When Depression Kills Art

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Quarantine sucks.

I’m not quite sure who we are anymore. By “we,” I mean artists, society, the world … all of it. I know some of what I see through my own eyes, but like each of us, I am limited to what I can experience and know. And what I am experiencing personally isn’t as awful as it could be. And for me, it’s definitely not any more awful than it usually is or isn’t.

But, there is something about being forced to be alone with your own thoughts that can really dig into you. It’s as if a ravenous monster took something away from me, and now, admittedly, I’m a bit more lost and confused than usual. I am aware that I have nothing real to complain about–the monster didn’t take music away from me, or my kids … nor did it take away my husband. But it took the ways in which I would prefer to present myself as a musician. And I’m not alone. That same thief stole something from several of my friends as well, and many other artists I’ve never even met. It feels painful, different, unsettling.

I try to be open about who I am. People like it or they don’t. They’re going to judge you either way, so why not just be who we are? I’ve never been perfect and have never wanted to be. My first interest is and always has been music. I used to write books, and now articles, to help express myself–even though I’m severely dyslexic. It challenges me more than composing music does, and at times I give up on it out of complete frustration. But music, well, I’ve been on stage since I was 15.

I am open about being seen by doctors to deal with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. These things have impacted my life so severely, since birth, that until I was diagnosed, I had attempted suicide and was hospitalized three times by the time I was 23. You really can feel so different that it makes you wonder why you were born. When sunlight, certain smells, and specific sounds–things almost impossible to avoid–bombard you every day, cause pain, bring on severe migraines on a non-stop basis, you eventually break. And how did my parents deal with it? By not dealing with it at all. My parents were just awful people. Every teacher who tried to step in to help me couldn’t because my parents felt that abuse and neglect was the only way to handle who I was. And if they had taken me to doctors–which they were forced to at certain points–the abuse would be found out. And it was. And I was taken away from them … and repeatedly returned back into their households of abuse, thanks to a broken system. Thinking of this now hurts my heart more than ever as schools are closed and some children are now trapped with their abusers.

I didn’t get into any real treatment until I hit my 40s. Which also forced me to face something I’d been hiding for years. I mean, no one was talking about it anymore … I had ignored it for long enough that I was pretty sure it didn’t exist anyway–Manic Depression. That thing they had diagnosed me with in college. I was surprised to find out they were now calling it Bipolar Disorder II, and these new doctors I was seeing didn’t think I was hiding it too well anymore, so they added that to my medical resume as well. That really pissed me off. It made me feel even more defective than I already felt. But then, I was forced to face it.

I moved away from a large city to live in a much smaller one. I have a studio at home now. In fact, I very much prefer to be around as few people as possible (I work better that way). I didn’t care to go out much. I still enjoyed performing my music live and seeing other bands, even if I had to travel to do so. But then the virus hit. The anxiety people began to feel worldwide was spreading, and we were told to stay home. We. The world. Told to. Not like, I-just-don’t-feel-like-peopleing-today stuff … this was you-have-no-choice type of stuff. Something about it felt different to me.

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At first I thought, this will be okay. You’ll record new music, you’ll write, you’ll be your son’s teacher. You’ll cook more, you’ll everything. But over time, a short time, depression hit. Days and days of depression. Oh, but you have medication, right? It’s okay. No, actually. I do take an anti-convulsant to help with the OCD and sensory issues (neurological), and another to help prevent the migraines, but as far as the bipolar disorder–I’m allergic to a class of drugs that most of those pills fall into.  So I just have to face it. Other people do too. I’m not alone. Other people, lots of people, now have to face things they just aren’t equipped to. Every day.

But the reality is this, I’m not good at it. It = dealing with depression. I sit to record music, or sit down to write, and I struggle with it. I haven’t lost my job (I work for myself). I don’t have a reason to feel this depressed. But I do. And I feel incredible guilt for it.

I tell myself this: You’re bipolar. You can’t help how you feel sometimes. It’s not the pandemic or the economy, or seeing the daily death statistics, or the fact that your kids are stuck at home, (clean the floor) and your husband is in a profession that puts him in danger of being exposed to the virus, or that you have to see your friends losing their jobs, or that releasing music right now feels awful inside, (something isn’t clean) or that the stores are empty when you finally get the nerve to go, (hold your breath there might be germs) or that you can’t sleep, and you keep reading about other people who are bipolar taking their lives right now, or that some people do or don’t believe in the virus, or that you feel so alone, (stop thinking about the abuse, stop reliving things you can’t change) just stop, feel something else, stop being weak, if people knew how you think they would never speak to you again, things will get better …. and you don’t know when you will be allowed to perform live again. Or if you even want to now because you can’t imagine it at the moment. You just can’t.

If you are an artist right now and just don’t feel the same creativity, I understand. I can only hope for some mania to help drive me to work on a song in the near future.

For some, depression inspires art. I’ve been in that place too.

I actually do like my life now and I love what I do. I create music, and that’s all I could have ever asked for in life. It’s just that currently, everything feels out of place. And I wrote this to help put it into perspective for someone who doesn’t know what being bipolar is like right now, during this. Or any other time for that matter. Even when life is “good” it can hit you. It can blindside you. There’s no control over it. And I’m not quite sure I was able to describe it well, but I tried. And that also means I did something today.  I hope it helped someone.

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This article was written by Veronica Campbell, singer/composer of Death Loves Veronica.

Originally published on April 20, 2020. Photos from my studio, featured photo is a still from “I Came Here For You,” off the Lucid Dreams album released on March 27, 2020.