Saturday, December 27, 2008

Something New Under the Sun?

Has it all been done before?

In the past week I spoke to two people, one a friend and one a coaching client, who were struggling with their creativity in similar ways. Both questioned: Why Bother? Hasn’t it all been done before? Haven’t all the stories for songs been written a million times? Haven’t all the books been written? There’s nothing new to write, or paint, or express.

Those who know me know one of my favorite sayings: “There’s always something new under the sun!” (which, yes, you’ll find on products at

So, it got me thinking again, about the “why bother?” And, yet again, it seems that the answer lies in my favorite place: the distinction between the right and left hemispheres of the brain; the logical vs the creative/emotional.

It’s true, things have been done before: The facts of things, the statements, the specific expression of emotions. So, sure, the Left Brain convinces us that there’s nothing new to express so the Right Brain might as well go back to sleep.

But that’s not the whole truth. What makes creativity so powerful aren’t the facts that are expressed, but the particular way of expressing the facts.

For instance, I can read a book about right vs wrong written by a theologian. My reaction would most likely be, hmmmm, interesting. I’d put the book down and be on my way. Or, I could read a book about vampires, where the choice of right vs wrong is extremely complicated in a fictional way, and I’ll be fascinated, and I’ll finish the book and put it down and wander around for days mulling over the choices of right vs wrong.

My left-brain friend (unnamed here), can read the same two books, throw the vampire one in the recycle bin and wander for days reviewing the theologian’s version.

We’re so individual that different approaches to the same topic reach into us each in different ways. To get to our hearts and souls, to create even the potential for change and growth in each person, there must be choices in reaching us. What works for me won’t work for my brother, or my friend, or you. Or maybe it will.

It’s the way you express your creativity, your individual voice (or motion, or color combination, or brush stroke) that is of utmost importance, not the plot line, or the brand of your toe shoes, or being able to draw a straight line.

That’s a long way around to saying that it’s essential that every person with an urge to create does so, in their own style. Because your creation has not been done before, ever, and never will be done again because it’s you that makes it new and fresh and unique.

(For those who are religious, another argument: If you believe that God created the world, then you believe that everything that exists was created in those first seven days. The only new thing to do is to recombine the elements God put on the Earth for us to “play” with.)

So, to everyone, create away!!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Care and Feeding of Self: Depression Type

A few weeks ago I went through what I thought was a depression, and by the second day of it, it scared me a lot. I’m not usually a depressed person, but now and then and in February, I get a day or two, like most people do. It’s my depression, it’s very familiar, and I know just what I need to get out of it within 24-48 hours.

It made me think about the different kinds of depressions. We have an overall term, but the style of depression is just as important as the overall diagnosis. And I think they need to be treated differently.

Of course, there’s the bio-chemically caused depression, which really requires medication to get everything in balance. This tends to be hereditary, and long-term.

There’s the hereditary weakness toward depression, also, which is set off by external circumstances, but becomes depression as opposed to anything else, because there’s a bio-chemical weakness in that direction.

There’s also what I call the nurture-heredity depression, which is that we learn patterns of response to external stimuli from our parents. If one of our parents tended to respond to stress by becoming depressed, we are more likely to do so, also. You might need medication to help break through this so that you can make different choices with your responses to stressors. If it becomes a long-term and continuous response to your circumstances, then medication helps even more.

Situational depression is unavoidable at times. It’s a temporary depression, brought on by sad things in your life, or a string of sad things, so that you’re overwhelmed. It’s more than one load of brown stuff hitting the fan fairly continuously. There’s often a sense of frustration and anxiety that accompanies this depression. While medication can be helpful, most of the climb out of this type requires stepping back, taking some deep breaths (away from the fan), and determining the best action strategy to change your response to your situation, and/or the situation you’re in. Cognitive/behavioral therapy and/or life coaching and goal setting are extremely helpful.

Let’s not forget the good ol’ SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Like all living things, humans need sunshine, and deprivation of that sunlight affects most of us to some degree by February, and some of us to a greater extent throughout the winter. Full-spectrum lights can help, as can therapy and medication to deal with the issues dredged up during the longer hours of darkness in the winter.

Of course, the depression that comes from the low swings of bipolar disorder has its own attributes, and can be quite debilitating for those who suffer from it. Medication is essential to help balance your biochemistry, and therapy, again, helps you deal with the issues raised as well as manage the ups and downs of the disorder on a behavioral level.

And then there’s the Out of Balance, or Brain Vacation Depression, which is what I had.

My depression scared me this time because it had a different quality than my usual depressions, and because I didn’t recognize it. For the first time ever, I experienced anhedonia: lack of hope, emotion, intention, desire, pleasure of any sort. There was a great nothingness that I faced: it couldn’t be argued with, cajoled, threatened, or bribed. I would start off with the thought, “time to wash a dish or two” and find myself on the couch with a vampire novel or a nap instead, not quite realizing how I’d gotten there. I read about a book or more a day (a pleasure I give myself for a day or two now and then) until I’d gone through both of Laurell K. Hamilton series (Anita Blake, vampire slayer; Merry Gentry, Fairy Princess), both of which are brilliant and I highly recommend (in order because character development is outstanding).

This wasn’t “Batya’s Depression.” I really was scared.

The first thing I did on Day 2 of it was call my doctor and go in for a blood test, just to be sure it wasn’t caused by a physical problem. The second thing I did was call my sometimes-therapist and schedule appointments (it took about 3 weeks, 2x a week, and I am very thankful to her for seeing me that way). The third thing I did was take antidepressants (the first time in my life, since I don’t usually have long-term depression), but I stopped taking them after two weeks when I felt myself pulling out of the worst of it.

What happened, it turns out, is that my brain (both right and left hemispheres) needed a vacation, and since it didn’t see me packing a suitcase for the Bahamas, it decided to go on one by itself. Which explains the disconnect between thinking and not-doing. Between the last two years at the clinic and the house problems, which were continuous stress and burnout, and the year of positive stress of building my business and learning new things for it, my brain was just tired. September was the celebration of the business and all that I’d accomplished to date, some celebrations with my family of origin (with our own dance and ways of showing love), and the economy of America going haywire…my brain decided to quit for a while.

Reading, for me, is a taking-in. It’s like meditation, and it feeds some deep part of me. In a way, yes, it’s escape, and as such, a vacation from the everyday. I suppose for some people, looking at art or watching movies might provide the same relief.

In my job, and in developing my business, giving is the key. And I love it! It’s who I am, how I can most deeply express myself. I love both psychotherapy and coaching as what I do. So my depression wasn’t at all about wanting to do something else or changing a large part of my life. It was simply about restoring of the giving out/taking in cycle.

What a relief! I’m very thankful to the people who supported me as I went through this, and who had patience with me during this time. Luckily, it only lasted three weeks, and I’m learning to be a little more tender to myself, to keep my activities more balanced: lessons I’ve always told my clients. Hmm. Maybe I should record my sessions and listen to myself!

I’m back now, refreshed, eager, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, with lots of energy to jump back into all the blogging, newsletter writing, seminar leading, promotion, client contact, and everything else it takes to keep my business and my life up and running. I’m writing fiction again, eating healthy, and back to being Batya. Feels good!

Have you experienced any of these depressions? How have you conquered it? I’d love to hear from you!