The Other Side of the Looking Glass

Sometimes I’m not sure who it is eyeing me with such speculation in the mirror. We are often at odds, seeing different sides of the same face. I’m more familiar straight-faced or frowning than cheerful. Joy is concerning. It is not the norm. Yes, it should be. It simply isn’t. It may not be the norm for most people, but many don’t have the deep dark trenches where some of us with mental illness have become soldiers fighting our bitter wars. To have that stark comparison in myself can often leave me with upbeat moments feeling foreign and alien.

Medication and/or therapy can be wonderful things if done properly with well trained caring physicians. I know as a patient, I know as a studying psychologist that the combination will most often be the way to go. Talk is cheap with the wrong therapist and a miracle with someone who listens, values, and carries on a dialogue void of that phrase we all associate with the worst of psychologists “how does that make you feel?” Well I believe that it makes me sad or I wouldn’t be here. Now fix me! If it were that easy. Mental health is like a “diet”… It is only a success when it is a sustainable change or way of life that betters you. Will I ever go on a diet that says no (insert best food ever here)??? NO because I would never stick to it. I like cheese, and chocolate, and wine, and bacon, and all things bad for me in the most delicious ways possible.

All this in mind, my larger contention is this. Where does creativity fall on the scale of collateral damage to treatment of mental illness? Is it something that we can forgoe in our quest for mental wellbeing? Or is it something much more crucial to our reflective self that we must find a better balance with?

What helped me through the other side of my recent excruciating battle with depression that began to wade deeper TOWARDS (and I really do emphasize towards as I hadn’t gotten there yet) suicidal thought, was a wonderful therapist and an adjustment of medication. This creates a better balance and stability in my headspace. What I have found that makes me sad and frustrated is my creativity that can be driven from the painful pulsating pulls of an existential crisis is lacking. I’m happy to not have an existential crisis daily. It’s a relief because it’s damn exhausting. But with it goes some of the passion of gut-wrenching where in this unending and ever expanding universe do I belong, fit, or go from here.

Therefore, does creativity become like any other task that requires cultivating? Well, yes. But it can be hard to let go of what FEELS like is built in as the creative driving force. Great artists suffered from all number of issues. Had they been medicated perhaps they would not have cut their ear off or drowned with stones in their pocket. They’d have lived longer fuller lives. But less bright perhaps? Maybe dimmer candles that glowed longer but never produced what we remember them for.

Here is the other side of that coin which I find intriguing. Creativity usually booms with more serotonin and NOT in conjunction with depression. Typically creativity gets stuck in a rut with severe depression and so it strikes as odd that in many the two cohabitate. SO, perhaps medication is backwards? I don’t know. I’m not a pharmacologist and learned what they taught me. Much is right, much is wrong. Often what is wrong is only wrong after the fact once we learn more about brain chemistry and how things really work. Something to think about.

As a minor disclaimer. I’m saying stay on your meds. See a professional. But understand your doctor isn’t experimenting on you. They aren’t out to get you, they actually ARE trying to help you. But the science is still learning and growing and developing.


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