Writing Poetry Helps Me Cope With Depression—But Are Mental Health Struggles Required for My Creativity?

Six months into the pandemic, I hadn't written a word. When I finally returned to the page, in September 2020, it wasn't with the clarity and intention required for the essays and stories I was used to . Instead, my thoughts and feelings and pen meandered and explored; I wrote in a generally unfocused, sometimes frenzied stream of consciousness and emotion that, to my surprise, began to take a different shape: . My last two and a half years have been a ride : depressive episodes, an anxiety disorder diagnosis, a handful of panic attacks … and also recovery, rejuvenation, and reemergence into a place of more happiness and balance. Through it all, poetry has moved closer and closer to the center of my life. And, it seems I'm not alone in having found it as an outlet during this time. Amid lockdown, poetry writing and reading were on the rise. to CNN, one popular poetry site, poets.org , saw a historic spike in traffic, garnering 1 million pageviews —a 25 percent increase—from January through October 2021, following National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman's recitation at President Joe Biden's inauguration. “What often follows periods of decay and destruction and chaos is rebuilding and renaissance—periods of fresh invention in thought, in art,” former U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo told USA Today in February 2021. “That's what often emerges from the ruins. You see little plants like after a fire…coming up from the char.” My own plant emerging from the char is my recently published a chapbook, The Funny Thing About A Panic Attack . It explores how depression, anxiety, and grief intersect with creativity, joy, and love. In celebrating the release of my book, and reflecting on the journey that brought it to life, I've wondered about the relationship between my mental health challenges and my creativity. I've wondered about the relationship between my mental health challenges and my creativity—am I creative, at least in part, because I live with anxiety and depression? Am I creative, at least in part, because I live with anxiety and depression? Do I […]

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