How To Be A ‘Creative’ And Deal With Mental Illness

When you’re a creative type of person and you take the decision to pursue a career in one of the many creative sectors, especially those heavily public ones, many will agree that the chances of you suffering some form of mental illness are quite high. That is not to defer anyone from following their dreams, as you’ll see from my last blog post I think the creative sectors are one of the most invaluable things that exists in the world at the moment. Some may never experience any particularly severe form of mental illness, and plenty of people outside of those sectors also suffer. But as I said it is a possibility from the start that it helps to be ready for, and it is something that can be dealt with and eventually (eventually) can be seen as not just a curse, but to some extent a blessing.

Quick Disclaimer: I am not a highly successful, in-any-sense-famous, spending £1,000,000 a week established creative. But I am pursuing a career in the creative sectors, and have for a long time published my work on various different platforms. I have, also, as the anxiety ridden feeling of this disclaimer may give away, for a very long time suffered from mental illnesses in, again, varying forms. But then again, there are no true experts in this, just people who have experience and wish to offer their beliefs as help in one way or another. Okay. Disclaimer over, back to the post.

Read a poets work. Watch a directors film. Read an authors book. Listen to a musicians songs. Generally speaking there is something distinct in the way many of them speak, and feel. Where does this often come from? Presumably that particular perspective that being a creative encourages. That perspective is essentially the reason we have so many classics. It is that way of thinking, that moment when you’re looking for inspiration and that connection with an intention to find an idea results in an eventual (again eventual) rediscovery or newly-formed understanding.

It’s why we have so many hard to believe moments in a persons work where some people relate to it in a way they can’t explain, like they’ve mentally experienced that which the creative has been able to physicalise. It’s why I was crying at seemingly random moments during La La Land, because things were so beautifully defined or presented that it overwhelmed me. Like it overwhelms the receivers, it also overwhelms the creators in an even stronger way. They have reached into the parts of their brains that store memories, and feelings, good and bad that have been buried away and have placed them into the forefront of their thoughts. The way I look at this side of things is that it provides 3 positives and 1 negative. That 1 negative being obviously the undeniable feeling of having to confront things you didn’t want to ever remember, or memories that have you nostalgic. That negative, don’t get me wrong, can hurt to the very core and can have you genuinely struggling to be happy. But then you have the 3 positives that have been created:

  1. You’ve confronted a neglected and festering problem/and or memory.While it may feel like absolute crap to have to confront it, in looking for a good idea, you have been forced to confront something that has been neglected for however long. And we all know just how difficult it is to fix a problem that has been slowly gaining depth and substance after being left to worsen.
  2. You have created a really good piece of workUnfortunately this doesn’t always happen when emotions are involved, sometimes being overwhelmed makes it hard to even put pen to paper or pick to guitar. But most of the time if you have connected with that infamous perspective, you could have created something extraordinary; some of your best work.
  3. You’ve effected your audience.Literally, correct me if I’m wrong, but the 2 biggest objectives in most creatives endeavours are to help themselves be a better person and to be able to have effected someone with their work. If you have created something extraordinarily personal and people have connected with that, if your piece has in some way given them catharsis then you’ve done your job.

It sounds simple and sometimes it is hard to remember the positives when you are feeling so anxious. Its a public thing, you are putting something out there for people to judge. This is why it is so easy to get caught up in the number of likes and shares, and why if a post/video/song under-achieves compared to previous works that it can  really stick in your mind. But it is a gradual process. Firstly you have to accept and understand and refuse to bubble wrap the fact that what you’re doing is public. People will judge you for what you’re doing and sometimes it will go wrong. Nothings harder than continuing to put out creative pieces and forgetting that its public and forgetting the nature of it all, and then suddenly being hit by a dose of anxiety because of that.

So thats the first thing, be truthful and honest with yourself. But then try, and this is why I say gradual because it won’t ever happen completely, to remember that there are positives as well. Heck, even write a note to yourself and stick it to your wall: “Yes it hurts, but it’s good and it will effect someone” or “Yes it hurts, but there’s a reason you’re doing this”. Because that’s the other thing. Mental Illness becomes an extension, an extra limb, of your creativity. A secret tool. They go hand in hand. You keep creating because it helps with your mental illness, and your mental illness helps influence your creativity. It is a strange feeling to realise that the enemy inside you is also the friend, but it is the truth.

Mental Illnesses are hard. Being a Creative is hard. So do little things to help yourself, keep notes that remind you of the reason why you are still surviving, why it is you keep creating. Support other creators, because there is nothing better and more uplifting than having a solid network of fellow creators that you can have discussions with. They become your councillors without even realising it, they give you advice, you give them advice. Also, and this goes for mental illness as a whole, never be afraid to go to therapy. You will be surprised what can come from a few sessions of speaking to a relatively non-bias external party, and an experienced one at that.

Support your fellow creatives.

Support yourself.

Create.

Survive.

Let me know what you think!

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