Creativity Can Challenge Depressive Feelings: How I'm Using a New Skill to Stay Afloat
Things have been interesting to say the least. The mental and emotional strain of COVID-19 (and subsequent social isolation) has left many of us in a seemingly perpetual state of discontent (not to mention the the election cycle). It seems that-- as is the case with the virus itself-- no one has immunity to the mental health side effects of global pandemic.
In life, I generally take the side of optimism and positive thinking, but lately negativity has run rampant and my own well-being has suffered as a result. The good news, if there is any real consolation in all of this, is that I now realize that I am not alone and neither are you.
The wave of depressive feelings that seem never ending through the uncertain tides of this pandemic actually connects us to one another in a rather unique way. And whether that wave carries us gently to shore (as the optimists tend to believe), or drowns us all in the ocean of shit, knowing that we are in this together through the good and the bad helps.
Because we are tethered in this, my hope for you and I is that in the midst of this we can find something daily to remind us that bad times never last forever. I know that it has taken some intentional effort on my part to stay afloat over the last few months, and though my legs are tired of kicking, I realize that giving up and sinking to the bottom is not too appealing of a secondary option. So, the reason I am writing this morning is to offer encouragement that comes from a place of personal experience and sincere understanding: we must keep swimming.
My effort to survive in this mess has changed with the ebb and flow of things. When the pandemic started I was completing my final semester of graduate school. My attention then was on finishing strong. I am proud to say I remained diligent and focused, accomplishing the academic goals I had set for myself. When that task was complete though, I was forced to shift my mindset again, or suffer the consequences of not adapting. By no longer having something in front of my to pursue daily, I fell into a slump for a few weeks, and found myself disinterested in things that I used to love. Reading lost its interest, as did writing, and soon the only thing I spent any real time doing (outside of work) was complaining about the Corona virus. Eventually, I evolved my mindset, and started to focus on my physical state. Eating right and daily exercise improved my overall well-being (for a time), but eventually even that got old.
In the last 6 months though, I've moved cities and started writing daily. Mostly working on a novel I started in graduate school, but also sending out submissions for poetry, short fiction, and essays, all in an effort to focus on anything other than the hell around me. I've had a few publications recently, and a few other pieces that are currently being considered-- which certainly helps keep spirits up, but the real joy I've found recently has been in painting/ drawing.
I've dabbled with it in the past, but each time I picked painting up, I quickly dropped it. It wasn't that I was unskilled in that form of artistic expression, but rather I set the wrong expectations for myself. Essentially, I tried to paint like other people-- envious of their unique style-- so when I failed at it, I limped away discouraged. Finally though I let go of trying to be someone else, and started shaping my own style of art that felt like me. The result was not perfect, but it did feel inspired and most importantly of all, genuine.
I've now tried to make time each day to do some type of artwork that is not writing. Whether it be a little sketch or a full-blown work on canvas, taking that time for creative expression has helped to challenge the depressive feelings of social isolation. It has also helped inspire some new written work too.
I guess, if I were to make any suggestion to other writers during this time of craziness it would be to try out a new form of creativity. It doesn't matter if you are good at it, or if your work looks highly refined, its just about letting go and finding yourself again. Maybe, like it did for me, it will help aid you in feeling better mentally and emotionally.