That man who is walking in the parking lot is going to kill me. Any food that touches my lips will automatically put 50 pounds on my body. I could use this ordinary household object to seriously hurt myself.
Imagination and creativity is something that people with mental illness are familiar with in both a positive and negative way. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD escalate fears to the point of delusion. Similar heightened dreads occur with an eating disorder. Those who struggle with self-harm or suicidal urges can find countless ways to hurt themselves. And one simply needs to begin thinking of mania in bipolar to see how creativity and mental illness can go hand in hand.
Some might view this type of creativity as disordered or dangerous. However, that point of view negates the wonderful potential that people with mental illness have. True, thoughts about harming yourself with a piano are unhealthy, but does that mean that the imagination who thought up those thoughts is faulty? No, the person needs to learn to use creativity in a new, positive way.
Transition from mental illness controlling my imagination to my recovery mind being in charge is difficult. Anyone who thinks that it is simply does not understand the great struggle with thoughts and emotions. However, making this change is possible.
Instead of fearing that a man will kidnap me, I can make up a story about his life as a secret agent or exiled prince. Instead of fearing the weight from food, I can imagine the people who worked to prepare these radishes or tortillas miles away. Instead of self-harm, I can write affirmations on my arms or put on henna tattoos. There are numerous alternatives which are difficult – but not impossible – to think about instead in an artistic way.
Just last week I began a blog with two friends that centered on creativity. It is called art in short bursts. Twice a week each of us three will do something creative to incorporate the arts more into our lives. Already, taking photos challenged my perfectionism while doing this creative monologue taught me about some of my greatest desires and fears.
Here is my monologue that I talked about in my last post and this one. It deals with mature subjects and is a bit gritty. However, the depth and important issues addressed in it helped me to learn more about myself.
I want to encourage everyone whether you struggle with mental illness or not that imagination and creativity are wonderful gifts. They can be misused, but that does not take away from their value. I urge you to try incorporating them into your life in a healthy way. If you have any experiences with this, please share them in the comments. I would love to hear how you have begun to see your imagination as a source of wonder and joy instead of a tool of fear and misery.