That Dark Dog has been Growling
As promised, in these notes I would be open and frank, and as such, on occasion, I must delve into areas I do not wish to go. But I will be true to my word, as this may help someone else. Depressive tendencies have ruined too many people’s lives lately, and we as a community must be more open about it – as difficult as that may be.
Recently, for me, the normal crazy tidal life of any creative has taken a turn for the shallow end. A deep, all-consuming sadness has been trying to envelope me. Multiple factors, but it is what it is. As this is nothing new, I will be quoting from several much more articulate writers to help me explain my thoughts.
Winston Churchill spoke of his lifelong battle with what he described as ‘the white dog’ and 'the black dog’. The white dog was what reinforced in him the belief that he had something in him that the world desperately needed. The black dog was a deep depression that threatened to overwhelm him with the belief that he was worthless and that all other notions were fantasy.
Jeff & Julie Crabtree in their book Living With a Creative Mind (2011) speak at length of this and how any creative person fights a similar battle.
When at low tide, many common, shared attributes are described:
- Knows we are not without talent, but believes not sufficiently talented for the world to really accept them or their work;
- Coupled with 'skinlessness' (more susceptible to emotional pain), the state of deflation leads to constant self-doubt, fear, anxiety and ultimately to depression;
- Feels nothing done is ever good enough;
- Finding fault with the work;
- Interprets any information/behaviour as negative;
- Without a perfect result, there is little hope;
- Becomes driven to achieve perfection in the work as a way of managing the fear of inadequacy.
Welcome to my world.
What to do about it when that suffocating sadness tips you over the edge?
I have to admit I have been lately going deeper down my personal ‘rabbit hole’ further than I ever have before, locked at home by myself for weeks, feeling more and more sorry and negative about everything.
The Crabtrees suggest there are three strategies which can work together to help anchor us against these pressures:
- Develop resilience-the elasticity that enables the creative mind to move naturally between the extremes
- Community-finding a tribe that will nurture the creative mind
- Spirituality-a realization that we are part of a bigger reality
When the rubber hits the road, the combination of these has helped, slowly. I must pay particular thanks to a couple of people at this time. Whether they know it or not they have particularly helped during this period: Helen Wright and the community at Annandale Creative Arts Centre, Kathryn Broughton at CBC, and my friends Warwick and Tony. All of you have put up with my rubbish, supported me in many ways, and most importantly just been there.
An anonymous parable attributed to a rabbi (in Reaching for the Invisible God, Phillip Yancey, 2000):
“A man should carry two stones in his pocket. On one should be inscribed: ‘I am but dust and ashes’, and on the other: ‘For my sake was the world created’, and he should use each one as he has need”
Time to start climbing out of the rabbit hole.