Creativity and Depression

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Easier said than done, right?

I am going to be transparent here. I dumped Facebook for the purpose of giving myself more creative time. And while I do seem to have gained more time, I have found that dumping Facebook was not the cure for my utter lack of motivation to do creative things. It’s not that I am trying to force myself to do something I don’t want to do. I really do want to create things and share it with the world. It gives me purpose, and when I finally force myself to do it, I feel good about myself, which is a feeling that has been hard to come by lately.

The culprit of this creative slump is depression. Those that know me well know that I have struggled with bouts of depression since puberty, but since my heart transplant in August 2015, I have had depression that I had been in denial about until about 2 weeks ago. I finally realized how bad it was getting, so I talked to my therapist and then admitted the struggle to my husband. Being the person who loves me dearly and lives with me, he kinda sorta already knew. In fact, he fully understood what was going on before I did.

I can’t pinpoint what triggered the recent depression, but it started about a few weeks into my transplant recovery. My recovery was uneventful. The first 3 weeks post op I was blissed out on opiate pain meds and the excitement of the new life ahead of me. I had a perfect textbook recovery and was only in the hospital for 10 days. I never had to go back to the hospital. Many recipients end up back in the hospital at least once for episodes of organ rejection and other small health issues that often occur after transplant. I only had one teeny episode of rejection 2 weeks after transplant, but all I had to do was increase my Predisone dose. No hospital stays. I was so lucky.

Being a recipient of the gift of a life saving organ tends to make you keep quiet about personal struggles, mental or physical, but especially mental. Why? Because if I can’t understand why in the world I am not jumping for joy and living my life to the fullest, then certainly no one else would. How could I possibly be depressed? How dare I! I constantly feel ashamed of myself. I should be honoring my donor by really using my new gift, a healthy heart that could have gone to someone else. I feel riddled with guilt that all I have done since transplant, aside from a few vacations, is continuously gain weight, sleep, and feel completely useless. My sister, who received a heart 4 years ago, goes hiking all the time, eats a vegan diet, and is superbly healthy. I am acquainted with several recipients online who walk and run marathons, play sports, and go on adventures. The ones who aren’t doing athletic things are still keeping healthy with moderate exercise and enjoying their life.

So what’s wrong with me? No matter how much other recipients inspire me, I can’t seem to make myself get better. Even the prospect of possibly meeting my donor family hasn’t moved me. I am relieved that they haven’t reached out, because I am afraid they would be disappointed. My heart and the rest of my body, aside from the weight, is doing well, so there is no physical reason I can’t get in shape. But if I am not being active, why can’t I at least use all the time I have to go out and take pictures? Β Or create art? Β Or write? Or do anything, anything at all to deserve the 2nd chance I was given to occupy space on this earth? Why can’t I fight for my life like I did when I was in heart failure?

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It’s easy to dismiss or deny depression when you don’t feel motivated to eat right and exercise. Nobody really enjoys that. But I know my reasons have more to do that just lack of motivation, because I have dealt with food addiction since my mom’s death 20 years ago. I was put on steroids after transplant that caused a huge increase in appetite and rapid weight gain. I lost 40 lbs before the transplant, only to put on 70 lbs after transplant. I blamed it all on the steroids, of course. But I have been off steroids since April 2016, and my weight continues to go up. Still, I denied that it had anything to do with depression. I have always been a night owl, but my sleep cycle is a mess. My current schedule is to fall asleep around 4-5 am, and wake around 12-1. In addition to that, I often take a 1-2 hour nap during the day. Again, I denied the depression and blamed it on the fatigue the meds cause. After all, I never took naps before the transplant.

No matter what I blamed an issue on, I wouldn’t dare admit to anyone that I am living like this, because I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my life. But when I found that I was unable to make myself leave the house to do things I love, or to just sit down and do something relaxing or creative, I had to admit that depression has control of me. Depression is telling me I can’t create….can’t DO. I realized I need to do something before my life is wasted just merely existing.

Tomorrow, I have a heart checkup at Duke. I have them once every 3 months. They are going to weigh me, and I am going to be embarrassed that I have gained more weight since the last appointment. They will lecture me about diet and exercise and taking care of my new heart. But they will hopefully also tell me everything else looks great and on target like they have at every past appointment. And I will finally tell them that depression is keeping me from following their advice, the advice of the people who are tasked with keeping me alive after my heart was literally removed from my body and replaced with another one. And I will tell them that I am seeing my other doctor next week to talk about meds for my depression. I don’t want them to regret having given me a second chance to live. Not just to exist, but to live. And create.

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Some pictures I took a while back.

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17 thoughts on “Creativity and Depression”

  1. Don’t ever be ashamed. You’re doing amazing in the fact that you are aware you are depressed and talking about it. It was very brave of you to share this.
    Post transplant depression is a real thing and I’m so sorry you’re suffering. I wish I could give you a big hug right now. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, sis. πŸ’œ
      I had an in depth conversation today with one of my transplant team about all of this. He was very understanding and compassionate and said that everything I am experiencing is very common and that recovery is just harder for some people. And since I was already predisposed to depression, he said it’s not surprising I am struggling with it. And those with eating disorders like mine tend to struggle with food addiction after being on prednisone. I am scheduling more appointments with my therapist to work with me on this, and there is a psychologist at Duke who specializes in post transplant depression. I can make appointments with him and tack it on to the end of my clinic visits. So I have a game plan to battle this. Hugh is relieved because he has been worried and has been afraid to approach me about it without hurting my feelings. And when I am in denial about something, I fight him.
      But the good news is…. My heart looks wonderful, my BP perfect, and I didn’t have to do the Allomap! So despite everything, my heart is still kicking ass and I am well. Out of shape, but well. β˜ΊοΈπŸ’œ

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good! I had no doubt your heart was in beautiful shape. ❀
        Also I want you to know you aren’t alone. Pictures on Facebook only show the good parts of stories. I personally from time to time struggle with depression too. I struggle with depression and survivors guilt…. and cry… a lot.
        My depression is under control and not needing medication but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand and I promise you many other transplant patients have the same feelings.
        If you ever need to talk I’m always here. You can text me or message me on Facebook or call. Either way. β€πŸ’•

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love you, friend. I hate that you are going though this, and I’m so proud of you for telling the entire internets (in an eloquent essay that sounds just like you in my head) AND you talked to your partner AND you got your entire transplant team on board. Fuck you, paralyzingly depression, you are saying, because to me it looks like you have ton an awful lot!

    And I so agree with what Kelli says about the happy stories on FB only telling part of the truth. I have way less interaction with “friends” on FB now that I post less provocative stuff. I am just as lonely as i was before. I feel that way just as often. And the few people who are really friends and not just FB friends get that. For everyone else, I guess the farce is the same.

    Xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so proud of you sis. It took a lot of courage for you to write all of that.
    Hang in there and call me if you need to talk. I love you dearly.❀❀❀

    Like

  4. Oh friend – that was incredibly brave of you to post! Well done.

    Depression is a liar and a bitch. Depression is real and will try to rob you of everything. I’m so glad you are choosing to fight!

    I know we don’t know each other super well, but if you need someone to listen, to eat a healthy meal with or take a walk or just hang out, I’m not far. The weight struggle is no joke – I am fighting that demon too…

    Go get em girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know we don’t know each other, but we know common people and we have common struggles, so I guess we do know each other after all. Depression is real, and as women who are supposed to take care of everyone else, it is hard to admit that we need to take care of ourselves and be taken care of for a time. I think you are so brace.

    Although I don’t have the exact same root (post heart transplant guilt), I too have recently gone through the intake process, and been diagnosed with clinical depression. I have some of the same thoughts that you shared, all centered around GUILT. I have a decent job, adopted three beautiful children who adore me, have the best friend and sister my Mom always prayed I’d have, a strong church family where I am being fed and giving back, just finished building a house that surpasses my wildest dreams, yet… I’m depressed. What the hell is wrong with me? Surely something really big. Then, the anxious thoughts kick in, and on and on and on it goes.

    But, like you, I am choosing to be brave. I told my principal/ boss yesterday that I will be taking some FMLA time, with no pay (because I have no sick leave), to take care of myself. This is hard because my job as a teacher involves the lives of others, and it will impact many. But I’m choosing to invest in myself, so that I can walk out God’s purpose in life. I’m choosing to trust him with provision, so that even though my time off is not “paid”, that the payoff will be so much bigger. I’m reading a book right now about the struggle of food addiction and a biblical method to overcome it. I just started, but the beginning tells me that my role in this is to “renew my mind” each morning, allow the Spirit to work through me.

    May you feel God’s presence so near to you, brave one, and let His love and grace rush in you and through you.

    Like

  6. Hello, I know that we don’t know one another. I’m new to wordpress and was caught by your article on candid pictures. So I went a step further and clicked your name and here I am πŸ™‚ I just wanted to say hello and your not alone. I too suffer bouts of severe depression and have for a long time. Its horribly hard to join the world doing much of anything. I have virtually turned into a hermit and I hate it, its not who I am, or at least who I was. I want to go places and do things, I just can’t seem to get around to it. I imagine we have our differences in our depression but its wretched awful regardless. I have turned to writing again because its the only thing I ever have really done that made much sense to me. I just wanted to extend a hand in friendship if ever you wish to talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re not alone, I just blogged about this & the more creative I got the more intense my clouds of depression floated by. It drives me insane. I almost prepare for it like my menstrual cycle πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can relate to you. I too realise that I had depression soon after I got married. It was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I was scared people would think I was ungrateful or even regretful if they knew I was depressed.
    Thank you for sharing about your struggles because it helps to ensure others like me that depression doesn’t care about our circumstances. πŸ’Ÿ
    I’m so glad to hear that your transplant has otherwise been successful! You and your family must be so relieved.
    I recently donated a kidney to my sister. As positive as a transplant is, the stress it puts on a family is incredible!
    Great shots too! 😊

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment. 😊
      Yes, coping is much easier when others understand your struggle. So many people don’t understand that depression isn’t just situational. I am grateful to my donor and his family that I am alive, but the depression makes it seem like I am not. Depression is a liar.
      As an organ recipient I want to say, thank you so much for being a donor!

      Liked by 1 person

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