The idea of mental illness in the creative world has become hazy and hard to navigate; recently there has been a narrative that you can either be creative, or treat your mental illness with medication. This is beyond harmful and regressive for everyone trying to de-stigmatize mental illness. Even though I try to keep myself educated and informed, among all of the conflicting rhetoric I still found myself lost. I was 10 when I first got into musical theater, 12 when I started struggling with severe anxiety, and I was 14 when I started hearing that any medication that might help me could make me lose my sense of self. At that point I couldn’t tell what was scarier, my nails drawing blood from my palms when I clenched my fists with anxiety or the thought of feeling completely numb like everyone said. I was in school diving head first into my art and was so afraid to lose whatever creative fervor I was holding on to. I was 16 when I started on antidepressants.
It was only when the fog was thick and the water murky when I ended up backed into a corner and finally made that choice. I went through options that just didn’t work and I felt that there was no out to this cycle of anxiety, I was discouraged and unmotivated and was making absolutely no art, feeling like I lost any sign of creative tact. Months later I switched meds again and it was like flipping on a switch. That ‘artistic fervor’ I clung onto holding it close to my chest ended up being a just a dimmed version of what I actually had in me. All of my ideas were no longer bogged down by anxiety and I was creating freely, not scared of something turning out less than perfect. My experience is quite the opposite of numb, I’m able to feel everything wholly, like tiny sparks on my fingertips.
There is no end all be all, snap your fingers once and your mental illness vanishes.There are still bad days or weeks where I feel that weight on my chest but the different is that I know how to handle it and I know that I’ll come out on the other side. My experience is different from yours and the next, but no one should feel like they will lose their artistic integrity if they decide to medicate to gain control over their mental illness.
Mental health shouldn't be something so scary to talk about, and I hope that the discussion becomes open and safe in the creative culture. Thank you for reading my rambles and feelings, and never hesitate to reach out.
All my love, Trin.