It has often been whispered about, and anyone in the creative realm is aware of its existence but it is still rarely addressed. What is it you ask? The battle of the creative mind, mental health. We all have heard the stories of Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, and many other artists of the past but this is the modern world and some would even go as far to say that photographers aren't really artists, but science would beg to differ. A study done in Sweden around 2013 found that "People working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers, and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition, and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. They also found that people in creative professions were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia, and autism."
Anyone with a creative mind tends to see the world a bit differently. The same gift that makes us notice what others pass by every day, also causes us to be sensitive to things that can entrap us if we don't recognize it's power and take back control. How do we do this?
Fractured Innocence by Rachel Edgington
1.) Be outspoken about your struggle.
As business owners, we feel the pressure of not letting our guard down. We must remain strong at all times because to exhibit vulnerability is to display weakness. However, the opposite seems to be true. The more we are open about our fight, especially with those in the same profession as us, the more we find we are not alone and in fact seen as courageous. It's not to say those concerns will go away but we may discover various new methods of coping with our weaknesses from others who have those same issues. Many mental illnesses tend to lead us to a lonely place. When we take that place and saturate it with others to support us, that darkness is not as stifling as it once was.
Being completely transparent, I too, fall into this category as I have a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder, and I, in turn, suffer from anxiety disorder. It is easy for me to hide it but I choose not to, as much for my own well being as for others. The more I have given it voice, the more I find others suffering in silence. We put a mask over it as we focus on our art. The danger of that is, it may slowly eat at us until it's too late.
2.) Seek professional help.
We like to think we can get through this on our own but sometimes medical intervention is necessary. There seems to be a shame involved in seeking treatment but there shouldn't be. We have resources available to us now more than ever before in history. Those treatments don't have to be in the form of a pill, totally fine if they do, but it might simply come in having a professional to talk to and help address ways to bring order to our thoughts and the world. They can tell us the signs and let us know there is nothing to feel shame about. They can let us know when certain behaviors may need more attention or if it's simply a normal reaction to what is going on around us.
Touch of Madness; photographer Rachel Edgington
3.) Finally, my personal way, use your art to bring healing and speak your truth.
We are, after all, creative beings. Even if we don't suffer from anything clinical, there are times when we may have low points. It may be then that we create some of our most meaningful work. Sometimes words fail us but the visuals we can create may help others connect and tell the story we didn't even know they needed to hear.
The two images featured here came from just such occasions for me. The first, Fractured Innocence, shows a bit about my childhood. I grew up in a world that didn't want to see my weakness. My parents were great but those around me wanted me to keep a facade of perfection that just wasn't humanly possible. It still can affect me to this day.
The second image is called A Touch of Madness. When my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder our family quickly learned more then we cared to, about the mental health realm, especially is the way of hospitals. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the asylums of yesteryear but there is still that stigma. There is also the appearance of normality when in fact we all may have just a touch of madness to us.
My hope is that most of those that are reading this don't have this issue at all, even so, it's always good to be aware of your fellow photographers and business partners. Listen to what they say and encourage them. Don't placate their concerns or dismiss them but genuinely give them a listening ear. That is why a community is so important. It allows us to give strength when others aren't able to produce it. Always remember, the struggle is real, but you are not alone!
If you feel you need help, Call 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hours everyday) They are also available through online chat.
Rachel Edgington is an award winning child, family, and senior photographer from Joplin, Missouri. She is currently on the board of directors for MOPPA. You can check out more of her work at racheledgingtonphotography.com
The article referenced above is located here: The Dark Side of Creativity