But depression is crippling and it's blinding. I've heard artists talk about it before-- that depression takes away the very tools needed to fight it. It makes you want to sleep all day, you want to watch TV, or do nothing. And that makes you feel worse for not doing anything productive. And then you can't do anything productive because you feel worse than you did before. Even worse, you blame it on other people. I sometimes have great anger in me, and I have no idea where it comes from. I feel like I'll explode, and I release it in unhealthy ways on my spouse, the one person who is truly walking with me in this dark place.
I'm always able to catch myself before being too mean, too angry, too hopeless-- I know that Karen does the same to me at times, and we have the elasticity to take some of that excess pain as the other shakes it off, like a dog in the rain. But what truly keeps me from falling off the edge is creative expression. Even writing this now makes me feel a little better, and it's nothing brilliant. But it's a release.
I've had the opposite though. Have you ever had a time when you felt bad, so you set out to do a painting or a drawing (thinking it would make you feel better), but your painting ends up sucking and you feel worse? That has happened to me for sure. You're stumbling for an antidote, you grab it and drink it, and just as you think it may be working you see in your hand that you drank the wrong potion. You're worse.
Well, the point is to try something I think. Even painting something shitty puts you in a different place than having not tried. And you're produced something, your body has moved and created something. You've gotten out of your head a little. Maybe that's it. You're sitting, sleeping, watching TV, eating. Nothing in your shitty little head is coming out, it's just all festering in there. But if you get up and stir the pot a bit, open the lid and let some of the pressure off, that usually makes it a bit better.
I used this movie A Dark Souvenir to release some of the pressure from everyday life that is just so goddamned hard. I used it as a way to meditate on it. I also was able to throw in some bigger picture ideas that make me feel a little outside of myself. I've always found that activism, thinking about the world, thinking about wide community has made me feel less sorry for myself. 'Woah is the world' can actually be quite an uplifting experience for depressed souls. I found activism after my mom died from cancer, after 9/11 and the U.S. wars that followed. It was some hint of meaning and hope to tie together the crumbling world.
It becomes hard when you are separated from people though. Being around active, hopeful community is good. But there are many times in this isolating modern life where you can't be. There is fake online community, and you can get some comfort from it but it can also leave you feeling even more wanting and isolated. Art is the piece for feeling outside yourself when friends can't do that for you. I think it is. And it's very important to balance creative work for one's mental health along with connection to friends and family. I feel thankful to have made many creative works-- music (although less so now), paintings (although rarely ever now), movies, and writing.
A filmmaker guest on Frankie Frain's podcast said that it helped his depression to see his creative work all around him. To have in those dark moments movie posters for the films he had completed was a light in the darkness. For an artist, making sure to hang one's work is important (usually not a problem because we also tend to be a bit self-obsessed too).
There is so much to do in life. But it all just becomes meaningless without perspective. Work, grocery store, coffee, food. Work, errands, coffee, clean. Work, grocery store, sleep, tv. And maybe it's also true that a lot of our jobs' output these days is harder to see how it positively impacts our communities. I do think about Marx's theory of alienation and how it impacts our psyches in the modern world. Especially for people in and out of work, or not working at all. I imagine creativity to be so much more useful for people in those positions, and they are perhaps the least encouraged to do something like that. The bottle too often becomes their search for perspective or meaning.
Could there be a way to bring creativity workshops to those who need it most? I also recently had the idea of building a program in senior citizen communities that would be a workshop on filmmaking-- and we would write, produce, and edit a film all with elderly people. Wouldn't that be fucking cool? Well, I think I've rambled enough and need to do some work on this fine Sunday morning. Thanks, I feel a little bit better having blurted this out. Won't re-read and edit, at the risk of it making me feel shitty again.