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How my mental health influenced my creativity

By UALWellbeingReps 04 Jan 2019

Mental Health. We all have it. Let’s talk about it.

This article was brought to you by Abi, Wellbeing Rep at Highline Building.

Whether it’s positive or negative, it’s there. The way we feel changes on a daily basis. The smiles on our faces are sometimes real, and sometimes false. But we all at some point in our lives will have times where we struggle. Some more than others. 

 Sometimes these are just bad days. But what happens when those bad days turn into something more? When those bad days change you? Well, that’s what I’m here to talk about.

I’m a graphic design student at LCC and a Wellbeing Rep. I also have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Once upon a time, I would have been scared and ashamed to mention that. But now, all three of those are a huge part of me, but in a positive way. They dragged me through darkness and brought me into a place I could never have imagined myself being at 23 years old. They have brought me to a better place, a better mind, and made me a better human being. Most importantly to me, they made me the Graphic Designer I am today. 

So, let’s start with a bit of background. I was 17 years old, angry and isolated. Listening to the most negative type of music you can find constantly on repeat. There was self-harm. Silly social choices. I was so alone. No ambition. No care for the world, or the people in it, especially for myself, with a running doubt about whether the future for me as possible. Maybe a future at that time wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

Family and friends never truly understood why I felt this way. I mean how can you be so depressed and angry with the world when you’re so young and haven’t lived it yet? Or at least that’s how they saw it. But then finally, one day sitting in that Doctor’s office, I heard those words. “You have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” 

Firstly, it was a relief, but then came the fear of stigma and prejudice. Then came the questions and comments from others. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is just for soldiers.”, “What do you have to be stressed about, you’re only 17?” and “Just get a grip, get over it, it’s in the past now.”

Six years later. I’m 23 and life is very different. I am a second-year Graphic Design student. Two years of internships under my belt and a freelancer. I’m living in London. I work as a Wellbeing Rep, helping others with their wellbeing. I am successful with my journey so far and with my ambition and want for life. Most importantly, I am happy. 

However, I still have depression, but I am not depressed. I also still have PTSD, but it is controlled. Now I could be here for pages and pages about how in six years I turned the negatives into the positives. But I want to focus on one thing. The one thing that saved me from myself; creativity. 

Without my depression, and especially PTSD, there was no way I would be creative. Before my mental health broke down, I wanted to read History. I didn’t overly care about a future in the arts. It was just a hobby. But my mental health took me away from academics. Education at the time didn’t seem important. Being told what to do didn’t go down very well. I found an obsession with art. I discovered how people could be so brave to show their soul to millions of people and say “this is me” and this is what I want to talk about.

Mental health gave me this different outlook, that being successful with money, having a stable or academic job wasn’t important. Talking about what I felt and why I felt it was. That I wanted people to know the anger of the experiences I went through and that it was wrong. So, I started drawing. Drawing turned into designing. Designing turned into communicating. Communicating turned into change. Creativity was and is my therapy.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is without experiencing my mental health surfacing in the way it did, I’d never have found my creativity. Creativity allows you to access your thoughts and feelings without you really knowing it. Allows you to process emotions and experiences without it being too painful.

What I want to say to all of you is mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of. Sometimes if you find yourself faced with that same darkness I did, you’ll find that when you come through it, it’s not as half as bad as you think. It’s like a small scar. It’ll always be there as a reminder, but it can be a positive thing. Mental health doesn’t need to be negative. 

Being a student is stressful. You’re away from family, friends, the place where you grew up and maybe in a new country. It’s hard work and there’s lots of it. It’s easy to get stressed, anxious and maybe even depressed, but that’s okay. As long as we keep talking. As long as we keep being creative.

After all, we are all here at this university because we have some form of creative streak in us. So, try it one day. A bad day. Try talking about how you feel through your work. Maybe within that visualisation, you’ll see that it’s not as scary as it may sound.

That not being okay, is okay too. ❤️