Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Has Depression Taken the Joy out of Life for You?

The four goofballs of the apocalypse

I used to change my profile pic monthly—even weekly! It's not that I thought I had a face that people needed to see more of. By taking frequent profile pics, I displayed my creativity. In fact, it was important to me that people knew I was creative.

Now I don't care in the slightest.

I've been asking myself if this is because I have grown up, if it is because I've become bored, or if it is for another, more insidious reason: depression.

I can trace a lot of my listlessness to my divorce. After all, I stopped playing my instruments at that time. The shrill sound of pennywhistles, recorders, and other flageolets echoing around my empty apartment just made me more depressed, so I put them away for a while. I eventually started playing them again, but not until three years had passed. It reminds me of when I first began ticking back in 1992. I was a freelance illustrator at the time, but I couldn't draw with my arms flailing about. I was so depressed, I treated my art studio as a storage closet and didn't enter it for nine months. Perhaps the same thing was happening with photography.

One of the hallmarks of clinical depression is losing interest in things that we used to enjoy. I suppose anybody could experience that for any number of reasons. What makes this a symptom of depression is that the decision to abandon a favorite hobby or pastime was accompanied by waves of crushing sadness. There's a sense of futility that is pervasive. More than burning out on a hobby, with depression, the pastime is abandoned and not replaced with anything new. I didn't set the pennywhistle down and pick up another instrument. I stopped playing altogether. No, this wasn't the divorce's fault (not that it was helping). This was depression at work.

Now that I've noticed my profile pics are collecting dust in between changes, I've also noticed that I've stopped taking photos in general. There's no reason why I stopped. I just let the urge dwindle away. What a shame! I had fun exploring the world with my iPhone. I wasn't a great photographer, but it brought me joy.

This is why I've decided to let photography bring me joy again. How dare depression rob me of the joy of taking a silly profile pic? How dare depression steal my urge to record the world with my iPhone in my own quirky way? How dare I let depression get away with it?

The only advice I have for you is to take stock of your life and notice what you've stopped doing that you used to enjoy. Did you stop for valid reasons, or did you fade away with a twinge of melancholy and ennui? If it was the later, decide today to pick back up one of your old activities. Don't let depression win. Only by watching for the signs and implementing coping strategies can we keep depression from diminishing our quality of life.

I'm dying on my current book, but my first book is full of life.