I’ve been struggling in my creative life because I’ve been struggling with my mental health.
Creativity is connected to wellness. Dysfunction comes quickly when your body or mind isn’t in its usual form. It’s easier to become distracted, to lose motivation, to get frustrated, to feel lost, to forget why you were doing this in the first place when your mental health is suffering. You can wind up feeling the work of writing and publishing and none of the joy.
Getting advice and support for these particular problems can be a challenge because not all resources are meant to support writers with chronic issues. For all the positive thinkers out there, we can appreciate you, but you don’t seem to understand what it’s like for us writers dealing with chronic illness.
Blocks formed by chronic illness aren’t a mindset problem. We’re not “focused on failure” or failing to see silver linings. Sometimes we physically cannot “write through it.” Chronic illness blocks start by preventing writers from getting to the page when we have the desire to write.
- It is physical pain stopping us from typing at the computer, or sitting at a desk, or holding a phone.
- It is a migraine forming when we look at a glowing screen.
- It’s seizing or aching muscles and joints that make it difficult to hold a pen or perform small motor functions.
- It’s a too-active brain that struggles to settle into a moment.
- It’s an autonomic sleep response that makes us drowsy to avoid stress.
It’s an overwhelming concern that this will never end, that nothing will change, that we have no control over what happens. In short: it is hopelessness, which cannot be overcome by an aphorism and a sunny attitude.
Mindset is part of the solution—because accepting the truth of a situation is part of dealing with chronic illness and mental health—but it’s a small part of the solution. The real solution is developing a well-stocked kit of tools and strategies to help mitigate the blocks caused by chronic illness and to accept the days when you have to call it quits.
My toolbox for anxiety and a lack of focus includes bookmarked ambient mixes and ASMR YouTube videos, Lifesavers and chocolate, very cold water, taking off my socks, updating tracking information and schedules (numbers and data!), and many, many other things designed to focus my thoughts, trick my anxiety, or ignore my hopelessness enough that I can fumble my way to productivity. (And some days part of my toolbox is communicating with others so they’ll understand when I shut off all notifications because omg even one will derail me.)
Having a fully stocked toolbox is a huge help, but it may not “fix” things, and I often find myself rooting inside a near empty box, trying to find one last ditch thing that might pull my brain together. Those are the days when I have to accept my situation and be satisfied with my minimum workload being achieved. Some days the minimum is enough.
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