Being Brave with Depression

July 15th, 2008

Floating Over the Circus marker and ink on watercolor paper, 9"x12"

I've been feeling a bit quiet and tender around the edges this week so far. One thing that really helped brighten my mood was getting out the door and taking a long walk. I brought some things I needed to mail and a bag to get some groceries in and walked a couple miles into town. All the beautiful flowers along the way filled me up. And I need to be especially true to self-care right now as I'm on a journey that fits right in with my Be Brave theme of the month.

I wondered about whether or not to write about this here. It's a personal subject and can be a touchy one. I've talked about my experiences with depression here before. I think a lot of creative folks struggle with it, perhaps we're more sensitive and therefore more vulnerable to dark moods. 1 in 5 women in the U.S. is on anti-depressants, so I know I'm hardly alone. And while I'm not feeling like discussing my history with depression at the moment, I do want to say that I'm currently trying (with the assistance of a doctor) to slowly come off my anti-depressants. The first month of this process (that may take 6 months or more to complete) went amazingly well. I didn't feel a difference at all, in fact I felt better than usual. I'm now in the second month and I've felt the dip. I know I'll rebound though. It's sort of the feeling of when you jump into water. You dip down a bit before coming back to the surface.

I know that there will probably be some withdrawal symptoms involved in the future. Anyone who has done any reading about or had experience with coming off anti-depressants knows that the withdrawal can be harsh. However, I feel like I'm in a place in my life where I'd like to approach depression from a different angle and it feels like now is the time to go for it. Plus, I feel like I have a great doctor to work with who will help me do this safely and smartly. I'm not anti-medication by any means. I've been on some sort of anti-depressant for nearly 7 years and I would never judge anyone's choice to be on or off medication. Whatever keeps you healthy and safe is the way to go. And I'm not positive that I'll be able to come off anti-depressants completely, but I do want to try. If I can't do it safely, that's o.k. too. There are many reasons for making this decision and perhaps I'll go into that more later, but I felt like I wanted to share where I'm at at the moment as it is a big part of what's going on for me currently. Part of my brave action today is writing about this here.

I'm a bit behind on email, but if I owe you one, I'll get to it soon, promise! Tomorrow is a day for returning emails and errands and hopefully some art and then Thursday is my birthday and I plan to do whatever I feel like. Hehe. Friday, I'm planning to meet my mom for a pedicure and a movie and then drive up to Artstream for Lisa Solomon and Lisa Congdon's art opening. I feel totally introverted at art openings, but it should be fun, inspiring, and hopefully I'll see some familiar faces!

32 Responses

I wish you all the best on your journey, Leah. You are very blessed indeed to have a supportive and understanding physician. You will be in my thoughts and prayers, Love, O

Leah! I have struggled with this, too, in the past. I just want you to know that you’re not alone in the shadowlands. =) My passport’s been stamped with that destination lots of times…the good news is that they no longer check my bags any more at customs. =) Cheers, Kelly

Prayers for journey Leah. You have a goal and a sound plan. Be Brave project sounds like it will be perfect right now.

leah….you are so right about creative spirits and what our minds do to us. i can’t say that i suffer from depression, but
i can understand the struggles. it does run in our family, and i will say that i keep an eye on myself. your honesty is brave
and so giving.

happy birthday to you girlie….now go have some fun!


i understand completely, leah. i think creative types are more prone to depression, for sure. good luck with your easing off of anti-depressants– i hope it’s smooth and easy the rest of the way. :) and happy birthday! yours is exactly one month before mine! xo

Leah, bless your heart, I know – if not how you feel, the way you feel, if that makes any sense. I’ve been struggling lately too and I think it’s good to be honest and acknowledge it. Owning our emotions, including the more difficult ones, makes them all richer.
Happy Birthday Baby!

Dear Leah,
I can relate to the journey you are on right now and admire your “bravery” in sharing it with us all.
I stopped taking anti-depressants about 18 months ago after being on them for two years. It was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, second only to starting taking them in the first place! I just felt like it was time to see the real me again because the drugs made me feel like I was only half there a lot of the time. The most helpful thing throughout the whole process was my support system; number one, the incredibly supportive and infinitely patient man I love, my doctor who helped me with the crazy symptoms that are scary a lot of the time, and my friends and family who helped me laugh when I needed it and reminded me of what is really important in this life. That and a lot of good self-care and long, long walks…so it looks like you are on the right road !
I am facing some challenges with the whole depression/anxiety situation now and really don’t want to go back on those drugs… I am trying to find other things that help just as much but don’t do that mind numbing thing to me. It is scary and hard but I think that talking about it with my support system has helped a lot. Also, there is just something in me that knows I can be better, that I have the strength and courage in me somewhere to be better… I think that is what the “illness” is about, my soul’s cry to be better…

Thank you for bravely sharing your experience. I so agree with you that we creative types are sometimes more susceptible to the “downs”. Thank God that we have our creative outlets to use as tools to get us through ! Good luck with your process and remember to be gentle with yourself !
Take care,

You are indeed very brave to go through this. Thanks for sharing your journey. Best wishes for a fabulous birthday and a great creative and brave year ahead! xo, Fran

Dearest, Leah! You are not alone! I’m writing you right now, a proper email :) I think my post would be way too long if I tried to fit it all in here :)

Love to you!

Congratulations and goodluck on your bravery. I’ve dealt with depression pretty often, but never with drugs. This last bout, after having kids, where I didn’t even really realize I was depressed until afterwards, could have been treated with drugs I think. If I ever get pregnant again, I will probably have to go that route.

I will say, though, that in my many ins and outs of the blues and depressions, I have learned many things about myself and my resilience and my creativity and who I am. A lot of what I have to give people now is because of what I have learned in my down states, and how I have learned to climb out of them.

Hi I am so glad you brought this up sometimes I get so angry at being creative and the darkside,depression etc…Next lifetime I want to be a soccer Mom! About medicine I was am a very holistic person and spent a fortune on homeopathic remedeys..My doctor had a horrible time finding right med combination for me because I am soo sensitive ,another thing that stinks! I did not know how depressed I have been my whole life until I took small amount of meds…I wonder how my life would had turned out if there was knowledge and treatment earlier in my life…thats depressing! Take care and your an inspiraton!

Thanks for sharing. I’m so with ya!

on your journey, don’t forget to chart the moon, which can intensify wherever you are mood wise. Husband didn’t used to believe that. But that was before he lived with me for 25 years. He’s now a true believer, as am I. Hang in there – and you go, Girl!

on your journey, don’t forget to chart the moon, which can intensify wherever you are mood wise. Husband didn’t used to believe that. But that was before he lived with me for 25 years. He’s now a true believer, as am I. Hang in there – and you go, Girl!

Bravo for your bravery in writing about this so openly. Bravo for taking the steps smartly/wisely with help to try the next steps whatever they will be for you. I hope you’ll always do this smartly/wisely/safely.
Happy Birthday wishes too. Yes, A day for yourself!
And happy creating.
You continue to inspire me
and many many many
remember your importance on the planet
never doubt

Although I can’t relate to coming off anti depressants, right now I’m in the process of weaning off prescription pain meds. There hasn’t been any withdrawal issues yet, but more pain which will add to the depression that the doc says all/most chronic pain patirnts have. So, we’re both heading for changes-I wish you all the luck in the world!

It is my opinion that the “thing” inside us that allows us to make our emotions so accessible in our art is also the very same reason many if not most artists suffer from depression. I’m glad you are being gentle with yourself. You my friend are amazing and an inspiration to all.
Hugs and extra hugs,

Dear Leah,

Thank you for sharing. I to struggle with a black cloud hanging around. I found Yoga to be the answer for me, but that’s only one answer to a very opened question. I think you are an amazing woman, and feel blessed to have found your blog.

Peace & Love.

PS The happiest of birthdays to you! Have tons of fun and laughter and love!!!

I think you are very brave to open up about your struggles and journey as you try to heal yourself in a different way. Know that you don’t walk alone. A lot of us face similar struggles in one way or another, just take one day at a time and do what you feel is right with or w/o medication.

Enjoy your birthday, wishing you a year full of many good things to come your way :)

Happy, Happy Birthday Leah!

I think you are very Brave and inspiring and I am so grateful that you share yourself here.

I wish you your best year ever.


leah, i wish you much happiness in the days to follow. i can understand this place you are in and so appreciate hearing your voice about it. you are brave. you are strong. you are loved. happy, happy birthday! xoxo

You continue to inspire not only me but many others.
Have a wonderful birthday!


Happy birthday! :)

Hi Leah

Thank you very much for sharing this. You have inspired me to take up the Be Brave Project as well, and speak openly on my blog about my own struggles with depression (it’s hard to do, isn’t it?).

Happy birthday, and thank you again for all the inspiration you give, every day :)


Hi, Leah. I’ve been reading your blog on and off for a while. (Sorry I’ve been a lurker.) But I just wanted to say first that I REALLY enjoy your artwork. Second, I’ve struggled with depression for over 10 years. I’ve been on and off medications at different times (currently off-for the past 2 years). I really admire you for trying a different avenue of dealing with it. I know it can be hard and feel overwhelming sometimes. It’s so true that creative people seem to deal more with depression. But I just wanted to give you kudos and wish you the best of luck in this endeavor.

You ARE being brave. This is hard stuff. I don’t suffer with depression, but I have an anxiety disorder that sometimes feels in control of my life. I started my blog to help with that – I put it right out there; “Tales of Art & Anxiety.” I try to laugh at it, but it’s hard. Really hard sometimes. I KNOW I will never be able to be totally off meds, and coming to terms with that helped me loosen up tremendously. As Forrest Gump would say, “one less thang to worry about.” I wish you luck, peace, strength, and most of all, kindness to yourself.

Take care.

I have been off and on Zoloft since 1997 and it’s a difficult thing but I think the longer you have it the better you get at managing it and realizing when you need medication and when you are ok. It’s a quality of life thing really I think. Good luck with getting off of them if that’s what is the best for your body right now. :)

Hallo Leah, Thank you for sharing your journey with me here; the longest journey begins with the smallest step. A brave step, blessings

You are brave dear Leah, It is true that creative minds are more sensitive and are more prone to depression. I am on anti-depressant. This is my 5th depression. And personnaly I don’t intend letting go of them as they saved my life more then once. But I do agree they diminish the creativity part of me. It feels good to know that I amd not alone. You are so courageaous to let the anti-depressant go. Good for you. I am proud for you. You’ll feel a whole new you afterwards. I do enjoy your blog and the inspiration in brings to me. I do wish you all the best. Hugs and kisses.

Oh Leah, just finding time myself to catch up and am so proud of you. Here is my input on 2 levels, first from your “friendly pharmacist”. Depression stems from our “chemicals” becoming un-balanced (this you know). Extremely popular at your age. Women, so sorry to say, will be affected more as we are not meant to take on all we do, even though we do it well, we will pay in one way or the other. When things get out of whack, and levels go low, we need replacement therapy. Think anemia, we get iron…thyroid replacement medication for hypothyroidism…insulin for diabetics…the list goes on. My point being, do not label it “anti-depressants”, think of it as a vitamin replacing what it low in your body right now and the past. If you need it, that is fine and nothing you “mentally” decided on. Your body just can not keep up with you. Coming off of them is a little tough but the medications gave your body a new map to read. Your body will remember the balance, every cell of you is not the same cells from when you started out years ago. They are new cells with new “memory”. Having a dip only means you are human and coming off the meds allows you more feeling, no longer the flat-line. Happiness will feel amazing too.

Now, from the personal side of it. I have lived it, and found the other side. Depression does make you think weird things and there is fear and not such wonderful thoughts. At one point there was no one out there who could convince me life was ever going to be good or “normal” again. Just before I turned 30 I was in a psycologists office for several visits. She was amazing and told me things that if someone had told me long ago…I never would have been there. It took me 6 months to come off the medication I was on. Could not take that funny little dizziness in the back of my head. Trust me, my body had learned the pattern. I was amazed and am still running 10 years later on the pattern it learn, only better. Your body and mind truly can do it, and do what you tell it to do. You are young, you are healthy, you are wonderful, you deserve to be happy. These are all things that can not be taken away from you and you need to let yourself have it. Now do me a favor, erase the word depression from your memory. Look in the mirror, cry it out if need be, wipe it away with tissue and throw it in to garbage. Replace it with the excitement of happiness. The past is now gone, you did what you did in the past with the knowledge of that time. It is a new time now. You are smarter now, you have created beautiful, amazing art, a wonderful web log, now go create “Leah the great” as a wonderful birthday present to yourself. Things do get better and bad days in the future will only be that… “days” , not a life!

Love, Karen

Hi Sweetie! I can relate to how you’re feeling here. I came off of my meds last year. It was a difficult decision and the withdrawl (1-3 days of hell for me) was something I’m so glad is over.
But, I have to say… different therapies worked just as well, some even better than the meds. I started painting, photographing, working out. I felt and still do feel so much better. This may not be the trick for everyone, but it did help me.
So, I’m sending you hugs because I know where you’re at. Just take it day by day and remember that you are not alone. I’m here if you ever need to reach out. x’s and o’s. B
ps..your painting is divine.

I guess I admit to be a lurker too.
Yes, i do love your art, writing, challenges, and of course your blog, too.
I admire your honesty and pray for your wellbeing. You are gifted with many talents and lovely. Light and love to you dear.
And yay for YOU!!!!

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