I like to explain the feelings of depression with a sailboat story.
Imagine a person sailing. The waters are calm and there isn't a lot of wind so they decide to sit and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Then a breeze comes so they decide to sail back home and ride the waves, it is a lot of work but exhilarating. Life is good. Then all the sudden something bad happens, a huge rouge wave comes and swallows them and their sailboat. To survive they have to use all their effort to swim to the surface to get air. They are very lucky to reach the surface but they get just enough air and then a wave pushes them back under. This happens over and over again and they are beyond exhausted. The idea of giving up and drowning enters their mind, and it seems like relief to just let themselves drown compared to the effort required to just keep trying to catch a breath to survive.
This is how I felt when I was dealing with the worst of my depression. I am not alone with this exhausting condition either.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization) about 350 million people worldwide deal with depression. That is about 5% of the population to put this in perspective, that's a lot of people! Depression is a HUGE, no a GIGANTIC problem.
If you, or someone you know has suffered or is suffering from depression I think you might find this post interesting, as I found some relief from my depression through art. I am not a medical doctor, surprise, surprise, actually what I am is an artist. So this post doesn't have medical advice, what it does have is my experience. If you are dealing with depression I recommend contacting you medical provider immediately to seek help.
Seeking help is actually one of the steps I took in the right direction so that depression didn't take over my life. I got help from a doctor, therapist, friends, and family. At first it was hard to talk about because I felt like it was something wrong with me personally and not a condition.
Life is tough, it is, I wish there was a way to avoid all the crap, but everyone experiences it. Depression is not just having a bad day, or week and once things turn around you can bounce back. Depression is a sinking feeling that doesn't go away and it is there despite the good things happening. Dealing with depression is very difficult, it isn't something you snap out of.
A lot of people, unless they have experienced it, just have a hard time relating. This was really hard because I already felt isolated and trying to educate people felt like I was in constant validation of how I was feeling. Some people when they think of depressed people, blame the person, think it's to get attention, think the person is ungrateful, it's an excuse, and/or people literally have a choice and they chose depression. Out of all things, why would people choose depression? People like to feel happy and I wanted that feeling too.
Even tho people don't choose depression there are choices people can make to find relief and it's important to understand that. It took my initial choice to seek help, to become educated, and to try different things to find relief.
To find relief it is important to understand what is behind the cause for depression. The most common reasons for depression, along with an example for each, include hormone/pituitary/thyroid problems (postpartum), chemical imbalances in the body (serotonin), lack of control in life (slavery), chronic health issues (pain), medications (side effects), loss (death of loved one), stress (over worked), and failures (losing a job). Interestingly enough, these reasons are mostly out of peoples control.
It was extremely helpful for me to stop blaming myself or others for my depression and blame the real cause so I could treat it as a condition.
Overcoming depression is challenge and some change HAS to happen to pull out of it. Like the sailor from earlier, someone needs to throw a flotation device (doctor), people need to hold hands and pull the person onto shore (friends & family, but one person trying to save someone most likely drowns with them), a miracle has to happen (finding faith), and/or they have to try different ways of approaching the surface (change things).
One of the surprising discoveries in my battle with depression was that my depression lifted each time I was creating art. Even tho this was only one piece of the puzzle it was important to complete the whole picture of what would help my depression. I realized that participating in the arts provided relief for 1 person, me, and 350 million people might also discover some relief when participating in some form of the arts too. The arts include music, dancing, acting, welding, building, engineering, sculpture, painting, design, photography.....this list can go on and on. What they all have in common is creating.
Human beings are creative. When we are not creating by choice we can become dissatisfied with life and sink into depression. The more we create the better we feel as endorphins are released (the happy chemical) into our brains. That happy feeling motivates us to do it again and it can become a cycle to push us to the surface (out of depression). If we don't keep it up we sink down again.
Art is so much a part of who I am, that without it I simply start to drown. I didn't understand this for a long time because I didn't create for a long time. And, it just sucked the life out of me. As soon as I started expressing my creativity through art again I started to surface from my depression. I was always a very happy person before depression hit me like a rouge wave, and now when I create I feel like me again. Which has made it possible to share Createful Art with you and spread that happiness.
Art is something I love, and helps me fulfill my purpose. Feeling like we don't have a purpose to our lives, might as well be the definition of depression. Without purpose our life feels...well not worth living. When you have depression it is hard to see that our life indeed has a purpose.
There is a purpose to our life and it is more than to just exist and try to be happy with ourselves. One of our purposes is to create a better world for the next generations. That is what "mother nature" (or whoever you think has control of humanity) rewards us for, hence the release of happy chemicals to our brain. Da Vinci said "while I thought I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die." Birth and death is what we all have in common, but we all have unique contributions that make changes to the world, even when we are here for a short time.
We can't let go of our passions, our hobbies, our standards, and what makes us who we are and expect to be happy. We need to let go of the things we are not passionate about, the things that don't help us be better, and stop trying to make ourselves into something we are not. There is a growing number of people that need to hear this, including myself (over and over).
If you (or your kids) are passionate about creating art, if it makes you feel happy, then you might want to consider becoming a part of the Createful Art Community. We get our creativity juices flowing with creativity exercises like the one in this post (see below). We learn about art so we can become better artists, and we create a lot! It's fun and a great place where we can become a team and support each other. Join now and you'll get all these things weekly. Um, ya, sign me up! Wait, I am already signed up, but you're not! Sign up below and let's keep smiling together.
Have you dealt with depression? What helped you? Feel free to share your story in the comments below.