Depression Destroys My Creativity Every Winter

Read about my creative struggle with seasonal depression!

A painting depicting a very sad man.
2011 by Matt Vaillette

I'm prolific in the Summer. I'm a slug in the winter; Winters are dark, depressive, and endless; Being highly creative seems impossible.

Reason: Mood Disorders

I'm bipolar and I have seasonal affective disorder. Half of each year is debilitating; Fall to Spring is painful The known treatments don't work (because they're bad.) It's hard for me to create in those cold months.

Mood disorders and creativity sometimes go hand in hand... but being happy makes you more creative. Being depressed just lowers my immediate creativity.

"Peculiar Sadness" by Matt Vaillette, 2016

I Feel Empty.

What's it like? I'm not sad or hopeless. I'm not happy or excited. Everything feels far away. There are no feelings or motivations; This is called anhedonia.

Anhedonia makes expression oneself difficult. How can I exhibit expressive creativity if I don't know how I feel? Even depression is hard to talk about for the depressed.

And even though I'm still achieving artistic milestones, they feel meaningless. That means less push to continue creating. I can THINK "oh that's good" but I am not the slightest bit happy. I just don't care. In fact nothing matters in life during these times.

I've been creating forth despite my depression. Lately I've been featured more than once by Tumblr and Ello. I was recently on the front page of the local newspaper in a great story!

I'm doing better than ever artistically despite the debilitation. My success makes me "intellectually pleased" just doesn't FEEL like anything.

I should be thrilled! Nothing. How shall I express myself if I feel nothing?

"Blue Woman", illustration by Matt Vaillette

And hell. I'm tired. It's hard to do the basic stuff, let alone be creative and novel; That takes more energy.

This Doesn't Help Me Make Art.

My struggles may have shaped my creative efforts but being sleepy 6 months out of the year doesn't help me make art. I create and think the most in the Summer.

The mentally ill artist is romanticized, and common…but being in a depressive episode saps me of the will to be creative. It's the opposite of stimulating or passionate. I'm missing energy I need to make things!

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Here's the wikipedia entry on seasonal affective disorder.

In the colder months the sunlight is weaker the further you are from the equator. Our brains need sunlight to function properly.

Some of us are hit harder by that weaker sunlight…causing depressive episodes. For some people it's a minor slump. Others, like myself, have been hospitalized over the difference.


The treatments for this aren't very good. They cause other problems and often don't improve symptoms. Anything with an antidepressant effect is risky when you're bipolar; The therapies can trigger mood swings in me.

What can be done?

The best thing is to power through it and change my thinking. Make lots of different artwork. Experiment a lot too. Cheer myself up with interesting activities.

But if that were so easy and viable, depression wouldn't be so devastating to begin with; It wouldn't be so widespread; Prozac or this post wouldn't exist.

How I've Been:

Click to expand for additional info on how I've been. It's up and down this Winter.

its been tough. My mood was very low but I pulled myself out of it by making lots of drawings and animations. Now I feel okay aside from being a bit tired.

I feel like crap. Lots of anxiety and tiredness. I've been trying to get my shop up and running but I have no energy. Had to reschedule an interview yesterday.

Today I feel okay. Between making these quirky still life drawings and playing EVE Online I'm doing okay. _Just have to stay faithful to what works till it stops working!_

It's still very hard to focus on art business things... but at least I am happy!

It's been an easier Winter than usual—but still tough. I have to take days off regularly—and my "on" days aren't very productive. Still better than being hospitalized!

The most frustrating is being unable to keep promises; Promises I make to myself and others. Sometimes I just can't follow through.

Discuss it in the comments!

Know someone with depression? Perhaps yourself? Talk about your experiences!