Tag Archive: recovery

Feb 20

Tortured Artist

debra linker, painting, acrylic, flora, mushroom


Depression sucks, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do.  It sucks the life out of you, drains energy, darkens even the sunniest day.  Everything hurts.  Anger is turned inward (which, some believe, is the cause of most depressive episodes).  Hope dissolves.  Suicide seems a reasonable response.  Depressions SUCKS.

I can not begin to discuss clinical depression from a knowledge base of anything more than hearsay as I am not qualified to have anything more than one opinion – if clinically depressed, let the doctors help.

Situational depression:  now that I can talk about from a position of experience and much exposure to the experiences of others.

Today I’m thinking about the plight of artists who experience severe depression.  What I have witnessed amongst my colleagues and friends (and experienced myself), is not only the crippling effect of dark periods, but the debilitating belief that passion is gone … forever.  It is apparently common for depression to leave its victim feeling as if they have lost some part of themselves that they can not seem to recover.  Loss of interest, reduced self-esteem, a general loss of purpose, even a lack of physical passion.  Many of us continue to get out of bed and conduct our work (and it seems easier if the work is left brain activity).  But for the artist who depends on their ability to generate creative juices enough to motivate them to their craft, a whole new set of problems are encountered.

I am drawn to contemplate what I believe about artistic expression.  I believe the artist is a conduit of sorts; receiving ideas and inspiration from some outside-of-themselves source, and using the medium of their choice to draw the (let’s call it an idea) in to themselves, and, for lack of a better description, breathe it in to the material world.  In other words, to create.  Since the 14th century, the term “inspiration” has been used to denote a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.  Miriam-Webster adds “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions” to the definition of the word.  The medical field uses it to express the act of “drawing in”, specifically, drawing air in to the lungs.

For the artist, to believe that the conduit has been shut down, permanently, is a death trap.  It is more than a sense of suffocation, it is a sense of being severed from the creator within … exiled from God.

In “One More Time to Live”, the Moody Blues (in MY interpretation) use lyrics to clearly depict what depression looks like for an artist (and, also in my interpretation, suggests a way out!).  In my imagination, this song is about a guy who looses a girl, spends time looking out the window of his mind and seeing the world with eyes skewed by his sadness/anger/depression:

{The depressed view of the world)

Look out of my window.  See the world passing by.  See the look in her eye.  <snip>
Desolation Creation (Tell me someone why there’s only confusion) Evolution (Tell me someone that this is all an illusion) Pollution (Tell me someone) Saturation (Tell me someone) Population Annihilation
Revolution (Tell me someone why this talk of revolution) Confusion (Tell me someone when we’re changing evolution) Illusion (Tell me someone) Conclusion (Tell me someone) Starvation Degradation

{The Path to Recovery)

(Changes in my life) Humiliation (Changes in my life) Contemplation (Changes in my life) Inspiration (Changes in my life) Elation Salvation (Changes in my life) Communication Compassion Solution

As hard as it is to just GET UP when you are so down, getting up – getting OUT seems to be the path to survival and recovery.  In the song, Desolation concludes with Degradation.  In the “recovery” stanza, the path is humility, contemplation, inspiration, elation, salvation, communication, compassion = SOLUTION.

Summer Fun 24 x 30 - $250

Summer Fun
24 x 30 – $250

We may not be able, at first, to paint our next Best of Show or compose our next Platinum seller, but it is essential that we START.  A brief but honest conversation with a compassionate friend in a coffee shop may be enough to stir within us a sense that things could change.  Talking.  Communicating our fear that “it’s over” and having someone encourage us to just take ONE step forward (or back to ourselves) could be enough to get a brush in our hand or to dust off the piano bench and take a seat.  A canvas filled with dark, angry, chaotic strokes or the pounding of dissonant chords on a piano or guitar may be incomprehensible or even intolerable to bystanders – but to the recovering artist – it is the sight and sound of hope.  It is a start.

And tomorrow, we can do it again – perhaps with a bit of color, or a softer beating on the drums.  And soon, if we have the courage to just keep going – we are likely to find the truth we forgot:  there actually is more we must create – and we can – we must.  One step (or stroke or tune) at a time.