Black Holes and Revelations
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.
Mixed Up Creative Founder
…I’d love to hear your stories too – if you feel comfortable, leave me a comment below…