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My Experience With Mental Illness and Creativity
As a Mutual Partnership.
By Rose Rutkowski Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2020 42 Comments
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Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like my atypical brain has contributed to my life in insurmountable ways, namely through my ability to think outside the box. If the box is “normalcy”, I’ve spent my life trying to fit into it, like a cat that found an empty twelve-pack.

Except, I don’t fit. I never have. Because I suffer from mental illness. Creation, the act of giving life to an idea or a thought, has always been my biggest outlet for all of the emotional constipation that comes with it.

We can talk about issues like abandonment, fear, guilt, anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, obsession, religion, morality, etc. until we’re blue in the face. And we can put a label on each individual case-by-case until there are a hundred sub-categories of each sub-category of mental illness. But. The underlying cause is the same thing. Trauma. And trauma begets trauma—in other words, we’ve all gone through it. And we’re all in the process of healing. Or actively avoiding it.

My healing comes in part from drawing faces that only my mind’s eye has ever seen. From poetry that rings in my head like birdsongs. From dancing until my legs are sore and my knees want to give out but knowing I’ve never made my body move like that before. It comes from pushing the boundaries of expectation. From giving birth to the entities that live inside my mind and letting them live through ink on a page or the note of a song on a cracking voice.

Creativity drives us and I think neurodiversity is something that should be celebrated amongst all of us. Some of the greatest minds in history were also some of the most “troubled”. Edgar Allen Poe, Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Vincent Van Goh, and Emily Dickinson are all some of the most well-known creators in history. All suffered from mental illness.

Personally, the times in my life when I feel the most inspired, are also the times when I feel like I can’t take it anymore, mentally. Art in any form is my favorite way to transcend the intrusive thoughts, the repetitive cage of negativity that is my mind at times. It puts me somewhere else if that makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t if you’re not familiar with escapism. Though I must admit, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone I know that doesn’t indulge in some form or another. Some people drink, some use drugs, sex, food, gambling. I like to disappear into the recesses of my own mind and see what comes out. Conversely, I also like to see what’s come out of other people’s dark and dusty corners.

The best thing about it is that it connects us. If I read a book or watch a play or see a movie or listen to a song and I feel something, then that artist’s mission is accomplished. If you read my story and you laugh, or you cry or you scoff in disbelief—it doesn’t matter. What matters is I’ve elicited an emotion out of you and on some level, you and I have connected, no matter how briefly. That’s the magic and the madness at work. I think in these mad times we could use a little more of that.

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  1. Thank you for touching on your experiences with mental illness. While I read this, I felt understood – I connected as you intended. Writing is an outlet, an escape, and -on a good day- an adventure. Some of my best captured moments of physical space was when I was getting out of my own head and into another’s, whether it be a character I wrote or a character I’m reading. I’m glad writing and dancing have this affect on you and bring you peace. Continue to share your stories, I look forward to reading more.

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