(Original article posted on The Style Con)
The greatest artists in the world were clinically depressed: Picasso conceived an entire collection of artwork around his sadness; his “Blue Period” was paintings of miserable people and prostitutes. Kafka was suicidal while writing The Metamorphosis, and Bukowski was such a miserable alcoholic he couldn’t help but write about how much he hated everything and everyone. They all had one thing in common though: they produced incredible art.
I’ve heard many people claim they’re more interesting and motivated when they’re upset, including myself. At one point while I was a staff writer for an online mag, I was wishing awful things would happen so I could have material to write about. Even the executive editor told me once, “I love writing about all the shitty happening in my life,” which was clear through her very public articles about her rape. It’s no doubt people connect through tragedies, but what happens when your life is going great? Not everyone can relate to success and happiness, but we can all relate to feeling like shit.
No one really wants to hear about the amazing guy/girl you met. Most people who are miserable want to know that someone else in the world is miserable too. It’s kinda fucked up and sadistic, right? I get the most feedback on posts where I talk about depression, self-hatred, or shitty dudes I dated.
I highly doubt an article titled “I Got A Sweet New Car Today” would get as many hits as “My Boyfriend Cheated On Me With Some Whore.”
I find myself scrolling through Facebook and seeing engagement photos or two people who changed their status to “in a relationship” and I want to blow my brains out. I’m sure they are perfectly happy and excited to share this news with their digital pals, but I can’t help getting less interested in someone knowing they’re happy.
One of the biggest stereotypes in the comedy world is that all comedians are miserable. It’s a fairly accurate assumption to me, because the majority of comedians I know had an unusual or fucked up childhood that elicited alcohol or drug use. This makes self-deprecating jokes all the easier. Being funny starts with exposing all your neuroses, and if you grew up in a gated community with a nanny I highly doubt you were mentally scarred from being picked on for wearing the same Payless shoes three years in a row.
However, the one thing your miserable upbringing was good for is creativity. I’m not saying happy people can’t be compelling individuals, of course they can, but it seems to be easier when your drive is powered by insanity and anxiety. At least for me that’s true.
I’ve been on and off anti-depressants for 6 years. When I’m miserable, I need validation, so I tend to write and create more. Since I’ve been back on Lexapro for a month, I’ve felt more content with my current state, thus not feeling the need to express my anger or sadness via blog posts. It feels as though my brain is on a vacation, which is often the downside of pills. Do I want to be depressed and creative or happy and content? It’s been the most prominent struggle in recent years, and currently the latter is winning. I tried to survive without dousing my brain with serotonin stabilizers, but wanting to die every day was not a great exchange for writing something deep and meaningful about a Hot Pockets commercial audition.
A common piece of advice I would hear from friends when I was super depressed was, “Take advantage of this shitty time and create something interesting.” I did do that, but I also slept a lot, cried, and contemplated heroin. Oh, and I watched both seasons of Twin Peaks on Netflix in three days.
I bet Picasso was able to create genius artwork because he didn’t have Netflix to distract him from his depression.