If you take a look at history and those who are listed as "The Greatest" you'll find a long, torrid, history of madness, insanity and substance abuse. Have you ever really paused to think about why that is? Recently I was given that exact opportunity as I was faced with my own brain health issues. Here's what I discovered:
At the beginning of April I realized there was something very wrong with me. I had completely ceased to care about anything at all; my business, myself, my health, everything. I found myself blazing around 25 MPH curves at a soaring 60-70 MPH and my only fear was that my car would be totaled. Where my brain was, I couldn't tell you but I recognized enough to know something was wrong. I was still dong the basic things: picking up my daughter from school, showering and reading but I was no longer caring about life at all. My business started to suffer and I soon found myself completely client-less and, worse, no concern for that at all.
So what happened?
As hard as this is to admit to or even accept, I had brain health issues that were majorly affecting my day to day. And I was in need of serious help.
Fortunately, I have an amazing support team. Each one of my friends and family, my boyfriend and my 16 year old daughter had all noticed something was really wrong with Elley. And each one handled it in their own way. Yet not one called me out. They all figured I would come to them when I was ready. And eventually I was.
It's strange, you know? To write this all out here, on my business blog as though I were journaling. But at the same time, what I went through many creatives go through and a good chunk of the time, none of them realize it until it's too late. I wasn't exactly suicidal but I had ceased to care if I lived. I wasn't just being a bitch because it's my nature anymore. Suddenly I was being a bitch because I just didn't care. In fact, I cared about very little and what I did care about usually had a candy manufacturer in it's name. It was almost like I knew that there was something wrong but I didn't care enough to do a damn thing about it.
One by one I stopped talking to people. I have never been a person who lets people in easily to begin with so cutting those who were already "inside" was definitely not me being myself. My best friend of over 16 years, cut off. My best friend that I do everything with, shut out. My boyfriend... For some reason I decided to cling to him and wound up overwhelming the shit out of him to the point where he had no idea where to turn to. My family, I started lying about how I was feeling. "I don't feel well" became my mantra. What the hell was I going to do now that I had dug this hole?
When I had moments of clarity, I researched. I read every article, blog post, book and webpage dedicated to creative minds and mental illness. I hit pay dirt with this one here. It turns out that we creatives, the visually stimulated, artistic types, often suffer and suffer a lot. In fact, many of us suffer in silence because we are creative geniuses and it's just the price we pay for our talent. Edgar Allen Poe killed himself with drugs and alcohol yet one could argue that his work is the greatest American literature ever produced. This gave me pause.
Was I going to kill myself? Or was I already killing myself slowly?
With each article I read, I swore to get help.
Finally I went to my sister. I told her what was happening and what I wanted to do. We held a family meeting and it was agreed. I was going to take a mini vacation in a hospital where someone was going to sort out my head. I knew it was going to be hard and that I was going to have to put forth an effort like I never had before. But my resolve was thick. Let's do this.
Fast forward to today. It's May 1st and I feel like I have been through the flames of hell and come out the other side. The way my family and friends rallied to help me still blows my mind. I spent three days inpatient working with a team to stabilize my mind and have been working an outpatient program for three weeks. Day by day I was getting stronger. Day by day I was returning to myself. I even felt well enough to take my 5 year old on a trip to Florida during Spring Break and everything was absolutely wonderful. I returned hoe a completely different person (a post for another day but there are bears involved).
But what did I learn from all this? Why did I choose now to return to work? Am I really ready?
The answers are long and drawn out but the hardest point to reach was finding a doctor that understood my creative mind. Creatives cannot just be handed some Xanax or Lithium and sent on their way. Many brain health medications today kill off that creative spark and we will slowly wither and die without our outlets. I needed a doctor that wasn't going to try and stifle my creativity for the sake of my mental health. Luckily I found one and, with a very careful cocktail of medications, I am stable, still creating and, dare I say, happy.
Returning to work was a difficult decision. Mainly, I need my business because I need to make money - like everyone else out there. But I also knew my business helped me create. I create beautiful websites or I help other businesses flourish. In truth, few things make me happier than taking on a new client that is full of potential to do great things.
Am I really ready? Time will tell. But by getting this post out there, by sharing some of my experience, where I have been and what happened to me, I can at least make a fresh start of honesty and truth; two things I value above all else.
I refuse to hide this part of me.
It's who I am, what I am. I am not going to let my diagnosis and brain health force me into a corner where I fear people discovering it and where I end up working a mindless menial job because I allowed this fear to rule me. I am in control now. Of my thoughts, of my actions. And it's time to start acting again. It's time to start working with people and teaching the how to build, accept and grow.
And you know what? I can't wait!
Until next time,