Finding creativity in the mass of depression is like trying to find the wind for your sails in the middle of the ocean, where there has been no trace of wind in what seems like a lifetime ago. You are trying to muster up the creativity that came so naturally to you, but now it seems like you are searching for an illusion. You often ask yourself questions like, “Did my gift ever really exist? Was I lied to my entire life, for the sake of my feelings?”

Depression has this effect: your body feels awake, but your mind is asleep. Deep within, you desire to bleed out your creativity, but you are imprisoned by fatigue because you can never find peace in your sleep, night after night. The body aches swallow you whole and are a constant, physical reminder of the heaviness depression has. But yet, you somehow miraculously manage to paint a smile onto your face for all to see; your innermost struggles are undetectable. Little do people know that the smile and warm laughter is rooted in a fragile foundation, crumbling beneath the surface.

So what is the answer? What are the first steps toward continuing creativity in the midst of depression? To begin with, you must allow yourself to feel your emotions and let them run their course, whether they are weakened or emboldened. Give your senses full reign to experience life without restraints. When you write or create through depression or darkness, your thoughts may seem unrecognizable. Sometimes, you may feel like your thoughts ricochet in your head, and the words don’t completely connect. Sometimes, the words that come into your mind become a temporary remedy that your soul has been looking for, even if it’s just for a short moment.

Creativity has this ability to dig into your core, and inspire you to bring your emotions to life. When creativity is a source of who you are, that source has a life of its own. We must sustain this life of creativity, because it is a part of who we are.

Whenever the source of creativity is threatened with darkness, depression, or difficulties in this life, we must protect it. However, it is hard to protect when your mind is in a fog and defenses are down. Whenever I am in this state, I am prone to draw inward, isolate myself from others, try to figure out how to cope with life daily, and fight for myself, by myself. But it is hard to cure yourself whenever you are right in the middle of darkness, and it has been your “normal” for a long time.

Whenever you lose your sense of self, it puts you in unfamiliar territory; a deep, dark, void. It feels dangerous. It feels lonely. It feels hopeless. You are fighting for your life. Whenever your emotions are numbed, you are scraping for and desperately grabbing for whatever glimmers as a creative idea.

From my experience, I have always felt emotions and the emotions of others very deeply, as if I were living from their perspective. At first, you would think I would be describing a superpower, and in a way, it kind of is. When you are able to feel emotions intensely, you are able to grasp an idea as to how the human heart and mind works. I embrace this part of myself, and it inspires me to create, because I desire to relate to people, through the lightest and darkest of times in life.

This gift of empathizing with people is an incredible, intimate way to pour into others. But here is a lesson that takes an entire lifetime to learn (a lesson I am still learning, with a side of humbleness): You can’t pour into others if you are empty. Always have an open heart and ear for others, but make sure you take care of yourself too. When you are empty, you lose sight of how your creativity once lived. You become less motivated to do what you once loved, and your light gets dimmer every time you choose a mindless activity over creativity to take the edge off of the darkness. No matter how dark it may seem, your creativity still remains; it may just be dimmed for a while.

In the darkness, the silence can become your companion because it leaves you to your thoughts. Silence allows you to meditate with no outside influence and sort out the things in your mind. Some of your greatest thoughts, creativity, and ideas can swell like a spring, because you are in silence.

For me, writing captures the words I cannot fully speak aloud. My hands speak faster than my mouth. Sometimes my heart reveals itself to me after I write a sentence in full. Writing helps me understand who I am, how I should celebrate my strengths, and strengthen my weaknesses. I also love to capture life through film and painting. I move the camera with intentionality in every shot I take. Every paint stroke I glide onto a canvas gives me a sense of power, and the color of the paint becomes a character in the painting itself.

When you capture that glimpse of creativity, grab onto it and express how you feel in that moment. Write it out. Paint it onto a canvas. Build the next greatest invention. Compose a melody. You are acknowledging the pain, which paves the way for healing. Whenever you create, it is a reflection of the human experience. And when you hold up your creative reflection to the world, you are ministering to those who are fighting the battle in silence alongside you, whether you realize it or not.

How do you keep your creativity alive? How do you survive day after day? Rely on the one who created you, for God will never leave nor forsake you. Let your family and friends be your source of love and strength. Seek guidance from those that God has gifted to understand the human body and condition. Be present in your thoughts.

You gain strength daily when you survive. When you survive, it shows that you are still alive. And when you’re alive, that is the evidence that the hope and light can still reach you. Even when you have nothing left, you are still alive. We are all alive for a greater purpose and reason than we can ever imagine.

The moment you are in now, the darkness, is not where God wants to make your home. It’s okay to not be okay. These scars that this season in your life has inflicted may cut deep, and it may feel as though your life is fading through your fingertips.

Please know that you are of immeasurable worth, and oh so loved. May you view your scars not as testaments of brokenness and ugliness, but as evidence that you have survived. May our scars breathe hope into the weary hearts and souls around us. May the creativity in you speak into the life of another.

You might just be the one who sparks the light within them.