Posted Wednesday 14 April 2010
In the first of a series of posts to mark Depression Awareness Week, Mind fundraiser and media volunteer Dave Urwin writes about the creativity that can emerge from depression.
“You’re gonna break my heart I know it, but even if you don’t you’ll break my run of unhappiness and ruin my career.”
These words are taken from a Malcolm Middleton song, and within them lies the dichotomy of depression. No one wants to be depressed, but a cursory glance over the history of art, music and literature tells us that it can be productive.
I’d say the creative flair of a tortured soul is because of, rather than in spite of their depression. A tortured mind is one that never stops thinking. That exploration can often lead to striking visions.
Russell Brand is one of many comedians whose lightning wit and dizzying wordplay have come about as a means to hide their inner turmoil from the world. Bukowski told the story of his struggle to fit in through the character of Henry Chinaski in a series of revered novels. Paul Gascoigne’s sublime skills on the football field even were no doubt a result of his overactive mind.
When depression becomes creativity it can reach out and help others to make sense of their own battles. There is the tragic irony of Mark Linkous, the singer who recently took his own life after a long struggle with depression, when the legacy he leaves behind in his songs will help many to feel that they are not alone.
My name’s Dave and I have been depressed on and off I think for most of my life. When I talk about depression I refer to an all-encompassing sadness. When in its midst I look to the future and see no hope to hold onto, and look to the past and feel taunted by the best times and despairing of the worst times. I want solitude as I fail to understand why anyone would want to be in my company, and yet I need company as without it all I have are my negative thoughts.
When depressed anything that kills even a few minutes, is a godsend. I honestly believe that this is why I started smoking. Because smoking a cigarette takes five or so minutes, and that’s five or so minutes that have a purpose.
Alcohol was for some time like that girlfriend who you know is no good for you but who you just can’t quit. When you drink you’re focussed on achieving drunkenness, and then on maintaining it. If you don’t like the look of today it’s a way of hitting fast forward. If you don’t like the look of tomorrow when you get there you can hit fast forward again, at least until your money runs out.
Nowadays I realise that smoking and drinking are not long-term solutions and haven’t partaken in either for over a year. Walking and writing have been the best ones I’ve found so far. A walk can take anything from twenty minutes to a whole day, and will feature a constant change of scenery, making it difficult for the grey clouds to keep up.
Writing is a way of pouring out all of the sadness, confusion and self-loathing and turning it into something beautiful. I feel that as long as I have an outlet and people around me who know what it’s like then I know it won’t keep me down. Finally though, let’s remind ourselves that it is a lifelong battle, as summed up by the singer, Daniel Johnston:
“You can listen to these songs,
Have a good time and walk away.
But for me it's not that easy.
I have to live these songs forever.”
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