Friday, September 18, 2009

Depression and Anxiety are my Special Needs Children

(This is a reposting from February 2008. I'd like critiquing in the comments, please.)

Movies I watch can inspire me to write or paint or sculpt.

But some only create the longing for it, and not the release – like the nightmares where you can’t scream but know that if you try with all that is in you, you could make enough noise to cast your voice out among the billions who also trudge this land.

There’s an ache – when I feel unable to create my art -- a loneliness that wiggles inside my brain so that it hurts, and my throat so that I cannot communicate.

My fingers are frozen at the page, clamped desperately around the pen. My breath stops as I wait for the timid kernel of inspiration to share itself through me – but alas, it is not Inspiration or Idea or even Plot Device that appears … it is: Clamminess, Brick Wall, Pettiness, Fatigue, and Not Good Enough.

The metallic sour taste of lethargy and self- judgment sit with me when the longing to create art is strongest. I’ve sat with and asked these soul-sucking companions why they visit. I sometimes get a response and sometimes not.

I wonder how to get rid of them – like they are the slugs on my sugar snap peas that eat holes before I get a taste.

But perhaps I should simply share space with these evil shadows of myself and honor their place in my house. What if I extended love to them, accepted them and knew there was an ancient lesson they came to teach me, if only I would listen -- like the hundreds of thousands of families with special needs children?

Depression and Anxiety are my special needs children. I court them, suckle them and find their triggers to tantrums. I sit with Depression and rock him to sleep with haunting music lilting from the iTunes across the room; I coax Anxiety out to play -- break out the glue and treeless paper and collage until she is more grounded.

I discover their strengths and weaknesses and take time out for myself when they become too much for me to bear alone. I nurture myself with popcorn and movies under the feather blanket, hot tea with a friend, or an afternoon alone at a coffee shop with my laptop and latte. And I think. I take time to Feel.

When I do this -- when I give myself permission to emote -- only then am I open enough to welcome ideas and plans and as-of-yet formless characters into the sacred circle I have created for them. Only then am I able and willing to give birth to their stories.

But that’s not right either. I am always willing. That yearning and longing to write and to create are always there. But maybe the readiness is not.

Maybe I must coddle my children, Depression and Anxiety before I can create. But … I don’t believe that one must be depressed or suffer anxiety attacks in order to create art. Art lives in us, we breathe it as air and it binds to the molecules within us. We bleed our art. We are art.

Perhaps I don’t need to be depressed to create art, but that if I am struggling with it at some particular time, I must sit with it first before I attempt to express an emotion I do not yet understand. Only if I take time to nurture myself, to Think, to Feel, to ask Depression why he had another nightmare, to ask Anxiety why she cried today when the house was a mess – maybe then I can unfreeze my fingers and find my voice and let it roar with all the passion and longing and creativity I have.
And then, I can create. I can write, paint and sculpt. I can communicate and breathe and love myself again. All the parts of me. Even the shadowy parts.


HappyOrganist said...

my friend, who also writes, said she got to this place you describe (where she'd judge herself and/or get stuck) and she just had to force herself to write. She says she used to be able to sit down (for high-school writing, for example) and be able to put out marvelous gems of creative pieces. Short, concise, brilliant (she says she got awards for them).
And now that she's 'old' (30? heh) she has to just "put out" (a bunch of nothing - and every once in a while there's a gem in there).
Kind of funny.

I love those dreams where you're trying to scream but you can't. In mine, I am able to scream (and I am screaming my lungs out) [kind of hoping to wake myself up or wake my husband up so he can wake me up]. Sometimes he does hear me, and is kind enough to give me a nudge (to bring me out of my nightmare). But always he says that I wasn't making very much noise at all (you know - a barely audible moan or something). hahah
and it's so funny b/c in my dream I'm screaming like my life depends on it (or worse).

I've been in a few of those creative moods the last few months. Wanted to write but wasn't able to put out what I wanted. Kind of annoying (it woulda been so great). But alas, it was not to be.

Carry on. Just force yourself to write a bunch of crap and maybe you'll get better. OR - don't force yourself. But whatever you do (all my friends agree) don't judge yourself for it - either way. ;D

Valerie Willman said...

Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Are you thinking about publishing this? I had a similar experience, just last week. I had a deadline to meet for the local paper, and had intense writer's block. I sat there with my fingers resting gently on home row and... nothing.

I love the idea behind this piece, and I think the concept is one most people can relate to, whether they are 'creators' or not. If you are thinking of publishing it, I think it's a great candidate. I really enjoy your voice and style. They are unique without being too weird.

I think the piece really gets rolling with the paragraph "My fingers are frozen..." I don't think you'd lose anything from the core concept by omitting these introductory paragraphs.

The part that begins with "Perhaps I don't need to be depressed..." could use some work, but I'm not sure how. I like how you're casting about, but I kind of get lost in it somehwere along the line.

I'd also take out the specific reference to iTunes... but my personal preference is to omit specific brands from anything I write because it calls to MY mind logos and marketing that detracts from what I'm trying to say.

Your conclusion rocks. So does the part about "Art lives in us..."

Well, there's my critique. I'm new to this whole critiquing thing, so if you could give me some feedback about whether you found my comments helpful or not, that would be great.

Valerie Willman said...


I always think of publishing things. ;)

And your critiques are right on. They sound exactly like something I'd get from my writer's critique group.