One of the hardest parts of having a mental illness is being pulled away from the things that you love. I know how hard it can be to make yourself do something when you are in a cycle of obsessive thinking or stuck in an episode of depression. During times of depression I have little to no energy and spend most of the day in an ongoing loop of negative thinking. You may be able to identify with these feelings if you’ve struggled with depression or are currently struggling.
I’ve been through several forms of therapy and have heard something similar about overcoming depression and getting back to the activities you once enjoyed from each: you have to force yourself. I remember hearing this and thinking, “That’s easy for you to say.” How was I supposed to make myself do something when I couldn’t even get off the couch? I was thinking more about destructive behaviors, such as self-harm.
The truth is that you have to break that cycle of negative thinking and destructive coping skills. It will be hard, but it will also be worth it. One of the best activities to immerse yourself in when dealing with depression or any other mental illness is something creative. Creativity has always helped me and has always been a good first step to take when trying to pull myself out of depression. I don’t consider myself to be a great artist, but I force myself to engage in creative activities because I know that it will improve my mental illnesses. Creativity takes me away from the cycle of negative thinking and into something new. I use my struggle to create something that other people, dealing with the same kinds of issues, can understand.
Since I also deal with the obsessive and unwanted thoughts that come along with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on a daily basis, this coping skill can be really useful for me on days when I am feeling overwhelmed. The past few years my thoughts have gotten worse and at times leave me sitting alone feeling helpless. Lately, when I have a difficult day with repetitive thoughts, I use creativity to my advantage. The other day I brought my sketchpad to one of my favorite places with boardwalk trails and tall, shaded trees. I chose a bench to sit on, put on some Jack Johnson, and sketched what was in front of me. Before I knew it I was nowhere but that exact moment. Being present when obsessive thoughts are tiring can be such a struggle, but creativity helped me push past that and I appreciated the hour I spent lost in drawing.
It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself creative or not, grab a coloring book and put on your favorite album. Write about one of your favorite days or even about your own personal struggle. Pick something simple to draw and spend an hour sketching it. Whatever you choose to do, let yourself get lost in the creativity. Pour your illness onto a piece of paper so that it is somewhere other than your mind. Most importantly, choose creativity for you. Instead of destructive coping skills, be proud of yourself for doing something healthy. Even if it only lasts for fifteen minutes, those fifteen minutes may change your mood in the slightest bit.
Give creativity a try; you really have nothing to lose. Do it for yourself.