Artists & Depression

darker blues

It’s very prevalent. Often a creative mind and a depressed mind go hand in hand. Or brain in brain I should say. There is a theory that art for a depressed artist is self-medication. It helps us. Pulls us out of it at times. But sometimes it’s too much. I don’t want to play armchair psychologist. My first wife was seriously depressed and ended up committing suicide, so it taught me you need to take depression very seriously. I tried saying “Get some exercise. Do a gratitude list” Since her culture frowned upon mental health issues, she refused to go to the doctor. When I traveled down to LA for a quick sound mix on the Rocko pilot, she assured me she was staying with her brother, but instead she took her life in our house. A policeman answered the phone when I tried to call her. I immediately moved from San Jose to LA and Two months later I was producing Rocko episodes. I tried to keep it together while doing Rocko, but I was a loose cannon. I was angry, depressed and many other mental challenges. Anything to ease the pain. Doing Rocko though made me laugh, and that was good medicine. And I loved my crew, they were very supportive and fun. After Rocko was over, I crashed big time. Went through a serious depression. I found out all these things about my wife that I didn’t know. That she was diagnosed bi-polar. She needed medication. She needed help. She was a lovely creative soul and I miss her.

My late first wife Diane.
My late first wife Diane

When I started seeking therapy for the suicide stuff, I discovered that I had been suffering from mood swings and depression from a young age. I remember not caring if I was sent to my room for discipline. It was safe there and I could draw. Through my teens and early twenties I had a history of self-medicating with substances and alcohol. I have since been clean and sober for 35 years. But then I feel I self medicated with a work addiction. I had to manage many areas of my life to be a functioning creative, business man, father and husband. It takes work, but it’s obviously worth it.

Us artists are a stubborn lot. We think we have everything under control. But we don’t. If we want to improve our life, we have to take action. There are many alternatives to help in our moodiness. Meditation has been good for me. That and a deeper spiritual connection changed my outlook on life. Being of service. A healthier diet really helps. Less sugar and caffeine (I don’t do the sugar anymore, but I’m holding on to caffeine as my last vice). Exercise helps a lot. But most of all, making art that contributes and expresses what we feel.

But if things get really serious, if you are thinking suicidal thoughts, don’t mess with it. Get some help immediately. I know from experience that suicide has a ripple effect that touches so many lives around you. I feel like my first wife’s mother died of a broken heart from the suicide. But when you are in that dark hole, you don’t realize the damage you can do. But more important, you can make such a contribution to this world. It would be a shame to deprive us all of the gifts you have to offer.

There are suicide crisis hotlines. Reach out to friends, relatives. Be open and honest with how you are feeling. A good psychiatrist is always good. There are 12 step programs for every kind of addiction. I make it sound like it’s easy but I know first hand that it’s not. Asking for help is always difficult for us loner introvert artists. But don’t live in your dark hole. There is an amazing life to experience out there. I almost died at age 23 from substance abuse, and I can’t imagine missing out on the life I have had. There is light out there. We just need to open the window.

And Just remember you are not alone.

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for your words, Joe.

    It gave me the impression that it was hard for you to write this post, when you started writing about Diane, you omitted a word. That being said, your message is powerful and your story is inspiring.

    Big hug.

  2. wow Joe so sorry how did you 2 meet and i never knew you had a tabby again im sorry for your loss i had a friend who’s relative hung him or herself and was devastated if your ever in these times again although you remarried let me know if theres anything i can do for you i live in suffolk county new york and fly down there we have many good attractions to soothe you. take care and stay safe during this pandemic

  3. Joe, I am an artist from San Jose and I dropped out some months ago from college. I’ve been in even more of a rut because of the pandemic, but this just gave me some hope. This is exactly what I needed to read, and seeing how you made it despite the struggles is inspiring. Thank you for that, take care.

    1. Hang in there. I’m glad you are reaching out and searching. And thank you for telling me it helps. Sometimes I have trouble in my schedule to keep up with these, but you just made it worth it.

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