Thursday, December 19, 2013

Animators, depression and wishes

Another winter. Here it is again. That dreary time of year. That time of year that so often reminds me of that dark place that is a part of me. Why is that? Is it just the weather? The lack of sunlight? Perhaps. The enforced jolliness of Christmas clashing with the reality of our own feelings? Maybe that's more relevant.

Don't worry, folks. I'm doing well. Very well, in fact. Since my last post, my life has gone through many changes and that's frightening and exciting rolled into one. And it's actually fun.

It has warmed my heart that I still get comments and mails from this little blog though. No I don't wish depression on you all. But I know how much reading other sites helped me when I was first diagnosed. Reading the experiences of others was a comfort – that knowledge that, really, I wasn't completely on my own with this. We're in it together and, while many may not ever understand what we go through, there is a select elite group who know all too well.

We're not alone. 

One thing that has become obvious since starting this blog many years ago is that depression seems to go hand in hand with animation a lot of the time. I am not unique. Not by a long shot. So why is that? It's a little curious, right? I don't have answers. Only questions...

Is it that there are so many little things that eat away at us?
Are we not creatively fulfilled?
Are we not rewarded enough for the very skilled work that we do?
Do we feel taken advantage of, trampled on?
Is it that we spend too long by ourselves, in a bubble of scenes?
Do we feel a clash of creative versus commercial and hate what we make?
Is it the endless struggle of having clear vision yet having to wrestle it on to a screen?
Is it as simple as just not getting thanked enough?

Or is it that animation and the whole idea of making films and TV a frame at a time is completely and utterly insane? Yeah, maybe that's a part of it.

Animators, any ideas? Is it animation? Or is it just about being a person?

I don't know but what I do know is that it is often hard to talk about. There is still a stigma attached to depression, mainly because those who don't get it... well, they don't get it. It is hard to be open about it publicly, especially when you're making happy fun little animations to make kids smile. It's not an easy discussion. I know that well and maybe I have been a coward all these years by not posting with my real name but it has allowed me to be very honest about a great many things about just one or two aspects of a far more colourful life. I am not all depression and animation (honest!). But being able to write about those things freely has been very helpful.

Let's try to write more and read more about it, whether we use our real names or not. It all helps.

To everyone who comes by this little blog (and most get here because they are searching for information and posts on depression), I wish you good health. I wish you peace of mind. I wish you fewer depths and less darkness and the strength to make it through both when you have to. This world is filled with shit and hideous things and that so often obscures all of the wonderful things we have, the amazing things that people do, the little acts of kindness, the huge life-changing acts of kindness, the wonder of nature, even just a pretty cloud now and then. The worst things in life are not all our responsibility, not all the time. Allow yourself to put it aside and see the wonder. Give yourself that permission.

I know... easier said than done. But I wish that for you.

And for the animators, what have you got yourself into? What were you thinking? You could have a nice job in retail, where you get to go home content if you just survive the day. No, I'm joking. Animation is awesome, in spite of our griping (well, my griping). For you animators, I wish fulfillment, contentment, pride in your work but not so much that it makes you a pain in the ass. I wish fun characters, great music, and lovely surprises of life and personality as you animate, or little unexpected splashes of colour in your backgrounds. I wish you a moment maybe once a week, hopefully more, when you look at what you have made, at what you created and brought into being in this Universe, and you think – that's awesome.

And lastly to everyone, animator or not, depressed or not, I wish you all a fantastic holiday season. Warmth, family, friends or even just the comfort of lying under a warm blanket on your own.

By the way, if you are in animation, there are tons of relevant posts buried in the archives. Have a browse!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I was depressed. Now I'm not.

So I did EXACTLY what I used to be told not to do while experiencing depression. Here's how it went...

I was feeling that familiar darkness, clouding me, pushing me further away from the real world. That's often how it feels - like I am retreating into somewhere deeper and there are barriers between me and life. Not just barriers. Dark clouds. 

It was depression, no doubt about it. I know it all too well.

I was afraid. Mostly because I don't think I have ever emerged from depression in less than a year. Sometimes much longer. I didn't want to end up lying on my bed in the foetal position but I also didn't want to end up on that long medication road. I hate that road.

I have long felt that depression is situational. A reaction from deep within our core telling us that something is just not right with our life. That could be something huge and obvious but it rarely is,  which is why often we don't know what's wrong. Often, I think it is the effect of a long-term discontentment. Got to be honest, I'm not sure I buy the chemical imbalance thing but that's a discussion for another post.

One thing I was told many times while being treated for depression was not to make any life-changing decisions. Don't get married. Don't move house. Don't buy a boat. But if depression even had the slightest chance of being situational, that advice prevents you from tackling the actual cause in any way. 

This time, I ignored that advice. I made a change. A massive change.

I did something that should increase my stress and my worry - I removed the security I had in my career and set myself on a new path. An unknown path without a worked-out plan. I put myself in a situation where a life change is unavoidable, even if I wanted to back out. I blew up my old world and must now find a new planet. Metaphorically - don't worry, I didn't actually blow anything up.

Getting to the decision to make that change was horrifying.

But once I went ahead with it, those dark clouds lifted. My situation changed. I feel better. And I have never once before seen depression lift so fast. Ever. 

I feel good. 

Sure, I now have major challenges ahead. It's not going to be easy. It may not even work out. But it's exciting and it feels right. It feels so right. I wondered if it might just be a momentary rush of excitement but, no. This is right.

Depression often feels to me like the long-term cumulative damage caused by even a slight unaddressed discontentment. If I am right, then the solution is to change the situation. Exactly the opposite of the advice I have been given over the years.

I feel good.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Round 1...

Previously on My Medicated Cartoon Life...

Well, quick recap. I haven't posted in years and you will likely have seen that the previous batch of posts were thin on the ground for some time. I changed. The blog ceased to have as much function as it once did. I drifted back into the real world, my other self. So what have I been doing? Here is an incomplete list -

Made a couple of really excellent TV shows.
Had quite a bit of praise as a result of one of those shows.
Been busy being a parent.
Have drawn, painted and generally created.
Generally have been relatively okay.

Oh there were downs. One of my shows very nearly didn't get off the ground. That was severely stressful. But I dealt with it. I have had building frustrations though about my industry and my close working environment - many of those things I have gone through here on the blog but they wear one down over time. I have been okay though.

So what brings me back? How have I become the bitter animator again? What happened?

A combination of things, I think. One element was the usual post-production crash. I'm sure I have mentioned it before but when you're working on an intense production for a long time, there can be a godawful crash when it finishes. A real sense of anticlimax. It is worse when production is hard because you force your body to keep going to get through it. Once over, your body gives up. The crash after this most recent production has been tough. Best show I have ever made. I think it's a fantastic animated show by any standards and I was driving the whole thing. I should be really happy about it. And I am happy with the show, but the crash... that's a killer.

It's almost like psychologically, I expect a parade in my honour for surviving it. Of course, it's my job to thank everyone else and make sure they get their parades. And they deserve them.

That growing frustration is another element. It long since passed breaking point. So I have no other choice but to act on that, to make a change. But any change from the status quo will be so dangerous and terrifying. And yet it has to be done. So there is procrastination, fear, stress and worry all merging together and eating my insides up.

So I have felt a familiar darkness. The tiredness. The disconnection. The inability to take joy from anything.

It's back.

But you know what? I'm not going down without a fight.

I am going to make some big decisions and take action. I shall make changes. And I shall tackle them head-on. It will be scary but what the hell isn't these days? I can get through this and probably come out better for it.

For now, the bitter animator has reemerged. Still, that's not all bad. One thing the bitter animator side of me has going for him is he gets angry. Anger can be a great motivator for change. I need all the motivation I can get right now...

So how have you all been? What have I missed on internet blogland?

Saturday, April 13, 2013