The life of a creative might seem like a dream job come true. For some, I guess it can be, but for the majority of creatives I know, it’s a very careful balancing act between good and bad things that many of us experience.
On the good side, there’s a rush of excitement in completing a good story. When you get a good review a pleasing vibration of good thoughts and a great deal of satisfaction seems to surround you.The challenge of pushing your boundaries and learn new skills is addictive.
But it isn’t like that all the time.
Self doubt often eats at your confidence. Imposter syndrome raises it’s ugly head. Other people get breaks that you’d love to have. Things like this can weigh you down especially when you’ve tried your hardest and you still don’t feel like you are getting anywhere. At times, you sleep in late, or not at all, have trouble concentrating and are unsociable. Most of the time we bounce back and our good mood returns. But sometimes it doesn’t.
This is where the concern starts. Feeling down, tired, irritable for months at a time is a signifier of a bigger problem, namely mental illness. Chemicals in your bloodstream, changes in the way your brain functions, genetics and reactions to the world around us are the biggest culprits in a range of diseases that cause a multitude of problems. And while thousands suffer from it, it’s still grossly misunderstood and often unrecognized until it’s too late.
Three of the most common mental illnesses that creatives face are the BADs - Burnout, Anxiety and Depression. Often they overlap, one rolling into another like a tide leaving the sufferer feeling alone and unable to deal with what is happening.
We’ve all felt like not going to work, hate our job, and can’t focus on what you need to do. Sometimes this is a result of not being a good fit for your job or being in over your head. Usually you adjust, learn the skills necessary and things are okay.
If you are a full or part time creative, there’s always worry about whether your work is good enough, if your clients will pay you on time and where the next job is coming from. Deadlines approach at warp speed even if you have been working steadily on your project. Clients demand last minute changes that put you behind. Toss in real life issues such a family, friends, and another job it’s no wonder your brain finally says “ENOUGH!” and shuts down for a while. Feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and frustrated, are very common feelings from burnout. It can happen in many types of jobs, but especially those where you feel you have no control and a high amount of stress.
You know that queasy feeling you get right before you stand up to speak in front of strangers, go for a job interview or go on a blind date? That’s anxiety. It’s a little rush of adrenaline that gets your mind and body ready for the unexpected. Usually it’s short lived, but some people experience heavy amounts of anxiety in common situations. Panic attacks, social anxiety and phobias can keep people from doing things they enjoy as worry and fear overwhelm them.
It’s not a simple thing as worrying about whether you turned off the faucet at home before you went to work. Instead it’s an overwhelming feeling of dread, fear and sometimes panic that has you clutching your chest or feeling as though some heavy weight is sitting on you. It’s unending and relentless.
Trauma and stressful situations are often the root of anxiety, although genetic disposition also seems to play a role. But anyone who has experienced stressful events can develop anxiety disorders. Sometimes severe enough that you don’t feel able to leave the house.
When people think of depression, they often think of someone sad and crying, but most depressives experience a wide range of symptoms. Changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping more or insomnia are common along with weight gain or loss. Those suffering from depression often feel lost or hopeless, even empty, not just sad. Fatigue is often accompanied by restlessness and dissatisfaction. Making decisions are often difficult as concentration falters. And, much as I hate to point it out, thoughts of suicide begin to intrude into the lives of those suffering from this disorder.
Depression is a sneaky illness. Sometimes it lifts and you feel fine, and at other times you are feel hollowed out and empty. Feeling down for a short time is normal but when a person feels that nothing will make them happy it’s time to get help
The good news is burnout, anxiety and depression are treatable. Medications, counseling and lifestyle changes can and has improved the lives of thousands. For some, taking some time off (yes that means a vacation or at least scheduling time away from work) can help recharge and allow a person to have a better outlook. Sometimes, getting more exercise or more sleep can help alleviate the problem or changes in diet. In anxiety, identifying the cause can help sufferers avoid unpleasant symptoms. But the first step is to identify that there is an issue, and start working from there.
In the mean time there are things you can do to help you cope. For some people making a schedule or list helps them get through the day. Relaxation techniques can help alleviate some anxiety symptoms. Exercise and fresh air can also help.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of mental illness including thoughts of suicide, please get help. There are many toll free numbers you can call. Lines are open 24/7 even on holidays. These are just a few places that can help.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255
US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366
Crisis Text Hotline - for those who would rather text than speak