Depression, Not Medication, Kills Creativity


“My favorite escapes from depression are meds and writing,” says Diana Spechler in a New York Times opinion piece. “But I can’t do both at once.”

Friends have been forwarding to me her columns in the “Going Off” series, which chronicles her attempt to wean off the medications she takes for depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Part of me thinks the Times is irresponsible for publishing them, as I know they will encourage many sufferers to try to wean themselves off of their drugs without the care of a doctor. I pray this won’t result in a suicide. And the other part of me applauds them for featuring a writer who is gifted at articulating the complexities of both the disease and the remedies. I appreciate her nuanced perspective, even if I disagree with much of what she says.

Maybe I find the series intriguing because I, myself, am in the midst of weaning off of one medication that I take for my depression: Nortriptyline, an older drug (trycyclic) that is often used for treatment-resistant depression. A year ago, I was taking four medications: Lamictal (Lamotrigine), Nortriptyline, Lithium, and Zoloft (Sertraline). They weren’t helping all that much, as I was still wanted to die. And the thought of being on four psych meds was producing its own anxiety. I couldn’t stop thinking about my poor kidneys and liver. I related to Spechler when she wrote, as part of the first essay: “I’m not free from anxiety … particularly anxiety over my medication. I worry about the long-term effects of these drugs, which are still relatively new to consumers.” Sharing that same concern, I decided to dramatically alter my diet as a way of managing my mood and I was able to wean off one of my drugs, Lamictal, without problems. If I can get off Nortriptyline successfully, I will be down to two!

However, I can’t relate to Spechler’s medication-versus-creativity conundrum.

Or, let me say, I perceive it differently.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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1 Response
  1. DM


    Another really great post. I’m an artist and can very much relate to this. Thank you.

    I also really liked and appreciated what Dr. Ron Pies replied on your “Everyday Health” blog regarding this particular post of yours: “Of course, depression can sometimes be a good “teacher”, and a creative person can often draw important lessons from the experience of depression. These lessons may sometimes eventuate in fine poetry, music, or art. But such productive creation almost always follows the acute phase of depressive illness–and one might say, emerges despite, not because of, the persons’ underlying mood disorder.”

    Bless you, Therese. God, my family and friends AND DEFINITELY your blog and Project Beyond Blue have been this artist’s life savors.

    Dawn Marie