Art and Anxiety. An elusive fusion of creativity and concern.
As an artist who has anxiety; when I have an anxious episode my functioning’s as a creative individual are often compromised by my ability to see a task through to the end.
When I’m producing a piece of art (in whatever medium that may be) I often find it challenging to stay motivated when thoughts of self-doubt, low confidence and negative thoughts that come into my mind.
I’ve had anxiety for a while. With irrational thoughts about the “could be’s” rather than the “just be’s” have plagued my mind for as long as I can remember. Sometimes its cope-able anxiety; whereas other times it becomes such a hassle that I’ve needed extra support.
… So what helps?…
During my stay in a psychiatric hospital back in 2014 I was given various medications to ease my anxiety (also prescribed for depression). Although these worked at first, I soon became docile to them and they didn’t have any effect. In 2017 after my discharge I was taken off all medication and honestly, I feel a lot better for it. I’m not saying that medication is a bad thing as during this difficult period of my life it allowed me to get to a place where I was on a ‘level playing field’.
Another type of treatment that I was also prescribed took the form of talking therapies. As someone who suffers with anxiety, depression self-harm (using various methods to regulate my emotions), OCD and bulimic tendencies; DBT (Dialectal Behavioural Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) was offered to support me in regulating my emotions to allow me to think more clearly.
Imagine believing that your only ‘cure’ was an hour-long session once a month with a counsellor and a pill every morning that takes the pain away. This was my life from 2014-2017. It became an addiction. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to cope and live a healthy life without having these ‘cures’, these ‘quick fixes’. And it became more detrimental to me because I was only surviving until the next appointment, surviving for the next capsule.
At the end of 2017 in order to get out of this negative spiral of addiction, release and anxiety: the only way was to come off of it altogether. I had reached a point where the medication and therapies did not have as much of an effect as what they were intended to have.
After many appointments and a long period of trying, it was finally decided by a team of psychiatrists, doctors and other medical professionals specialising in mental health that I didn’t need them anymore. I practically “grew out of them”, they said.
“After coming off the medication and the talking therapies, I knew I had to take an active role in creating my own therapy.”
“Why don’t I get creative through art?” I said to myself one day at the beginning of my second year of University in 2017.
I allowed myself to really enjoy the creative ventures that not only my university course (Theatre Technologies creating performance using lighting, sound and projections) offered, but what the world had to offer. I began to see everything around me as a possible inspiration to make art (be it a picturesque painting, a sculpture, a building or even a broken floor tile).
After the realisation that I could use my creativity to make art that was thought provoking, inspiring and self-healing, I have never looked back. I use all kinds of mediums including technology, performance (something I’m looking more and more into now!), pencil and paper, sound, poetry to create art.
Ive come to a conclusion that art has the power to connect people from all walks of life. Creativity has the ability to impact lives in ways which we are only just beginning to scrape the surface of. For me, the art that I create provides me with a window of opportunity to forget about the pressures of the outside world, to focus on making something that sets me free and, support me in surviving in this crazy world.
Now that I am able to consciously recognise, acknowledge and gain a deeper understanding of my emotions I realise that I will always have anxiety.
“I’m an anxious artist. And I’m okay with that.”