Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Depression Hurts. Art Heals.

I thought post-Holidays might be a good time to let you all in on something... I suffer from Depression. In fact, I've suffered from Depression on and off for most of my life. Only this time it's more like Depression with a side of Anxiety, and it's getting a little harder to hide this from you each day. It's like... pssst... your mood is showing. I'm feeling a little broken, and there isn't any glue that seems to be able to hold me together at the moment.

If you've never experienced Depression... it's kind of like death warmed over. You have this body you inhabit... but it feels pretty much empty. Like a shell with no insides. You know you are the owner of this residence... but nobody's home. And to make things worse, you don't have access to any of your feelings! It's difficult to smile, laugh, talk, cry, love, or even just to get out of bed every morning. You don't feel like doing anything... not even the things that once brought you the greatest amount of joy. You couldn't care less, but not by choice. Depression is knowing what it's like to have an amazing life, and not being able to find it amazing any longer.

The good news is, that I'm learning to cope with Depression while I simultaneously research and reflect upon why I am so prone to it. And through it all... I've had my art. When I'm making something — or even just playing around — time seems to slip away. Emotions sometimes eke out onto the canvas. Connections are made between my thoughts and what I'm creating. Then, just for a moment... all seems right with the world. You may have noticed my works vary from the sticky sweet to the more darkly macabre. Those are all the parts of me spilling out before you. I embrace each and every aspect of who I am and that's been the main reason I've gotten through all this. Being able to let my emotions out via art has kept me going. And hey, I've got lots of interesting stuff to show for it!

But the reason I'm sharing this very personal information is twofold. First, because it's getting harder to pretend I'm okay... and second, because I know there are more of you out there suffering, and I want you to know that you're not alone. I want to help. So today, I'm going to share some of the strategies that have helped me throughout the years and in my present life. Here goes...

Be Nice To Yourself. I'm sure I speak for many when I say that sometimes I get so mad that I'm Depressed! I say things to myself like, "What's wrong with you?", "Why are you like this?", "Why won't this go away?" etc, etc. And I want you to cut it out right now. Let's say a 10-year-old child came up to you and said, "I don't feel right. I feel sad all the time." Would you yell at them? Would you chastise them? Of course not! You are that little 10-year-old, filled with hurt and pain. So make sure your self-talk reflects that.

Fake It 'Til You Make It. Formerly just a playful saying my friends had so they could get through rehab, get out and buy some booze or weed (yeah, you know who you are!), this phrase holds very true for people with Depression. You see, most of us wait around for inspiration or motivation to come. But guess what? It doesn't work that way. First you have to do the things you want to do, and then the motivation to do them may follow. I say may because it doesn't work all the time, hence the discouragement and desire to wait around. But I am telling you this is the only way it works. So don't give up. The feelings will come, and they will come more often the more you try. So, fake it 'til you make it!

Do Something Body-centric. We don't really think about it, but Depression isn't out there (points to world), it's in here (points to self). It's a feeeeeeling. And where do feelings take place? That's right... in the body! So we need to take time to do something nice that involves the body... whatever that is for you. I like taking a hot bubblebath. You could also go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, exercise (I know - I don't do that either, ha!), go swing on the porch swing, have a warm beverage, get a massage, play fetch with the dog, dance. You get the idea. Try and do something at least once a week, if not more often. Attention... it does a body good!

Dedicate Time Each Day to Your Mental Health. Let's say you fell and wrenched your shoulder, and the doctor said you need one hour of physical therapy each day for it to heal. You'd do it, right? But what about Depression and Mental Health? I recommend spending a minimum of an hour a day on your Mental Health. We have to be proactive about this. You can't sit around waiting for the Depression to just go away on its own. So let's do something about it. You can meditate. Pray. Listen to relaxation CDs. Make your own affirmations, and use them! Sit quietly in the garden. Make a list of things you are grateful for each day (even if it's just that you made it through the day).... gratitude rocks! Do some soul searching. Make a list of things you want to change. Find books on those. Listen to your favorite music. Research depression. Get spiritual. Get philsophical. Get going! Make your head work for you.

Investigate! You would be surprised how much you don't know about depression. There are so many facets of it: mental, scientific, energy, spiritual, cellular, and then some! You can read books on depression or self-help. Find a book or an author that speaks to you. We all like to be "talked to" in a certain way and so not all books will impact you... keep reading until you find the right one(s).The internet is also a huge resource right at your fingertips. Although, I recommend sticking to actual studies and professional articles, while staying away from the threads of depressed people answering other depressed people's questions... yikes! Those people need a doctor the most!

Watch a Movie. Sometimes when you're depressed it's hard to feel your feelings. Like when you're feeling the blahs and know that even if Funniest Home Videos came on... you wouldn't crack a smile. That's when you break out... the sad movies! Yes, you heard me. You know the ones that make you bawl your eyes out (especially at the end). Some of my faves are Steel Magnolias, Mask (with Cher, not Jim Carrey!), and Forrest Gump. Here's why.... When you're depressed, feeling any emotion is a good thing. And it usually loosens you up for a few extras to come trickling out. Especially once those waterworks start. Don't be afraid of feeling sad emotions... they're a part of you too! This is a sad time. So go ahead... get your favorite movies, a box of tissues, and have yourself a good cry!

Surround Yourself With People Who Understand. Depression is one of the most misunderstood medical afflictions in the world. And unfortunately it could be the people closest to you who really don't get it. A parent, your best friend, maybe even your spouse. So, don't make them your sounding board. Don't make them the ones you want to make you feel better... because they can't. They're not equipped. But this isn't forever... just for now. For now, surround yourself with the people who do understand and who are good listeners. How can you tell the difference? After a conversation with that person, do you come away feeling better... or worse? Your reserves are very low right now, you don't need to use them up trying to convince people that you're sick. They'll be there when you're ready.

Get a Psychologist. Psychiatrists can dispense medication. Psychologists cannot.. and that's why I prefer them. Because they give you the tools to learn how to cope with life, not medication to cure your symptoms (not that I am against meds, see below!). Having the right tools allows you to see the world from a different perspective, and that's what we're looking for here. It's my personal experience, but every Psychiatrist I've been to just threw a prescription at me and had very little to teach me about how or why I feel this way. So skip the extra College Degree and save yourself the heartache.

Find a GOOD Psychologist. It's like buying that little black dress (or for men, the perfect tool set). You wouldn't just go to one store and pick up one black dress and just take it home... never! You'd have to try it on, see how it looks. Is it ugly? Uncomfortable? Not so flattering? Too long? Too short? Poor fit? It's the same with a Psychologist.... you have to really, really, really like them. You need a good "fit". If for any reason you don't connect, find someone else and don't feel embarrassed. When I look for a therapist, I call and ask them a bunch of random questions I already know the answers to — just to see how they respond — and that gives me an idea of how they would talk to me in a session. So many people stop therapy because they didn't like the first person they went to. Shop around!

Should I Medicate? Although I am all for finding the cause rather than fixing the symptoms (of anything), taking antidepressant medication is a viable short term solution. With Depression, there are certain receptors in the brain that are not doing their job properly, and medication can help with that. Now beware... not every medication works the same for everyone because of our individual chemistry. So, you may have to try several different medications before you find the one that works for you. Also know that you may feel worse before you feel better. If anything doesn't feel right, talk to your doctor. And yes, your regular doctor can prescribe antidepressants for you! Yay, no co-pays! But seriously, I have used antidepressants in the past and they have worked wonders for me. Currently, they don't because my body chemistry is different. It's a crap shoot, but go ahead and roll the dice!

Find Your Thing. Mine is art, but you need to find your thing... whatever that is. Find some kind of hobby that — even if it doesn't bring you joy at the moment — you don't mind doing. Maybe its journaling, or knitting, or collecting rocks, or painting, or organizing, or writing letters. Perhaps you like baking, or cooking, or gardening, playing word games, or ironing. No matter how weird or strange some of these things sound... there are things that soothe our brains. Find what works for you and fake it 'til you make it!

So, thanks for listening and for being here with me... all of you. Your words and support have kept me going through these tough times. And I hope that my experiences shared here today can help those of you out there going through something similar. You are not alone!

Michelle xoxo

P.S. If you or someone you know suffers from Depression... I encourage you to pass this on.


  1. I SO love you. It constantly amazes me how similar we are. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Hi
    I been reading your blog for a while, I love your artwork.
    I suffer from depression too and it feels good to read your post about it.
    Thank You

  3. Great post!!!! I am sharing a video with you......don't forget about music.......it can lift me up within minutes!!!! You covered it all, but just wanted to share what works for me!!!!!

  4. Brave Ladies! Thank you all so much for your kind thoughts and for sharing!

  5. such an eloquent approach to a serious subject.. thank you for sharing your personal experience

  6. wow...i don't know exactly how i came to find your blog today, but i was meant to read this. i get seriously depressed around the holidays, since a loss i suffered 2 1/2 years ago. i hate the holiday hoopla and just want to wake up on december 26th with it all over.

    i have a fb page where i just now shared a piece i did while depressed last month. it helped me, if only temporarily, and i felt like sharing it. i don't have a huge following, but it felt good to share. thank you for sharing this!


  7. Hi Friend !
    I thought I knew you by heart. I do ! I know your heart because we suffer from the same crappy illness - depression with a side of anxiety.
    Your post was wonderful, helpful and inspiring. And Brava to you from being open and for reaching out.
    I am a really good listener (or reader) so if you ever need my ear (or my eyes), please know I am here and I get it.
    In the mean time, big hugs on that sweet, tender/strong, beautiful heart !
    Light and love !

  8. Ladies, thank you all so much for your thoughtfulness and for sharing your own experiences. It's nice to know I'm in "good company" ;o)

  9. Hello michelle,
    My my is cindy i love all kinds of arts and crafts don't really know how i came upon your site but I'm so glad I did.I also suffer from deep depression I look forward to reading more about you and your arts and your life.

  10. Cindy, glad you found the blog and thanks so much for sharing!


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