How Can I Create with Debilitating Mental Illness?

It’s a big question, it’s a question I found myself typing into google (because if google doesn’t know who does?) about 5/6 years ago in a really dark place of total and utter despair and I mean, end of the line darkness.

I had been working on being an actor and performing since I was 11 and now I was 29 and my mental illness, specifically my anxiety had finally wormed it’s way into even that. I had up until this point found solace and hope in the fact that my performing was special somehow and it was a place that couldn’t be touched, this had been proven wrong and all I could see in front of me was the same day on repeat until my days ran out.

You see, for me there is no greater joy than creating, whether that be through performance, craft, art, play etc and so on that day I felt very dark. Google kindly spat out some results, a mixed bag of course but it showed me a video by Jenna Moreci. THIS VIDEO.

This video saved my life. Yup, Jenna dressed up as a cowgirl complete with hobbyhorse pulled me off the ledge and the reason is two fold. Firstly it’s a funny, straight up video that offers actual help from someone who, herself suffers from mental illness. And secondly, I realised SHE SUFFERS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS, here is a bad-ass, hilarious, woman, best selling author and very successful YouTuber AND she suffers with mental illness. It made it clear to me in that moment that it could be done, I just needed to find out my path.

Then a few years later I was reading Liz Gilert’s, ‘Big Magic’ which is all about the creative process and she spoke about how creating for creatings sake is so important and also about how this romantic notion of the tortured artist is not helpful to the artist

I’m trying to dismantle a stereotype that in order to live any kind of creative life, you have to be in torment and suffering. We’re addicted to this idea because it makes for good bio pics…but I actually think it’s better to live a life where you’re constantly exploring your curiosity and creativity.

Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘Big Magic’

Those two things, consumed years apart galvanised in my brain – that maybe, just maybe, I could change my fate, no create my fate. There was proof in front of me that it could be done, two incredible women who have their own battles with mental illness and yet they were doing what they loved and I decided that I could too. Moreci re-taught me the importance of laughter, honesty and self compassion and Gilbert showed me I’m not creative because of my mental illness, I’m creative despite it.

So, I started out consuming – every video Jenna Moreci had made, reading all the Liz Gilbert I could and through that I found other giants, Marie Forleo, Glennon Doyle, Tarana Burke, Dr Yaba Blay, Brene Brown, Jameela Jamil and Dr. Tererai Trent to mention a few and my resolve, my belief, my creativity grew stronger. I would draw and sing, dance and bullet journal and then last year I fell into the writing community through Daniel Willcocks’ Bootcamp (found because of Jenna Moreci) and I have not looked back since.

When I say, ‘I’ve not looked back’ I don’t mean my mental health just recovered, like – ‘Snap! all better.’ No on the contrary my mental health is just as present today as it was back on the dark day but the difference is I understand in my bones now that I get to build my own life, around my own needs and that is a beautiful and empowering thing.

I will continue to take the time when I need it but I won’t stop because I love creating and my community and that is worth everything. So, on this World Mental Health Day I hope that if you needed something to say to you, yes you can create INSPITE of your illness, that this was helpful to you and hey, stick around because I’m only just getting started and I want to prove that the path might look different for us but the path is there.

Until next time, be kind to yourself – you deserve it.

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