Black Holes and Revelations

Oct 11, 2018 | Musings

When I started this post, I thought I was going to tell you about how I created the Mixed Up brand. But really? Who would care much about that. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear me wax lyrical about the highs and lows of running your own business….

But it’s Mental Health Awareness week and so instead I decided on a different tack and a little bit of brutal honesty. Like a lot of people, circumstances as much as than purpose have driven me to where I am today. That doesn’t mean I don’t (mostly) like where I ended up, but sometimes I wonder what could have been different.

So here goes. This is the first time I’ve shared this in public before. Deep breath……..  Back in the 2000s I had a huge breakdown. I barely got out of bed for 6 months, I was in a deep, dark hole and I couldn’t find my way out. As time went on, I slowly, occasionally, started to poke my head up from the hole, and on one of those occasions I decided that perhaps a distraction would be helpful. A trip to Hobbycraft later and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had dabbled in the past in lots of different crafts but never stuck at it – now with time on my hands, I was able to get more involved, and scrapbooking my beloved dog gave me purpose and made me smile when few things did. When I was finally well enough to think about returning to work, I wanted to look for an opportunity where I could indulge my love of art and craft. As luck would have it, I found myself in the right place at the right time; and some months later, I got the post of editor of UK magazine Craft Stamper.

A very dodgy early scrapbook layout (note to newbies – I have improved somewhat!)

I loved and hated that job in equal measure, and although I’d made progress with my health, the black dog continued to visit me on a pretty regular basis. I stuck it out for over 6 years but working in publishing is HARD; it’s utterly relentless. And by that time I was burned out and my mental health had taken a nose dive.

I tried this and that – experimenting with less senior roles in an office and in retail – where I’d wouldn’t feel as much pressure. But I was more unhappy than ever; bored, under-stimulated, feeling worthless. So I handed in my notice and took a huge leap into the unknown world of self-employment.

I still feel worthless some days and the black dog is always at my side, but the difference now is that I am in control of my time, my workload and the pace of things. I’m constantly learning new skills, and that keeps my overactive brain happy. I am my own boss, and if I need a duvet day I let myself do it to recharge my batteries. And I’m still working in a field that I love.

A journal page I made as a video tut for Mixed Up Creative – journaling can be very healing.

Why am I sharing this? Because I know so, so many of you have the same daily struggle that I do. And I’m at the stage now where I feel like I shouldn’t have to hide who I am from the world any more. Weird as it might sound, my mental illness has changed me in so many ways for the better – I’m more empathetic, more tolerant, kinder, softer.

And I know that you, like me, take solace in expressing yourself creatively. Things have changed a lot for me in the last ten years, but art has been my constant and loyal friend. I would go so far as to say it has literally been my saviour.

Katy x
Katy Leitch
Mixed Up Creative Founder

…I’d love to hear your stories too – if you feel comfortable, leave me a comment below…

10 Comments
  1. Sandra

    Well done Katie. I can really empathise with you. I too have suffered from mental illness for s long time. I suffered from stress and depression after being bullied by the head teacher, in my job as a secondary school maths teacher. I had to leave the job on Ill health. This came with lots of guilt, which didn’t help my mental state. I too have been a very dark place where I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. Even though have a family I feel incredibly lonely at times. Like you crafting has been my saviour. This is the first time I have ever put this in print.

    Reply
    • Debs smith

      Hi Katy. I was diagnosed with severe depression in 2016. 2015 had been an awful year, I could feel myself getting lower and lower and once a month my husband would have to go to Gloucestershire for work leaving me in a house on my own. We had returned from two years in China and I had stupidly expected to pick up with friends where we had left off. I was lonely and kept myself busy with art journaling and little else. It helped me no end. I finally went back to work and then in January this year I came off the antidepressants packed in my job, became self employed. Yesterday I launched Art Journaling in the Workplace. The idea is that I will go into local businessses and do workshops to help with among other things Mental Health. You do an amazing job Katy x

      Reply
  2. Melina

    Dear Katy! This is a great blog post. You are one awesome lady, never forget that <3
    My story is similar. I pushed myself too far and had my breakdown 3 years ago. (Pain and rheumatic diseases was a big part of that too) As you, I had some time to spend while healing and started my artsy journey "for real". I have slowly climbed up the ladder since then, but unfortunately I'm now more or less back on the bottom for the last few months. I'm fighting to support one of my children who is suffering from mental illness…

    Reply
    • katyleitch

      You are awesome too and don’t you forget it either. You know where I am if you need me xxxxxx

      Reply
  3. Corrie

    Thank you for sharing your story Katy ! Again I am amazed at how many creative people suffer with mental health problems. I first met the black dog, as you call it, in the early nineties and at rock bottom I was suicidal. Although I was not capable of much I kept working my full time job because I felt that structure in my life helped with the depression. Apart from that, the doc at my firm wouldn’t sign me off. I guess they didn’t believe in mental health problems at that time. So there I was, driving to work every day, trying not to stop at one of the two railway crossings I had to go over… These days I am much better, I guess you learn to deal with it. Unfortunately I feel I didn’t gain anything from it, I lost my spontaneity and carefree way of living, became quite a worrier. On the upside I am still here and try to enjoy my life although I don’t always succeed !

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  4. Jennie Atkinson

    Well done for sharing Katy – it must have been so difficult to hit the share button, but I am so glad you did. I live my life with a partner who has major mental health and physical problems and know what it is like looking in …. and opening up and talking about what you go through is not easy. You share so much of yourself with us every day in terms of your creativity, thoughtfulness and support. So quite rightly hold on to that and know that we are all there loving what you do for us xxx

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  5. Lotte Kristensen

    Katy, thank you so much for bravely sharing your story – although mental health is more talked about these days, there is still a lot of stigma, but like you, I’ve never shied away from being open about my struggles with mental health. Looking back, I can see I was depressed even as a child and teenager, although it only imploded after the birth of my second child and I ended up with three stays in a psychiatric unit over an 18 month period. Thankfully, I’ve managed to stay out of the funny farm since (this was 20+ years ago) but I’ve always got to be aware of my mental state and work at it. Thank all the gods for creativity – it really is therapy (though prolly not cheaper than seeing a shrink LOL!) and I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my huge stash to play with!

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  6. Michelle Webb

    Katy what a brilliant blog post, I love your honesty. I always warm to a person who reveals their true feelings about things, makes everything so much more personable, like you’re having a chat with a friend 🙂 xxx

    I don’t particularly have my own story of “the black dog coming to visit” I’m annoyingly upbeat, positive and a happy bastard most of the time. But I have a really good sense of telling when something is troubling someone else and have the uncanny knack of cheering them up. Somehow we end up giggling and finding the positivity in their lives and the black dog starts wagging his tail and getting a tickle round the ear. More often than not it’s creativity that helps, in whatever form, from painting, journaling, sewing or writing. There’s a lot to be said for art, and you my friend are taking time away from your black dog to make wonderful art therapy for everyone else, so a win, win in both camps I think. Thank you for all that you do Katy, and sharing your story with us. You are an inspiration in more ways than one. Many doggie hugs and licks to you xxxxxxxxxxx

    Reply
  7. Helen Angel-Cullum

    Thank you Katie – for everything!! Especially being brave and putting your story out there. It can be (sometimes) cathartic to tell the world. I have had no less than 4 mental breakdowns now and each time that hole to climb back out of gets deeper. My son also has severe mental health issues and daughter is still taking antidepressants following the birth of my gorgeous granddaughter over 2.5 yrs ago, maybe it runs in the family. I am still expected to be the strong one and this, alone, can take it’s toll. Crafting is my saviour as it is for so many of you out there. I can temporarily forget the pain, both mental and physical. Thank goodness that we can share and know that we’re not really alone in our hell. Meeting up with people in a similar boat and talking, crafting and having fun is just the medicine I crave at least twice a year. Roll on November Mega, Gentle Hugs to all that need them

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  8. Lynne

    Thank you for sharing your difficult journey Katy. I was bullied at school for years which wasn’t a great start and mildly self harmed a few times. When I met my partner we had talked about children then five years after marrying he decided he didn’t want any. Choice stay and be childless or leave and start again. I stayed and depression crept up. I didn’t want to talk, do anything even leave the house. After some time on medication I didn’t want to be in at all and had had lots of suicidal thoughts . Managed to get stable and then my dad was killed in a car. 6 month later it started all over again . My husband had to take my craft knife away from me , doctors orders…just in case! Again stabilised for quite a few years and work stress triggered it again . Apparently I have recurrent depression and on two types of meds. Here’s to all who suffer in silence (first time I’ve been brave enough to let strangers know my story!) and good on us all for now speaking out ! 😘

    Reply

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