The Quest For The Creative: or, I’m Still Here

Let’s talk about depression. Shall we call these depression updates?

In the grand scheme of the universe, being someone who is bi-polar comes with a lot of funny side effects. If you’re unmedicated, there’s a lot of bouncing around when manic and symptoms that come with it, and the depressive slide that comes with the other end of the spectrum. When you are medicated, however, there are side effects. And the trade off one has becomes a part of your life.

We are approaching eighteen months of me being on medication for my bi-polar disorder. For the most part, things were extremely wonderful on the medication. I had a hump to get over initially that was difficult – going from the frenetic energy, the highs and lows, that you have to manage without medication was strange. But then I ran into the biggest issue: the dampening of the creative drive.

There’s many people who have talked for years about how those with bi-polar disorder struggles with the loss of creativity. I read a great blog post that was exactly as I was feeling, and I’ve read a few books that were about the fact that many of our historically strongest creative folks are thought to have been bi-polar and struggled with this same issue. Fact is, the creative drive that lights me up has dulled since I had to take a pill every day. And the longer I’ve taken the pill, my life has slowed down, that’s for certain. But being creative, finding the right words, has become a struggle. A slog.

The advice I’ve gotten? Write every day. Work your craft. Develop new muscles. Keep going.

And I am. Oh I am. But now, what used to be easy seems to be getting further and further away.

I read a comic book years ago, an old Marvel What If?! comic that was called “What if the Phoenix Had Not Died?” Anyone who knows me knows that Jean Grey is my favorite X-Men character, and the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas were my favorite stories in the Marvel universe. So when I saw that What If?! had answered one of my favorite questions about Jean, I read it through. And this two-part story broke my dang heart. Why? Because Jean lost her powers instead of dying – at least for a little while. And as Jean learned to deal with not being a mutant anymore there was one page of her life with Scott where she sat on a rainy night, smoking, and dealing with her depression over the whole thing.

There was a single box of text that I read which stuck with me for many years:



As politically incorrect as her reference to being deaf, dumb and blind is, the description of losing her telepathy stuck with me when I later went on medication for my bi-polar disorder. The very first day that I put medication into my system, I started having a serious problem reaching for the creative spirit that once drove me. There were days that it felt, instead of touching that creative spark, I was chasing it down a dark hall through molasses. I’ve still been doing my work, of course. But in the meantime what was once a happy experience instead drives me to near exhaustion. Work that was once a joy has become drudgery. And worse, where once I could find the words easily to describe what I wanted to say, now it’s just… gone.

So take this as a description of what it sounds like inside my head these days. It’s a battle to find the focus and the creative inspiration. I wake up, I write, and I do my work – but a lot of it is much harder than it used to be. And it is easier to burn out. It nearly paralyses my arms and feeds into the saddest, angriest, most frustrated parts of my brain, the little voice that tells me you should just stop.

I don’t. Of course not. And I don’t bother trying to use this as an explanation, because I don’t want it to sound like an excuse. I can’t hear another pep talk of ‘you just have to try harder’ or ‘relearn what you knew before’. I’m doing that. Oh I am. But I’m also trying to remember every day the joy that words used to give me, and some days I feel the music again and I can do the dance.

These days: I’m just forcing myself to do it. I’m going to write more. And you’re going to see a bunch of updates really quickly, articles and takes on media and updates on things I’m doing. Let’s see if this shakes loose the dam and gets the information flowing again. I’m not burnt out, though this might sound similar. No, I’m just chasing the fireflies.

1 comment

  1. Reblogged this on Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill: real world, virtual world, tech, & health and commented:
    This insightful, articulate account of what it’s like to have your creative fluency peeled away by medication should be compulsory reading for prescribers. Not as a comment on how unfeeling they are or holier-than-thou about knowing best – although some undoubtedly are – but as an indication of the costs, the intellectual losses, that often accompany treatment with brain-affecting chemicals. It is always a balance and there must always be choice that doesn’t alienate either party from the other.

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