I Despair: What I Do About It

I Despair:  What I Do About It

 I understand that many creative and performing people are prone to periodic, sometimes long lasting dark episodes.  I find myself in despair more often than I’d like to.  Luckily, I can share how I manage my despair with my students so that they, too, can learn to manage it.

 

First of all, I cannot reliably link my despair to real events.  While the suffering is real, what triggers the suffering, or what may prolong it, may very well be a fiction.  And so the first thing I do to tolerate my despair is to remind myself constantly that most, if not all, of what I am thinking  at the time is highly suspect, and may be completely wrong. 

 

Recognizing that I may be thinking fictions is, in fact, the most difficult thing for me to do, because I tend to believe my own thoughts.  Perhaps I would rather be certain of why I am in despair, even if it’s wrong, than to ever be uncertain.  But the truth is that uncertainty is more realistic and far healthier to tolerate.

 

The second thing I do is to remind myself that I will not be feeling despair forever.  Of course, when I am in despair, it feels like I have always been and that this is my natural state (see number one).  I never really believe myself when I tell myself that it will end, but at this point I’ve come back out of it so many times that I tend to give myself the benefit of the doubt.

 

And I do come out of it.  In fact, when I’m feeling good, I get the idea that I’ve always felt good, and that I will always feel good.  This is a fiction, too, obviously, and I’ve learned to be careful of it and see it as the other side of the same challenge.

 

The third thing I do is find ways to close circuits.  That means finding a task to complete, or connecting with someone.  This strategy is vital, because as opposed to the first two things, it doesn’t rely on me thinking or believing anything.

 

When I’m really down, I find it essential to get something done…DONE.  Anything.  If I can’t figure out something meaningful to do, then I have to find something trivial, like folding a towel.  It doesn’t matter what I complete at first, as long as I close the circuit and complete an activity.

 

It’s also very helpful to connect with someone.  This breaks my short-circuited mind and brings me back to a larger view of the world.  In these days of electronic communication, it’s worth mentioning that facebook with my friends, for me, does not serve as a true connection the way even a conversation with a stranger in a bar does.

 

There’s no way anyone could take my despair away.  I could mask it, perhaps lessen the suffering with medication or therapy, and this is a perfectly viable approach.  In the end, however, I manage it because, at present, I find it important to continue the journey.

 

I don’t like to manage it.  I have, however, reaped benefits from my struggle.  The best thing that comes out of my despair is that I have the opportunity to share with whomever of you have also been going through this same thing.

 

Would you like to share your thoughts about despair?  Is it periodic for you, occasional, or constant?  What do you do?

4 comments

  • Cuzzie Sharon

    Cuzzie Sharon

    Loved the entry. The same quality that causes your despair is what also causes you to be the incredibly creative person that you are. Can't have one without the other. So try and remember the blessing more than the curse. :)

    Loved the entry. The same quality that causes your despair is what also causes you to be the incredibly creative person that you are. Can't have one without the other. So try and remember the blessing more than the curse. smile

  • Jason

    Jason

    Please don't take this the wrong way Adam, but I hope you're being a bit hyperbolic with the word "despair". We all have our ups and downs in life, sometimes dramatic ones - but struggling with one's creative frustrations should be kept in perspective. You don't drop dead because you fluffed up on a gig (thankfully for me, at least). I would agree that if you want to enjoy the highs, you must take the lows as well. I'd also agree that attacking a to-do list is a good way to tackle the troughs. But if people really are waking up every morning with a sense of genuine despair, there's probably a need for more than a can-do self-help approach. As I said, I do hope that isn't you. Be well.

    Please don't take this the wrong way Adam, but I hope you're being a bit hyperbolic with the word "despair".
    We all have our ups and downs in life, sometimes dramatic ones - but struggling with one's creative frustrations should be kept in perspective. You don't drop dead because you fluffed up on a gig (thankfully for me, at least).
    I would agree that if you want to enjoy the highs, you must take the lows as well. I'd also agree that attacking a to-do list is a good way to tackle the troughs.
    But if people really are waking up every morning with a sense of genuine despair, there's probably a need for more than a can-do self-help approach. As I said, I do hope that isn't you.
    Be well.

  • Craig

    Craig

    I was talking about these feelings with Amanda the other day! Maybe it's the way musicians are wired, maybe it's because as a musician/songwriter, your music is a part of you that you're sharing with others. Sometimes we have the feeling that "this is me. If you don't like the music, then you must not like me". It's hard to separate ourselves. Just like with our friends, we may not agree with everything they do and say, we still care about them and they are important to us. As feeling people, it's easy to get engulfed and overwhelmed.

    I was talking about these feelings with Amanda the other day! Maybe it's the way musicians are wired, maybe it's because as a musician/songwriter, your music is a part of you that you're sharing with others. Sometimes we have the feeling that "this is me. If you don't like the music, then you must not like me". It's hard to separate ourselves. Just like with our friends, we may not agree with everything they do and say, we still care about them and they are important to us.
    As feeling people, it's easy to get engulfed and overwhelmed.

  • Darcy

    Darcy

    One of my most significant horn playing mentors once told me that he doesn't celebrate his good performances, because the flip side of that is that he has to mourn the ones that don't go as well. It's hard when you care so much about what you do...it's very easy to fall into despair. I'm glad you have found some insights that help you!!

    One of my most significant horn playing mentors once told me that he doesn't celebrate his good performances, because the flip side of that is that he has to mourn the ones that don't go as well. It's hard when you care so much about what you do...it's very easy to fall into despair. I'm glad you have found some insights that help you!!

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