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Channeling Depression Into a Powerful Tool for Creativity

Image by Ann Wood /

I wouldn't exactly call depression a gift, but I’ve come to accept the restless emptiness and nagging sadness as signals from my soul instead of merely the symptoms of an illness to be excised.This didn’t come easy. I spent two decades coping with the side effects of antidepressants, the ups and downs of biofeedback, and expensive weekend seminars, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Then about 10 years ago, in my early 40s, I decided to take a different tack and listen to my depression instead of trying to tamp it down or explain it away. It’s still a daily battle, but there have been joyful triumphs along the way.Learning to listen to my depression has transformed my career over the past seven years. I’d always wanted to write a novel but was instead encouraged by family and teachers to use my writing skills in more practical ways: advertising, marketing, and then journalism. I enjoyed the work but longed for something more—and I wondered whether that longing might be related to my depression. I began writing fiction, just a half hour each morning, as an experiment: What would happen if I dev …

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