Depression and the Artist
I suffer from depression. I have for most of my life. Often I manage it well; it was bad before I learned meditation practice and studied Buddhism. The study helped me understand that this is where I am right now, at this moment, and that the situation is not permanent. As a result, my depressive periods last for shorter periods than 10 years ago. When I finally learned these things, I actually produced work, something with which I struggled for nearly two decades, and found a degree of satisfaction.
I was asked once what depression looked like from the inside. I never felt comfortable with this question, but I provided an answer nonetheless. For me, depression drains everything of color and vitality. The world offers no warmth, even when the temperature climbs well over three digits. It dampens joy, and refuses pleasure, even from things that have brought both. It hollows you out, yet the emptiness weighs as much as lead.
It makes you not care. About anything.
I say this because I have, for the past several months, succumbed to the worst bout I have experienced in a long time. I practiced my usual routine, thinking it would pass. I couldn't let it draw me into its usual cold grip; I had deadlines, I had family, and I simply had no time for it. I thought I'd be okay.
Depression had other ideas.
It was the usual things to curb it: meditation practice, finding enjoyment where I could, understanding that this would end. But it persisted. When it interfered with my writing, terror wormed into my mind. I had images of Hemingway, despairing at his inability to write, finally biting down on a shotgun barrel and pulling the trigger. I wondered if, this time, I would have to make depression a permanent part of my world.
I haven't, fortunately. Slowly, vitality creeps back into things. Color once again seeps into the world. And I smiled during a wedding I attended over the weekend. And, slowly, words once again begin to flow from my pen, albeit slowly. I'm hoping that this will be temporary.
With a little luck, it will be.
Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. His work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Rayguns Over Texas!, Horror U.S.A.: Texas, Campfire Macabre, The Dread Machine, and Generation X-ed.
He lives in Central Texas.