Depression exists on a spectrum. There’s Major Depressive Disorder and a host of other types of depression of lesser values and intensities.
I have Major Depressive Disorder, which is one of the heavier types of depression. But, for me, it is even worse. People who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a lifetime rate of depression that is nearly 4 times greater than that of the general population. Depression in ASD is shown to greatly impact quality of life.
Before I go any further, I should note that I AM NOT a doctor or psychiatrist. I’m an Autistic adult who suffers with MDD as well. I’m also a musician, so I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences based on this.
I dedicate this to anyone who is going through depression and who is on the fence about whether or not to take meds because they fear a loss of creativity.
I’ve had very severe depression for my entire life. Much like my insomnia, it is drive by my Autism. I didn’t know that I was Autistic until I was 53 years old.
My life has had many creative moments, as well as very dark moments. I won’t be spending too much time getting into deeper details of this.
My goal in writing this is to show how these meds can work for you, what you can try, what to expect, and so on.
LINKS TO CREATIVITY AND DEPRESSION
So far as I can tell, there is no solid link between creativity and depression. However, one of the hallmarks of my depression is called Rumination, and there is a link between creativity and rumination.
The idea that you’ll lose your creativity if you take depression medications is not backed up by any solid ideas.
My depression is always there, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Much like my Autism, it can get in the way of things I want to do, as well as personal relationships that I’d like to maintain.
I would sit in a room full of guitars and other recording gear, and not feel like doing much of anything. Since my break-up with my last girlfriend in late 2020, I haven’t picked up a guitar all that much. I’ve done some writing, but could do more.
I would listen to some of my old recordings and feel disgusted.
I would listen to other musicians, compare myself, and feel despair.
I felt no respect for myself or my abilities. Anything I could do, I would write off as something that anyone can do.
With regard to creativity, there wasn’t much inspiration coming from the depression. What little would show up ended up disappearing quickly.
Jordan B. Peterson once said, “The thing about depressed people is that they’re depressed about everything.” This is NOT true. The hard truth about depression is that it is about nothing.
If it were about something, then that something could get attention and the depression could be fixed. I think Peterson conflated “depression” with “sadness.”
The depression is about absolutely nothing. And there’s this invisible 800-pound gorilla that sits on my chest and says things like, “Oh, so you thought you were going to be creative today? Newsflash: You ain’t doing SHIT today, son. Give up. You’re an idiot. You’re worthless. Just lay there like I tell you.”
WHAT MAKES THE DEPRESSION WORSE
There are several things that can contribute to making it worse, even though it’s already there. A sudden life change can cause it. My most recent sudden life change was when things fell apart between me and my last girlfriend. This life change opens the door to depression.
For people with MDD like me, being immersed in a state of helpless, debilitating depression can be a type of comfort zone. People stay away from you when you’re depressed. I’ve lost countless friends to my depression.
The latest victim of my depression is a friend who lives in Australia. She used to encourage me and write often. She even made videos where she would talk to me. Not anymore. She has not written back to me in quite some time, which means that friendship is now lost forever.
To be fair, engaging on any significant level with someone who is in a dark bout with depression can be exhausting. This latest round was the last straw. She will be missed.
Poor diet, dehydration, lack of exercise, and poor sleep can all make depression worse. I’ve also suffered life-long insomnia. Thanks, Autism!
MEDICATIONS AND SIDE-EFFECTS
The first medication I took was Fluoxetene [10mg], which is a generic for Prozac. This medication was what helped me move 1,000 miles from California to Oregon. Previously, I would fear going outside and walking 40 yards to the dumpster to take out the trash. I’d negotiate with myself about doing it later.
When I first started taking it, I felt as if I were covered with greasy, oily sweat. Even right after turning off the shower, I’d feel as if I had been sweating and hadn’t bathed in a week. It was very uncomfortable.
That side-effect went away after roughly two weeks. Remember that your experiences may vary. You might experience other side-effects, or maybe won’t experience the ones that I did. It is important to understand the possibilities.
Also remember that they don’t start working right away.
I stopped taking it shortly after the pandemic started, because I felt like my life was going well. In looking back, my stopping of these meds was probably not a wise idea. When my relationship crashed, this might have made the blow less impactful.
When you stop taking antidepressants, it is important to do so with your doctor’s guidance. With this Fluoxetene 10mg, the doctor said this was the minimum dose they prescribe, so there is no need to gradually take lower dosages in order to wean myself from it.
About 3-4 weeks ago, I started taking a generic for Wellbutrin 150mg. These meds cannot be compared as apples-to-apples with regard to dosage. Wellbutrin 150mg is roughly equivalent to Fluoxetene 20mg.
I do not know if I will need to wean myself from these meds. That said, I think that I will be taking this medication for the rest of my life. My depression is simply way too destructive, oppressive, and powerful.
The side-effects I was warned about included headache, weight loss, dry mouth, trouble sleeping (insomnia), nausea, dizziness, constipation, fast heartbeat, HOSTILITY, AGITATION, and sore throat.
Outside of having a slight sore throat one night, I did not experience any side-effects from this medication.
Earlier I gave mention to Rumination and its link to creativity. Rumination was also a major player in sparking my depression. The two seem to be very closely linked in my case.
Before taking these new meds, my rumination would be automatic and ongoing. It would never stop. I’d think about the strangest things and they would occupy my days and nights.
Now, not only does rumination not happen automatically, but it kind of feels like a chore that I can easily avoid. At the same time, it feels like I can call upon this if I needed to do so for creative purposes..
Now I sit in my home studio and start to have ideas. I can sit and record them.
I listen to some of my old recordings and feel proud of my past work. I don’t compare it to anything else, including my always-improving musicianship.
I listen to other musicians and enjoy their work without feeling the need to compare.
I have a greater sense of respect for my own abilities. I have confidence in my abilities, as well as general confidence in myself.
I don’t feel medicated, or like I’m on “happy pills.”
The things and situations that stunk before still stink now. The difference is that I can do something about some of them now. Before, there was that invisible 800-pound gorilla.
Yesterday, I picked up a guitar just to see if I could still play something, and ended up playing for about two hours.
WORDS OF WISDOM
This is for anyone who is creative, depressed, and afraid of taking medication for it. It’s vital to ask yourself some sincere questions, and to answer truthfully.
- Do you really feel creative?
- Are you able to act upon your creativity?
- Do you create something and then destroy it because it wasn’t good enough?
- Do you question your abilities?
For me, creativity is a mindset that I have to foster. I have to actually do things to get into a creative mood. Depression gets in the way of this.
Depression also hinders my ability to act upon my creativity.
When my depression is at its peak, I will create things and then destroy them because I don’t think they are good enough. In a more healthy mindset, I will take those raw creations and save them for later evaluation.
I would often times tell myself that I wasn’t good enough when my depression peaked. Now I realize that I’m the best version of me that has existed to-date. Tomorrow’s version of me will be even better.
IN THE END
As this new medication kicks in, I can sense certain changes. No more rumination, no more beating myself up, no more despair about the future. It is truly a game changer.
Yes, most creatives are “messed up,” to use more primitive terminology. However, it is important to note that there are lots of “messed up,” depressed people who ARE NOT creatives. This fact leads me to conclude that my depression really isn’t all that important with regard to my creativity.
I’m not sitting in the home studio, recording songs, but I can tell that I will be in the near future.
If you are dealing with depression of any kind, from Major Depressive Disorder on down, you feel that it’s causing you harm or getting in the way, and you’re concerned, then I would encourage you to write these concerns down and take them to your doctor. I work with a therapist, in conjunction with a doctor. My therapist suggested and encouraged it, and my doctor helped me make decisions on it.
Write down your questions and concerns, and get them addressed by a professional. Just as you shouldn’t take MY words as medical advice, also do not take the advice of friends, family, or internet strangers. Whether they have anecdotal evidence, as I am presenting here, or they’re anti-meds, remember that NONE OF US are doctors.
My big message is that if you’re creative, depressed, and afraid that you’ll lose your creativity to being medicated, then visit this concern with your doctor or therapist.
Now that my depression is in check, I have the sensation of having more energy to dedicate to life. This includes getting up in morning, practicing proper hygiene, taking proper care of myself, staying hydrated, and putting more focus into creative ventures.
In other words, it is improving my capacity for creativity.