9 Gift Ideas for the Creative Spirit Who Struggles With Mental Illness


I consider myself a creative person in nearly every sense of the word. I paint, draw, create collages, take photographs, write poetry and articles, and play the piano and viola. I used to act and dance. My creativity is what keeps me going through the cycles of my mental illnesses. I have bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I know there are many artists, musicians, writers, actors and dancers who struggle with mental illnesses. The arts help keep me grounded. Instead of focusing on voices, anxious thoughts, depression, manic impulses, or intrapsychic conflict, I focus my mind on my art. The arts help me express and process my emotions. I am able to let out everything I feel and find release. The arts give me a way to chronicle the stages of my mental illness. The arts help me increase my self-awareness. The arts allow me to have a voice in the community so I can raise awareness and break stigma about mental illness. For all the other creative spirits with mental illness, here is a gift list for us. As a creative person, these gifts would help foster my creativity and ability to cope with my mental illnesses.

1. Take me out to a night of the arts.

On my bad weeks it’s hard to motivate myself to get through the week. It takes a lot of effort to act like a “normal” person and do “normal” things. But I still love doing things on the weekends. Give me tickets to a play, concert, dance performance, or art exhibition. If you’re not sure what I would like, give me a gift certificate. Lately, a lot of things in my life have been hard due to my mental illnesses. But a few weeks ago, my husband took me to see an off Broadway musical. For those few hours, I wasn’t sick anymore. I was engrossed in the show. Right now, going to a rock concert would be hard for me due to some anxiety problems I’m having with loud places. But most of the time I would love to go to any kind of concert. Right now I would love tickets to an acoustic concert somewhere.

2. Give me supplies to encourage my creativity.

As an artist, I would love new paintbrushes and canvases, collage supplies, nice pens, or a gift card to get my art framed or photographs processed. As a pianist, I would love sheet music of contemporary songs. As a writer, I would love journals with nice pens. Gift cards to art supply stores, music supplies, or a bookstore are always appreciated.

3. Give me a collection of poetry to inspire me.

The poets Alice Walker, Rupi Kaur and Langston Hughes help empower me. Anne Sexton and Jewel help me feel like I’m not alone with my strong emotions. (Anne Sexton had bipolar disorder. Her poems may be triggering to some, but they help me feel like I’m not alone with how I feel.) Rumi and various writers of haiku help ground me and help with meditation. Collections of poems about nature, meditation and mindfulness are helpful. I also find poetry by Jimmy Santiago Baca and Naomi Shihab Nye to be inspiring.

4. Give me an inspirational book.

There are a lot of inspirational books directly related to mental illness that could help me. I would also love to read a book that has been meaningful to you.

5. Pay my way to an art/music/writing/acting workshop.

There are often workshops around me where they teach you a new technique or you get to learn from a master artist. Send me to one and I will thank you! Or take me with you to a class, I would love if we could do it together.

6. Give me art to inspire me.

I would love a book of photographs or paintings. It inspires me to see others’ art. I would also love an iTunes gift card or a record.

7. Help me decorate my space.

I would like a photograph or painting of my favorite singer, or an inspirational poem. Give me framing supplies so that I can hang my art up. A gift card to purchase these things is always appreciated.

8. Give me a book of writing prompts or artistic prompts.

I would like a book that teaches a new art technique. I would also enjoy a kit to create some type of art. As long as it isn’t too simplistic. Sometimes I get stuck and it helps to have prompts to inspire my creativity.

9. Help me find a platform where I can share my art with others.

I am an artist, but it is so hard for me to get my voice out there, when there are so many other creative voices. If you find a restaurant that will display a few of my photographs, a local magazine that wants to publish poetry about mental illness, or an event coming up that needs a musician, I will be thankful. Please share opportunities you find. These opportunities are not only good for me as a person, but they are ways I can raise awareness about mental illness and break stigma.

Having mental illnesses doesn’t necessarily mean I am home a lot and need to soothe myself with tea and comforting things. For me, having mental illnesses means a lot of everyday things are difficult and my mental status continually changes. No matter what mental state I am in, pursuing my creative interests helps me. I get so lost in my head sometimes, listening to voices, flipping between depression and mania and fighting off panic attacks, that I forget to spend time with art. By encouraging me in my creativity, you will be helping me in my battle with mental illness. I know I am not the only creative spirit who feels this way.

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