“[Studies have] found that people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder.
Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition,
and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”
– From “The dark side of creativity: Depression + anxiety x madness = genius?”
by William Lee Adams
From my own experience, I know that often times, depression and anxiety can go hand in hand with creativity. I have good friends and family members who are artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, actors, directors, and producers. I would say about 75% of them have struggled with some form of mental illness at one time or another.
When creative people are so stressed and busy that they do not take the time to utilize their gifts, it becomes difficult. The other issue is that many people see creative endeavors as “just a hobby”, so those who frequently make time to pursue their creativity are often told they are being selfish or wasting their time with something frivolous.
I had a conversation with a good friend a few days ago about that very thing. As a single parent, it is very difficult for me to find time to write. I am judged for the time I take to work on the small theatre company I co-own because it “takes away from” my time with my family that needs me. And it frustrates me because we are supposed to teach our children to live their dreams – but how can we model it if we are continually putting off our own?
Our conversation reminded me of one of my favorite fantasy movies: The Neverending Story. (If you haven’t seen this movie, please do me a favor and go watch it . . . RIGHT NOW. I am not going to take the time to explain the plot because it just wouldn’t be the same.) I am showing my age again by admitting that the first time I saw this movie was on LaserDisc when it came out around 1985. Once we had a VCR, my brother and I watched this movie over and over. It is still one of our favorites. And I think that it is a good metaphor for how creative people who also deal with depression and anxiety live.
When a creative person stops creating – it is like “the Nothing” takes over in Fantasia and you’re not brave enough to give the Empress a new name. Why? No one will understand what you said anyway.
Why keep fighting a losing battle? Because it’s too hard, because it’s pointless, because it’s overwhelming, because you have obligations, because your job sucks . . . or because you’re scared you might actually change things?
In the story, Atreyu was rescued by Falkor, the luck dragon. But who is going to rescue us?
There will never be a perfect time to pursue your passions. Ever. I believe we have to decide to pursue our passions wholeheartedly and make them a priority now. Maybe our creativity IS our luck dragon. And once we climb on and ride the wind . . . our story keeps going. It is never-ending.
And adventure awaits.