This week I accomplished something that I thought was beyond me, being accredited for a mental health first aid certificate. Something so simple, yet it felt symbolic, a level up in life’s video game. As most artists know creativity is a gift and a burden, a double-edged sword that cuts through the depths of human experience. For many artists the journey of creation is intrinsically linked with the scars of trauma. The same force that fuels artistic brilliance can also be the source of profound pain. In this delicate dance between creation and trauma, we artists can learn to turn up for ourselves, wielding creative prowess as both a weapon and a shield.
Creativity often emerges from the deepest recesses of the human psyche. Artists draw inspiration from their experiences, both positive and negative, to breathe life into their work. Trauma, unfortunately, is an all-too-common companion on this journey. It can come in many forms: childhood adversity, loss, addiction, abuse, or mental health struggles. These experiences often become the crucible in which creativity is forged.
Creativity allows artists to transform their pain into something tangible, a work of art that resonates with others who have endured similar trials. It is a cathartic release, a way to process the unprocessable. But it’s also a two-edged sword. The very act of delving into trauma can trigger its resurgence, pulling the artist deeper into the abyss they seek to escape. It’s a delicate balance between exorcising demons and inviting them in.
To navigate this treacherous path, artists can become their own champions. Here are some ways to turn up for yourself in the face of creative and traumatic challenges:
Self-compassion: Acknowledge that you are a human being first, an artist second. It’s okay to have moments of vulnerability and self-doubt. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend.
Therapeutic creativity: Use your art as a form of therapy, but remember that it doesn’t replace professional help. Seek therapy or counselling to process your trauma in a healthy way, alongside your creative endeavours.
Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between your art and your personal life. Give yourself permission to step away from your work when it becomes too overwhelming. Creativity should not be a perpetual freefall into trauma.
Community and support: Connect with fellow artists who understand the unique challenges you face. Sharing your experiences can be therapeutic and provide valuable insights.
Mindfulness and self-care: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your routine to stay grounded. Engage in self-care activities that nourish your body and mind, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature.
Seek balance: Balance is key. Your art is an expression of your life, not a substitute for it. Make time for relationships, hobbies, and experiences outside of your creative work.
Professional help: If you find that your trauma is overwhelming your ability to create or live a fulfilling life, seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in trauma and creative individuals. Begin with talking to your GP about going on a mental health plan. This was the best first step I took in dealing with my own mental health journey.
Being a creative artist dealing with trauma is a complex and nuanced journey. It is a double-edged sword that can both wound and heal. To wield this weapon effectively, artists can learn to turn up for themselves. Through self-compassion, therapeutic creativity, setting boundaries, seeking support, practising self-care, and finding balance, artists can navigate the challenging terrain of creativity and trauma, emerging stronger and more resilient on the other side. In this ongoing battle, the artist’s greatest masterpiece is often the tapestry of their own life, woven with threads of creativity and resilience.
Here are some resources that can help along the journey: