As I sat and watched Meryl Streep’s speech with tears streaming down my face, a thought kept repeating over and over — how will we get through this? And then she said something that punched me in the gut and made my tears dry up. She quoted Carrie Fisher: “Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”
Ironically, I’d just finished watching the new HBO documentary about Carrie and her mother Debbie Reynolds, just as the speech was being shared all over social media. Meryl Streep’s words and Carrie Fisher’s prompting to turn our pain into something beautiful lead me to pick up my friend Jacob Nordby’s book “Blessed Are the Weird – A Manifesto for Creatives.” The book is my go to these days to help me understand the thin line that seems to exist between feeling a sort of madness and being creative all at once. When I am in a manic phase, much like other bipolar diagnosed creatives, I feel in touch with the “real” me, and this is when my fingers take to the keyboard, my brain comes to life and out of me flies creative and different ways of seeing the world. It’s moments like this one that always beg the question – does a touch of madness exist when we are our most creative self?
In “Blessed Are the Weird,” Jacob addresses this very question in his chapter on misfits, he lists out some of the people we know and love who were diagnosed with mental illnesses and who created brilliance in our lives. It is these people who embody Carrie Fishers statement. I think it’s OK to embrace that “broken” piece of us and allow something beautiful to come out of it. I think sometimes it’s part of what makes us human. We all have fundamental needs that require meeting, and for some of us it’s being able to say I have a mental illness and I’m going to be creative anyway. Art is a form of therapy in and of itself, and by art I mean anything that moves you to want to get outside of yourself and create something. A sort of healing occurs when we give this a chance. When I write, much like I’m doing right now, it is cathartic and helps me process the steady stream of “noise” in my mind. Some people paint, color, play music, draw, make movies, do stand-up comedy, write poetry or fiction, some even become so creative that whole new technologies emerge. And some write their life stories and share their struggles to feel less alone, it’s why communities like The Mighty are created or why books like “Blessed Are the Weird” are written, or why we revere words spoken by someone who championed mental health awareness and was full of creativity. We do these things to feel less alone, to hold onto the connection between all of us, even those of us who walk the thin line between madness and creativity.
In the challenging days ahead, that may lead us to wont to despair, I am choosing to turn my life into a piece of art. I’m choosing to find connections to the people and things that matter and make a difference. When we find ourselves in the thick of madness not of our own doing, but of merely being part of a maddening world, we feel usually one of two ways — like we’re stuck with no way out or like we want to run away as fast as we can. I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to feel a third way that is more liberating — find a way to make use of the broken feeling and turn it into your own kind of art. The world needs more of us to do that. If there’s one thing that you do this year for the sake of your mental health, find a way to channel your feeling of brokenness. I promise you, you’re not alone in this quest, you’ve got an army with you, rooting you on. Let’s go forth and create something, and maybe what emerges will be a better world.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo via Thomas Northcut