’ – but the idea of picking up a pen made me cry. I couldn’t possibly do anything, I was totally debilitated, and that time round even all the CBT and counselling sessions didn’t help – but thankfully anti-depressants did, and I slowly but surely found myself again.

    It’s so important to keep talking about depression and anxiety so that others – people like my dad – can get an idea of what it does to you. It’s not just ‘feeling a bit glum’, it’s a dark hole that takes time to climb out from.

    I can always feel when my depression is approaching, like a dark cloud, as my anxiety levels rise and my mind goes over and over and over things that I’ve seen/read in the news and online. I find it very difficult to find a balance between being a part of this world and being interested in what’s going on, and finding it all too difficult to acknowledge.

    I hope it’s OK to mention, when you were talking about medication you have said “…monitor your state of mind when you initially start taking them. If it makes you feel worse stop immediately” but this is extremely bad advice – you have to ‘come up’ and ‘come down’ from these kinds of medication over many weeks/months and stopping abruptly could make things a lot worse for you mentally (bad dreams, thoughts of suicide, even physical symptoms like worse heart palpitations and sweats etc). Better advice would be to speak to your doctor about a plan to come off them asap, but never go cold turkey.

    Thanks for your words. I’ve been in a good place mentally for a while now, but I will always know what it’s like to suffer and think it’s fantastic when we can find ways to discuss it and help one another.

    Anyone going through it now – there is more light in the future. When, who knows, but it’s there! You’re on the dip of the rollercoaster but it will go back up again, and it’s absolutely worth pursuing.

  32. Really good article! I had my own battle after having a stroke after spending 15 years caring for my wife while she was slowly losing her battle with cancer! I truly hadn’t realised how the dealing with her illness day in day out had made me feel so isolated until I heard a talk by Andrew Solomon on depression on Ted Talks by the end of his talk I was in tears as he was the first person who articulated my feelings! Thankfully I watched it as I was starting to slip into the suicide mindset!
    Thankfully people are brace enough to talk openly about this now also! I personally found the anxiety attacks the worst part of it all! Emotionally draining! My wife didn’t help much as she thought I was just feeling sorry for myself and decided to kick me while I was down with comments like “grow a pair!” And “If you were that good a designer you’d have more work!” Something my kids joined in on too!
    It was only due to a few good friends and my younger brothers that I managed to recover!
    One thing I did learn is that being analytical, trying to find what is wrong with you doesn’t help, what did help was accepting the fact that having too many life changing events happen at once was simply too much for me to process! I now think of depression as a kind of rogue emotion kind of an anti-matter emotion, I now take time to enjoy small moments every day be it a song or being creative or even just appreciating the beauty in something! Something my doctor said still resonates with me! “You are allowed to have fun even if your wife is dreadfully ill!” So I make time each day to laugh now :)

  33. Hi Glen,

    Yeah, it’s sad so many people misunderstand the nature of depression that they think ‘growing a pair’ or sheer will power is the way to get through it. It’s just encouraging people to repress it which helps no one. I’m glad you were able to work through it!

  34. Dealt with the big D on & off for 30 years
    Have dealt with chronic pain, (Arthritis from 20).
    Now bad back issues (2 squished disks).
    Dealing with depression of not being-able to do things + pain…
    Thankfully I’ve not had the ability to snuff it, when the pain has been excruciating, only lay there & take it.
    Depression can be only a flip of a coin away.

    Anything that gets your mind busy on something else can be helpful. Something to take you out of the ugg, into the immediacy of the now, sometimes is good when the future is daunting…

  35. It has been a long time since we connected as I have retired and am dealing with my own health issues and the resulting depression. What many do not know is that almost 100% of everyone experiences depression at some time in their lifetimes. Though that depression may vary in terms of depth, we all experience it. Yet, despite this well know fact, there still appears to be an aura of shame around those who are going through it and the, sometimes, medical and therapeutic solutions. To speak of it openly is certainly to your great credit Jim. I am sorry for the loss of what might have been a great friendship between you and Norman but you deserve only praise for bringing it out in the open.

  36. THANK YOU.
    i truly needed to see this. I’ve recently found a ‘cocktail’ of meds that finally works (and didn’t squash my drawing and painting, some did) and has helped me live with the dark feelings and keep them far in the background. I suffered since my teens as well, nearly 40 years of thinking i had no worth or reason to exist. I had two siblings that listened to their own darkspace and committed suicide. Luckily I held on until i started meds and with the help of my partner am seeing a therapist and psychiatrist.
    The way you expressed your own struggles summed up so many things that i’ve fought with and i am thankful to read your story, thank you very much! I’m sending the link of this to my partner and my son to read. Thanks, don

  37. I see I commented 3 years ago when you first posted. I’ll add a couple of things with 3 more years of experience grappling with this beast:
    -I’ve been doing IFS for about a year now and it is the first tool I’ve ever had that helps me deescalate internally when my SI really kicks up. I think it’s a great modality for managing emotions generally, but really specifically for this application it’s been almost magical for me. Not in the sense that it magically makes the depression or the SI go away, but it gives me something useful to hold onto and work with when I’m in a bad place. It helps pull me out of the nose dive.

    -I was diagnosed with celiac last year, and starting about 3 months after going on a strict GF diet my depression started getting much, much better. I think there are multiple causes/sources including complex trauma–in other words, I think depression is likely going to be an occasionally vocal guest for the rest of my life, but the frequency and intensity are both WAY down. So I guess my larger point is: don’t forget to rule out possible medical causes like celiac, Hashimoto’s, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *