Creative Living,  Mental Health

Creating When You’re Feeling Mentally Unwell

I have PMDD. After 9 long months of pregnancy and then 8 months of breastfeeding the extreme anger, moodiness, and general feelings of “bleh” had become a distant memory…something I from another time that I had overcome a long time ago. But now it’s back and I had forgotten just how miserable it could be.

On days when I’m mentally unwell I do not do any creating. I do Netflix. I do naps. I do fits of screaming, but no creating.

My creative drug of choice the past year or two has been memory keeping / scrapbooking. That means lots of picture taking every day. But when I’m having a day when I am mentally unwell, I don’t take pictures. I don’t want to take pictures. If I happen to think that maybe I should take pictures my mental dialogue loves to just run that shit into the ground: “I don’t feel like it. There’s nothing worth taking pictures of. I’ve taken pictures of all this stuff, life is the same every single day, what’s the point? I’m just too tired.”

It’s like those questionnaires: Loss of interest in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities, anyone?

I sat on my back porch today and thought about the issue at hand and I figured it out, at least for me, and I hope maybe it might help you too.

When I am feeling good and having a great day I see the beauty in day-to-day life. Heck, I am downright enamoured by it some days. But when I’m in the pits of despair I don’t see the good in anything. I see neverending “bleh”, hopelessness, and monotony.

As I sat on the porch I challenged myself to walk around the yard and find something – anything – that I could see the beauty in or that I found maybe just the teeniest bit interesting or out of the ordinary. You know what I found?

A Robin’s nest in our Magnolia tree, cracked egg on the ground.

Our heirloom tomatoes finally growing (and big!)

A teeny moon in a big sky.

Fireflies.

The feeling of bare feet in thick clover.

 

Did this all fix my mood and make me magically better? No. But it centered me for the time being, like a meditative act. It forced me to be creative and do something other than binge on social media or lash out at my family. I wrote a haiku on my little nature walk around the backyard. And suddenly, I had something to show. Something I produced. Something to show for myself and prove that I was alive today. I existed and here’s the proof.

What’s the takeaway from all this? If you’re feeling mentally shitty and don’t have the energy or willpower for your normal creative pursuits, that’s okay, but maybe challenge yourself to one tiny thing. Make sure the stakes are really low so you will succeed:

  • Find one thing new worth taking a picture of.
  • Write a haiku.
  • Make a doodle.
  • Color a picture from a children’s coloring book.
  • Play karaoke videos on YouTube and sing your heart out. (And yes, I’ve done this plenty of times. No shame!)
  • Make a pretty Instagram story. (You don’t even have to move from your couch…talk about low stakes.)

Stay strong, my friends. Your old creative energy will return when you do. Just don’t let it die in the downtime.

 

alex marie

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