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Stop telling yourself you have to abuse yourself in order for your art to be valid

Today, I saw a post on tumblr dealing with mental health in the arts. I had seen the post before, but as I walked from my friend’s apartment to the bus, I began thinking about what I would post tonight. The tumblr post came back into my mind.

The post, which can be found here, tackles the idea that the best art comes from being depressed. It uses Van Gogh as an example.

Basically, the post can be summed up well in this line:

SO DON’T YOU DARE COME OUT HERE WITH THIS, “I WISH I WAS DEPRESSED SO I COULD BE AS CREATIVE AS VAN GOGH” BULLSHIT BECAUSE EVEN HE KNEW THAT HIS DEMONS WERE HARMING HIS WORK, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, HIS HEALTH, AND HE DID EVERYTHING WITHIN HIS POWER TO FIGHT THEM EVERY SINGLE DAY OF HIS LIFE, UNTIL THEY ENDED UP WINNING!” 

This post got me thinking about that idea that as an artist you have to suffer in order to do your best work, and how utterly bullshit that idea is.

I have struggled with mental health issues for almost ten years now. And I have always, always tried to handle it on my own. Due to what I only now can recognize as a terrible mixture of ideas from my family that “medication isn’t the answer!!” and the idea from society that “the demons fuel the art,” I struggled to hold myself up for years.

It wasn’t until this October that I finally, finally got up the courage to get myself to a goddamn therapist.

I’d known for years that I needed to go see someone. I don’t know how I got through last year without doing it. I don’t know how I got through the last two years like I did, pushing myself and pushing myself until I went home for break feeling like I needed to sleep for a week straight. How freshman year, spring semester, did I stay awake for 60 hours straight to complete my work for showcase?

How last year, fall semester, did I stay awake for 72 hours straight doing the same?

How did I put myself through every all-nighter that I have pulled in college, some of them, as I mentioned, for multiple days?

How did I keep going?

If I did that now? I’d pass out after 24 hours, I’m sure.

Something broke in me after that 72 hour shit I pulled, because I just cannot do crazy late nights anymore.

Thank god, honestly.

I’ve finally begun to see that I should never let myself do that, no matter how badly I dread missing an assignment.

It’s things like this, that all-consuming anxiety that fueled those ridiculous and abhorrently unhealthy nights, and the depression that got me into those situations to begin with, that make me question how the hell I convinced myself that I was handling things just fine.

But I just kept putting off seeing someone for some reason, until finally this summer it was made very clear that that was not an option anymore. I couldn’t keep telling myself that I was holding myself above the water when in actuality I was drowning in a lack of motivation and struggling to keep my emotions in check again. (Thanks, second puberty.)

But, long story short, I got myself a therapist.

She sent me to a psychiatrist.

I’m finally taking care of myself.

And you know what?

I’m finally starting to get back inspiration to want to do art, instead of just forcing myself to do it in order to pass classes.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

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