by Dennis Daniel
Depression. I don't know a creative person on earth who hasn't encountered this psychological monster one time or another in the course of their professional or private lives. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be so mother huge that it drags you down into what seems like an abyss of no return. It can be so small that it feels like a gnat in your eye that goes away after a few swats. I've felt them all!
What I'd like to try and do in this installment is present a few depression scenarios that have occurred in my life and show you how I was able to eventually overcome them. It's my hope that someone reading this may find a little sense of hope that however bad they may feel now...there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
First and foremost, let's get one thing straight. Life is worth living. Period. Unless you have some terminal illness that leaves you in nothing but pain and physical agony twenty-four hours a day, don't even think that offing yourself will close the book and stop the pain. Life is a bitch. It's really, really tough. A veil of tears, if you will, but...BUT...there is beauty to be found in the very suffering we want to avoid. For me, suffering has opened the window to better appreciation and understanding of all that I have and hold most dear. Now, before you start thinking I've become some new age crystal toting moonchild, realize this: I am speaking from my own experience. I never found solace in some quick fix or "flavor of the month" inspirational lecturer. Rather, it's been a lifelong absorption of all the little lessons one learns along the way about how to deal with being alive. The long and painful progression of sorrows is the very thing that has pulled me out of the hole. The healing for me begins with an appreciation of the good that outweighs the bad.
Ever get depressed because you think you "have no talent anymore?" Oh, this is an easy one to be dragged into! Have you ever had a bad streak of spots? Spots that, for whatever reason, just didn't jibe with the client, the salesman, the listener...anyone! Think about this: if you didn't have the talent, then what are you doing in that position? What did you do, bluff your way into being creative? No! You're there because you've got ability. Allow yourself the very human trait of not being perfect! (Look gang, shit happens. Life can blow you some heavy trips! Maybe you just broke up with a girlfriend or spouse. Maybe someone you love has died. Maybe you found out you, or someone you love, has an illness. Maybe your debts are piling up. You may need love. You may need money. It could be any or all of these and more. It's going to affect your performance once in a while!) Some of the greatest writers of the twentieth century have written bad books or been stricken with writer's block. It sucks, I know! You stare at that blank piece of paper. You think, "Oh God...another club spot! How the hell do I come up with a new way to tell people about the latest big box with flashing lights and a dance floor where they can get drunk and hopefully pick someone up! My life is a joke! I spend all my time selling people crap they don't need!" Then, after you do a terrible spot, you think, "I've lost it. Whatever I had is gone. I can't keep doing this over and over! The well is dry." Nope. The well never runs dry! The spirit is willing, but the brain is weak. Allow yourself a few failures. Allow it! For as sure as you're about to take your next breath, you are bound to fail. Count on it.
Okay, so now you've failed. How do you get back on the horse? By the very act of knowing that you fell off! For me, this means diving deep into things I truly love, things I know will inspire me. Perhaps it's someone's life story. (Orson Welles, Ernie Kovacs, John Huston, Groucho Marx, Mozart, Christopher Reeve, Freddie Mercury.) I see the obstacles they encountered. I look at the body of their work. I relate to them. If they could do it, so could I. Another thing that never fails to cheer me up is watching some of my favorite comedians--Monty Python, The Marx Brothers, George Carlin, Robert Klien, Seinfeld. Find something you know makes you laugh!
One of my favorite uplifting and inspiring things to do is listening to Queen's last album "Made In Heaven." Freddy Mercury recorded the vocals for this just a few weeks before he died from AIDS. As I listen, I think, "My God. This man knew it was over. Yet he sings with such life-affirming joy, power and magnitude that it almost makes you feel ashamed to think you have any problems at all." Songs like, "It's A Beautiful Day," "Made In Heaven," "I Was Born To Love You" and "My Life Has Been Saved" are filled with such soul healing powers it's beyond mere words to describe their majesty. Mind you, I'm not some rabid Queen fanboy fanatic. A friend of mine turned me on to this album on a day when I was feeling low. It has helped me to rise ever since. I can't recommend it high enough. In the song "Made In Heaven" he sings, "When stormy weather comes around...it was made in heaven!" In other words, the good and the bad are all a part of life and should be embraced and celebrated. It's the bad that makes us realize the good and visa versa.
Of course, when you're feeling depressed, the last thing you need is some jolly roger dancing around you trying to cheer you up with catch phrases and cliches. You need understanding. You need tolerance. These are things no one can give you but yourself. Faith in yourself and who you are is one of the greatest warriors against depression.
When I'm down, I allow myself the emotion. I put myself into the feeling. "Okay, things suck. Things at home could be better. Work is a drag. Okay. Now...who am I? How am I allowing myself to be judged? Am I what other people think? (A client? A wife? A boss?) Who are they to judge me? I know my worth. I know I'm a good person. Stuff just hasn't been going my way lately. So what. Ride it out!"
Depression is serious. It's not to be taken lightly. These few examples and solutions I've brought up are by no means foolproof or revolutionary. They're some of the things that have worked for me. All I can say is, be strong! Be brave! Face life! And, if your depressions is truly serious, get help.
You can call 1-800-421-4211 for free information. I also suggest you read On The Edge of Darkness by Kathy Cronkite, published by Doubleday. It's a book of conversations with famous people we all know who have suffered with and overcome all kinds of depression. In this life, I believe it's required reading.