Post-Gig Depression

April 11, 2010

After the Finishing Stroke

Posted by Deborah Atherton

When we are completely absorbed in a creative project, we experience some of the deepest engagement, and through it, happiness, that human beings ever manage to find.  And then, suddenly, it’s over.  The show opens.  We finish editing the film. We place the last delicate stroke on the mural. We end the song on the final, perfect note. Or, as in my case last week, we add the last chapter to a novel we’ve been working on for a few years.  Most likely, we experience one glorious moment of accomplishment and completion. And then?

And then, very likely, we plunge into a very, very dark moment.  We become convinced that we will never have another idea, that our old ideas are all rotten, anyway, and, quite possibly, that critics everywhere, as well as everyone we know, will despise our completed work, if, in fact anyone ever sees or hears it.  I like to call this post-gig depression (and no, you will not find it in the DSM.)  Virginia Woolf suffered terribly in these moments – completing her books sometimes drove her to the verge of suicide.  Most of us experience it in a milder form. But oh, we do experience it.

Perhaps somewhere out there is the artist who completes his or her work with total confidence, and with the assurance that all who ultimately experience it will love it.  I myself do not know such an artist, but surely, among the many on this planet, a few live their lives out this way.  But most of us run into a period of questioning and anxiety after the initial excitement of completion.  (And this is even before all the other people with an opinion weigh in.)

I can’t give you a magical elixir that will help you through this (although some swear by Jack Daniels) but I can assure you that this, too, shall pass.  Some artists we interviewed have told us that they get through it by jumping right into the next project, and not giving themselves time or space to question (and some artists, of course, labor under constant deadlines, so don’t always have the luxury of time under a dark cloud.)  Some require a mourning period.  I myself turned to some very good friends and coaches, who spoke to me about the inner critic and the shadow self, and the necessity of acknowledging the doubting dark side of the creative impulse.  (And I’ll try to talk more about this later on, as I learn  more myself!)

I think what we face, at the moment we finish, is the resistance that has been dogging us all along, surging for one final push to retain the status quo.  And as artists, we have a responsibility to work through it and keep on.  And to remember that, not too far in the future, we’ll be having that lovely, “Is it 3 AM already? I didn’t notice”  feeling again, which is, let me remind you and myself, one of the best feelings in the world.

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When Sloth May Be a Sign of Depression

April 4, 2010

In Deborah’s helpful and interesting most recent post about the necessity of sloth she talks about how a period of sloth can provide a much needed period of renewal.   As a psychotherapist I am interested in offering some clarity for anyone  reading this blog about when could sloth really be a warning sign of depression.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself  and if you answer yes to five or more of these questions it would be prudent to consider consulting a mental health professional. (Have you been feeling any of the following nearly every day for at least two weeks?)

Have you been sad, blue or down in the dumps?

Have you lost interest or pleasure in all or almost all  the things you usually do ? (work, hobbies, time with friends and family)

Have you noticed a loss in appetite or are you overeating?

Do you have a problem either falling asleep or nighttime  awakening? (or oversleeping) ?

Do you feel low energy?

Do you feel restless or agitated?

Do you feel a desire to isolate ( and this is not typical of you)?

Do you fail to experience pleasure when positive things happen?

Do you have feelings of inadequacy or are you overly self-critical?

Do you feel less able to manage the daily tasks of living?

Do you have poor concentration and difficulty making decisions? (and this is not usual for you)

Do you think or talk of death and suicide?

It is important to remember that unless you consult a mental health professional  and a medical doctor it would be difficult to know if these  are symptoms of depression or symptoms of a medical condition.  There are different types of depression and this information is merely a preliminary guideline to help you assess if  you need professional help.