“If my black dog returns… he seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.” –– Winston Churchill
The “Black Dog” was what Winston Churchill referred to as his recurring severe and debilitating depression.
Although other great leaders such as Alexander the Great and Abraham Lincoln were recorded to have the same condition, they weren’t artists or creatives, the list of great creative men and artists who have been and are afflicted with depression is too long for me to ever complete.
That said, I will provide you with a small sample here of great creative men who dealt with this “Black Dog”.
What do all of these men have in common?
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Mark Twain
- Bill Murray
- Eric Clapton
- Akira Kurosawa
- Anthony Hopkins
- Alec Baldwin
- Ludwig Von Beethoven
- Chris Cornell
- Robin Williams
- David Foster Wallace
All of these men deal/dealt with The Black Dog.
These are all great creative men who have battled severe and crippling chronic depression.
Some were defeated by it.
Others sought help and got through it, because like everything, this too will eventually pass.
I remember when I was a teenager and had signed up for Marine Corps, there was a burly former Marine who worked at a gym that my buddy and I would go to after school or practice. We really looked up to this guy. He was an older guy, and looking back he was probably only thirty or so at the time. He hadn’t encouraged us to join at all, and he had a quiet and reserved wisdom about him. His eyes looked like they had seen many things. One thing he told me just before I was about to embark on my own rite of passage through boot camp was, this: “Just remember, nothing can stop time. When things are really tough, remember that.” I did, and those words actually pulled me through some of the biggest physical and internal challenges that I’d ever face in my young life. I knew that whatever the case may be, this too shall pass. It won’t last. Those words still help today, and even when in those periods where I tend to fall into the abyss and can’t see the forest through the trees, I remember those words and know deep inside that they are truthful. This too shall pass.
If you’ve quietly been followed by The Black Dog, it’s time to turn and face it like a man.
Facing it like a man means getting help if you need it, and that means not hiding, but owning it without shame.
That does not mean it will be easy, but you will not be the first great man to do so.
You are not alone in this. I guarantee you.
When you get through this dark cave and make it through to the other side and to the light that was always there (and as impossible as it may seem while in it, you absolutely can and you will) you will find yourself a man reborn with a greater compassion and humanity than you’ve ever understood possible. You will be more creative than ever. Being forged through this and choosing life will make you a better and more complete man. Depression does not fuel creativity. Surviving and getting through it does. Use this to your advantage in your art and in your life.
The Black Dog will always follow you, track you, and eventually overtake you unless you turn to face it openly and directly.
Many great and creative men have confronted The Black Dog and have achieved incredible things.
Be one of them.
Photo credit: Pixabay