Monday, December 22, 2008

The Black Dog

I've not been attentive in the Blogger world- barely there in the Etsyverse either. The Black Dog has had me this past two weeks, growling in the pit of my stomach. I won't gloss over it or shrug it off as 'nothing really', because depression is horribly over-looked and under-played in society. We don't talk about it, we don't share that we have it...even myself being an open person I often find myself saying 'I was unwell' to my friends, rather than the truth.

What is it that we try to hide? Do we worry people will think us crazy, or dramatic? Do we worry they must look at us and think 'God- just cheer up, get over it.'? Do we fear people we know and love will shy away from us, thinking we've turned suicidal (or homicidal) because we're not in our right minds?

Whatever we think, regardless of whether we want to think it, we hide ourselves. And that does no service to ourselves or others. No service in that we don't talk to people who care about us, and no service to those we might share with and learn of their problems. Most of us go around thinking we're the only ones suffering, when people we know close to us might be going through something very similar, and are fighting (or suppressing) it alone, perhaps with less skills than ourselves.

In the midst of the past two weeks, I've felt my identity crumbling. A deep period of re-assessment is upon me, where alot of old layers are being peeled away, and the rot cut out. There are dead branches within me that starve the soul for spirit- I need to cut them away so I can devote all my energy to being the real me.

This blog is a lily in a muddy pond- just scrolling through it reminds me who I am and what I do- and that I love it. Art is wholly and solely a part of me, not just an element of business. Everything I do and see and hear and feel is filtered through an artist's mind. It's a blessing and a curse, but as my neurologist asked me today during my epilepsy re-assessment, 'would you have it any other way?'

And I said no.

In his television show The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, Stephen Fry asked himself would he take medication if he had the opportunity, or did he feel that what was 'wrong' with him was such a part of who he was that the change would be creatively unwelcome? He concluded (as far as my memory goes) that he would rather stay as he is. All through my problems I've refused medication, and Stephen helped me see why. Who I am, how I see, what I make in the studio is all a part of my soul. If I were to 'dose up', what might I lose?

Thankfully I don't feel I actually need medication. My depression isn't too debilitating most of the time I've been very lucky in that I've been able to set up a lifestyle where by I can avoid those things that trigger my problems, and keep myself fairly 'sane' (if there is any such thing). If I had to deal with the work-a-day world I'd definitely need medication! But I'm not part of the real world, I never have and I never will be.

I have made a pact with myself from this day on that when I want to say 'I have depression' - I will say it. I won't pretend I had a cold, or was just madly busy. I will tell people I have depression and occasionally the darker episodes keep me from caring about anything but eating sleeping and watching TV, that sometimes getting out of bed can seem as pointless as going there in the first place, that leaving the house is just too much to think about. I won't reel it off to every stranger who needs a reason, but to those who know and love me, it's important they know the truth.


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Such a lovely post Penny, staying true to ourselves is not the easiest thing to do but it's probably the most important thing we need to remember to do.

I think people get confused about depression - they know that things like having a cold or being busy will come to an end, whereas depression isn't something that goes away - like you say, it's a part of who you are or how you function.

It takes a very strong person to accept themselves for who they are and to truly understand what they need out of their life, you seem like a very strong person...

Little Sparrows Nest said... Best Blogger Tips
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The Feathered Nest said... Best Blogger Tips

Hello are SO not alone ~ I fight being depressed so very much, mine is due to my hormones wreaking havok with my mind I believe but I do take a simple medication that does help me ~ that makes me feel more like me, like the young me before my body started all of this. I enjoy creating so much more when my mind is in a good place ~ wishing you much peace...xxoo, Dawn

Little Sparrows Nest said... Best Blogger Tips

Dear Penny-Elisabeth... I must say that your courage to confront this topic with grace and acceptance knocks me over with a feather, anyone who has the fortune to get a glimpse of your world, and creation within it, is very touched by the soul, truth, and richness of it, and I believe that its due to the fact that you are in touch with your self, you identify what is really there, and it comes out in your *beyond beautiful* work ...

Linda said... Best Blogger Tips

Hello Penny,

Have been thinking of you a lot - and now I know why.

Remember we are still out there - will try and find the right words to write to you after Christmas. The great poets and artists of the world often suffered as you do - it is the two sides of the coin for brilliance - the dark side and the light side. But it is a bitch of a price to pay for the bright side.

Love and Light


Rose said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for the link the black dog, as this too is a part of my gene pool. Sometimes my moods are easy to manage other times the murkiness too heavy.
I admire your strength to hold off on medication and gauge your triggers. Very wise.I think as long as you feel you are not in anyway
of being pulled in the pit unable to emerge or so drowning you will not see that this too will pass(my mantra)you are not in anyway going to harm yourself. Be Gentle and loving as a mother would be to their child. I wish you peace. Rose

Britas said... Best Blogger Tips

For what it's worth, I just wanted to throw out there that I feel so lucky to have found you. Looking at and being absolutely enchanted by the beauty of your work helps to pull me of my own depressions. You are a true artist and inspiration. Thank you.

Lindy Leech said... Best Blogger Tips

I spent a lot of time in my early years fighting against depression. Now, I've learned to recognize it when it comes. I ackowledge it, let it know I'm aware of its presence and we manage to walk together as long as necessary in a sort of uneasy peace. Wallace Stegner wrote a pretty good book on depression, though I no longer remember the title. At any rate, I wish you well and thanks for sharing your thoughts and your lovely work.

Karen Beth said... Best Blogger Tips

I stumbled to your blog today and was surprised and relieved to see such a post.

I also suffer from depression and DO take medication. I work in a high-stress job and don't handle stress well as it is. Medication is important for me and helps a lot.

I think, however, that being able to say that we have depression is so so important too. Good on you for writing such a thoughtful post about it.



Lorie M. said... Best Blogger Tips

And I too, appreciate your candor. You are indeed an artist,and that is something to cling to. I agree, people tend to gloss over this, and expect people to 'buck up'. I can see how debilitating it can be. Bless you, we here in blog land appreciate your sincereness.

I'ts Cosmic Rock... said... Best Blogger Tips

May you find it in your heart to love, trust and believe that Yeshua, God in the flesh...came for the sad, weak and weiry and free them by His Love.
In the Light of Chanukah, I pray that He may grant you Justice and Shalom!

greavesdesign said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you so much for such a revealing post. I feel it comes from an acceptance and a desire to deal as honestly as possible with yourself and with those who observe...
There is a quality to your art that comes from a place that is so deeply connected it can never be false or untrue. As was stated, this comes at a price. Managing it, coming to terms with it as you do I imagine is an ongoing process...

Although my work is less dark in it's 'language' I have also struggled; depression has been examined and dealt with as well...

My moods were off during a period of years where I did no art whatsoever... I don't think I will ever stop creating again...

I so admire what you create... I feel it has loosed me up as I was too concerned with 'perfection' in my work... my edges have softened and I am letting the natural properties of the textiles to 'be' without controlling them so much.

Thank you for your glorious work...

Judy said... Best Blogger Tips

Good on you for your honesty, rare these days. Your art and blog are so wonderful and I wish you much success in the New Year. I a, sure your art and vision will help you get through too.
xo said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for posting this.

The Feathered Nest said... Best Blogger Tips

hello little brown sparrow, just wanted to say hi ~ hoping that you are doing better, feeling better and creating again...wishing for you to pass through.... ~ xxoo, Dawn

fanciful said... Best Blogger Tips

Before I took medication, I couldn't get out of bed. Now I can make things all day- not just have ideas for things I know I'll never make.

If you hurt so bad that you don't even care about becoming a zombie on the meds- then you know you need them. Now the zombiness went away and the human world makes sense and is handle-able. I can honestly say that I love my meds, they've saved me, my existence is like another universe now. I understand why people fight to survive and go on despite horrors and diasporas- it's because life is fun!

Sometimes I wonder if so many of us refuse meds b/c we still think it's something we should be able to "shake off," and if the shame is because we can't. Have you ever tried meds? Some are quite mild and can just shift things ever so slightly... Of course I'm biased, as my case was very severe.

Lovely blog and little wisps of wishfulness.

RowanDevoe said... Best Blogger Tips

I am so sorry you are going through. I have been depressed as long as I have been making art. For me, it shows up in the middle of the night as insomnia and worry and making art was something I could do at anytime or any place. It is something that I deal with all the time and do call it a "bad sinus infection" or something similar and hide from my family and friends. I do worry what people will think-that they will feel I am being dramatic or that everything is really "fine". But, you are right-you can't really take care of something you don't sit down and face. I hope this period is a quick one for you. Your photographs are amazing! I love them. I love that you can go back and forth between them and your sewing. And, do give yourself a break when you aren't feeling so good and do nothing! It is so much worse when you have that added pressure.

Take care-I always love reading your blog. It is wonderful to know that even if a person can feel so down that they can, on the flip side, be made so happy by something like a sparkly bead or button-that is me! And, that is actually a wonderful thing!

tattered lace diary said... Best Blogger Tips

how beautiful and brutally honest. we need more of that. i struggle as well.
xoxo nita

The Thrifty Cajun said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi sweetie!
I somehow stumbled into your blog & art world. I am proud of you to be "yourself".

As a professional artist/designer now for over 30 years, I truly feel that what I believe we call "depression" is a part of our artist make-up. Creating is like "breathing" and without it we gasp for our breath...our life.

And for most of is our creative life that helps keep us keep creating and just "breath". :)


Half an Acre said... Best Blogger Tips

So many of us! A relief to read so many people suffer and alarming too. Three years ago I discovered that I had suffered from mild depression for pretty much most of my life. I was devastated and angry that I had wasted all those years feeling so terrible when I didn't need to. BUT in that time I had channelled it into taking brilliant photographs. I take medication now - but I can't take the same photographs anymore. I studied it for four years and channelled how I felt into those pictures. That is lost now - I don't have that depth anymore nor the energy to find it again. My photographic art was despairing and poignant - my art now is bright and frivolous. Such a contrast! But I couldn't exist any longer how I felt. I take a lower medication than I need because I want to 'feel' instead of an elated bubble that a higher dose gives me. I still lie in bed trying to think of something to drag me up each day - my business gets me up because I love it - i love to create things and it gives me a reason. I've discovered that I need an obsessive positive focus - crafting gives me that - without it I would focus on something destructive. I know this because I have done that, over and over .... Creating is like breathing .... I am just glad that I have found it...

emma lamb said... Best Blogger Tips

ooops! - the first post is from me, i'm not sure how i managed an anonymous post...