What I Want You to Know If You Create Art or Write About Your Mental Health
This is to the scribblers who bury their darkness deep in notebook pages to get it out of their heads, where it can no longer hurt them.
This is to the authors who wrestle their monsters to trap them between the covers of a book, something they can hold in their hands and be proud of.
This is to the bloggers who craft their posts with equal parts emotional prose and SEO syntax to reach as wide an audience as possible.
This is to the bullet journalers who spend hours sketching beautiful mood trackers so they can review their emotional health and take action.
This is to the writers, the artists, the creators of all kinds: Thank you for finding the courage to create something so beautiful and meaningful out of something so messy and dark.
You may not know this, but your art has saved a life.
On behalf of everyone who finds comfort and relief from their mental illness through art — thank you.
Two things inspired this post, the first being the To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) 2018 calendar hanging above my desk:
This calendar features quotes from blog posts on TWLOHA. December’s message reads, “Give yourself the opportunity of seeing what a year from now holds. Take a chance on yourself and choose to stay.”
I’ve looked at that quote every day in December. I’ve sat under that calendar after nights of fitful sleep and bad dreams, feeling so low I couldn’t even cry — but I looked at that calendar, and I chose to stay.
The past few months have been rough for me. I’ve battled immense grief after losing someone special to me, as well as one of the worst depressive periods I’ve experienced since I was hospitalized and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
But I’m choosing to stay — and writer, I just wanted to say thank you for giving me the reminder.
The other thing that inspired this post was a comment on another post I wrote for The Mighty. It simply said, “Thank you for writing this.”
Reader, I just want you to know I’ve thought about that comment every day since you sent it.
Being open about my mental health on public platforms like my blog and The Mighty hasn’t been easy. Sometimes, I wonder if I should share these parts of me with the whole world.
But one of the reasons I have that TWLOHA calendar in the first place is because my own words are featured in it, in the month of March, from my blog post Why You Should Never Be Afraid to Start Over: “It doesn’t matter how many times you start over, as long as you start over.”
Those are my words! In a calendar!
And the only reason my blog post was chosen was because I dug up the courage to write and publish it, even though it was a very candid account of my struggle with self-harm.
But I battled that monster. I got it down onto the (web)page, and someone at TWLOHA saw it and thought, “That’s one of the top 12 most inspiring quotes on our blog and we should feature it in this calendar that thousands of people will see.”
Now, I have something I can be proud of, something I can hold in my hands, all because I chose to do battle.
And maybe someone else, somewhere in the world, looked up at their calendar in March and thought, “Wow. I really needed to see that today.” Just like I looked up at my calendar every day in December and thought the same thing.
And to the person who wrote December’s message: it saddens me to know you’ve sat exactly where I have, begging for just one sign.
I know writing that wasn’t easy. Whatever battle you fought that inspired those words was hard-won indeed.
But thank you for staying strong and giving me, and thousands of others, the sign we so desperately needed. Your art saved my life, and it gave me the courage to create again.
Our art wouldn’t be possible without you, though, dear reader, so I hope you heed December’s message, too. “Give yourself the opportunity of seeing what a year from now holds. Take a chance on yourself and choose to stay.”
Six years ago, when I was lying in that hospital bed wondering “what’s wrong with me,” I never thought I’d eventually move halfway across the world, earn my master’s degree in the subject I’ve loved all my life, and build my dream career from the ground up.
It will, and does, get better, I promise. So please choose to stay.
And writers, artists, secret scribblers — keep at it. Don’t ever stop creating. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only soul who ever reads or sees your work. Get that monster out of your head and turn it into something you can be proud of.
Even if the only life it ever saves is yours, your art still saves lives.
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash