I’m Sorry I’ve Been Gone: Depression Sucks

But Wait–I thought I was DOne with this?

I have always been open with my experiences with depression and anxiety. I am not ashamed of my mental health struggles, but I’m definitely annoyed to be struggling again.

For the better part of a year, I haven’t been enjoying life as I should and it has affected my creative life and my business. I’ve been hiding from you guys, because I haven’t had the energy to give, but for the sake of full transparency, creative vulnerability, and the chance that I can help someone feel less alone, I’m sharing this.

Over the last few months, I’ve still been working on art and trying to keep up appearances–but I’ve been giving it minimal effort. Though, I’m not sure people have noticed I’ve pulled back. The important thing is that I’ve noticed, and isolation isn’t good for depressed people, so here I am telling the internet about my struggles. For me, and for anyone who is experiencing the same thing.

Here’s the Bigger Story…

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about my success with depression. I say success instead of struggle, because for the first moment since developing depression in my teens, I thought I had beat it for good. Sadly, as I know now, I was only celebrating a temporary victory. Maybe I won a battle, but am still fighting the war? (There are a lot of “maybes” here…and some f-bombs.)

In that post, I outlined my “recipe for happiness”, and there are some good tips in there, but I kind of want to punch the version of me that wrote that right now. She was so happy. So triumphant. Riding the high of emotional freedom. Was I faking it? Who was that person?! Where’d she go?!

My magical vacation from depression came from hard work. Honestly the hardest internal work I have ever done. During most of my struggles with depression, I have refused drugs. I took antidepressants for three months in high school, but I didn’t want to accept that I needed something artificial to fix me. I thought I could fix it myself, and I still do. There are many opinions on the efficacy of drugs, and it’s up to each person and their doctor to decide what is right. This is just my personal choice.

In the quest to fix myself, most of my efforts to control my darkness in the past were external. I quit jobs, moved schools, removed toxic relationships from my life, and tried to find a safe place to exist. I focused on changing my environment and got some relief, but I was still struggling.

To fully conquer my darkness, as my first blog post says, I turned my attention inward and got to work. I rewired old thought patterns, I worked through dysfunctional coping mechanisms, and gave myself time to really rest and heal from past trauma. After a few months of work, I slowly started to feel fully alive again. I kept joking that I felt like a twelve year old with a credit card. Full of energy, optimism, and creative goals–and my goodness did it feel amazing! After over a decade of struggling with depression, I had done it! Hallelujah!

Or apparently not completely…

Last summer, I spontaneously started to backslide despite all of the work I did and was still doing. I started to wake up with less purpose, excitement, and optimism. I began to lose my professional ambition, and I started to fall out of my routine. I was in denial for a bit. No, this can’t be happening again. The feeling will pass. But it didn’t.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

but I did everything right?! Right?

Why is this happening?! I exercise, eat healthy, sleep enough, socialize, snuggle my dog, aggressively big spoon my partner in the night, live in a beautiful snow free state, don’t have to stress about bills, don’t drink alcohol often, barely consume caffeine, I worked on my internal flaws, I stay away from toxic relationships, I express my feelings, I dealt with old trauma, and so much more. On paper, I should be the happiest person around.

But here I am.

Maybe I slipped up and fell into old habits. Maybe my internal clock is still following Minnesota seasonal changes and I’m just living through a long mental winter. Maybe I pushed too hard creatively and just ran out of juice. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe I’m bottling up stress. Maybe I didn’t actually deal with my past trauma. Maybe I’m telling myself lies about life. Maybe it was that supplement a Naturopathic doctor put me on. Maybe it’s a nutritional deficiency. Maybe I really am just chemically flawed and need drugs to fix me. Maybe my empathic abilities are on overdrive and I’m picking up on social unrest. Maybe I was born with it. Maybe it’s fucking Mabelline!

Look at all that rumination. Sometimes the cause doesn’t matter. Just the solution–but I digress.

Anyway, I’d thought about taking that original post down. I’ve felt like a weird sort of fraud for the last 9 months, because it projected a version of me that doesn’t seem to exist right now. But I’m going to leave it up as proof that positive change is possible.

Sometimes we make progress, and then regress. Stupid fucking relapse! It just happens. It’s okay. It’s not a failure. It’s not that I’m not good enough. I didn’t do something wrong. It’s important that I don’t punish myself for this–but it’s just really fucking annoying to be here again. If you’re here too or have been here in the past, we’re in this together. Even if we are holed up in separate dark rooms staring at a lit up screen. You’re not alone, and I’m not alone. Despite the way it feels sometimes.

The brain is complex. Humans are incredible creatures filled with a chemical cocktail, and a small change to the chemical ratios can do a lot of interesting things. Like, make a person depressed even though life is going really well. Fun, right?

I don’t know for sure why my brain went off the happy trail, but I do know that ruminating on what went wrong will keep me trapped in the darkness. What matters is how I’m going to get back to being that bubbly 12 year old with a credit card again. She is fun. I like her, and I will find her again.

Search and rescue is coming!

Why am I telling you this?

Normally, when I write blog posts, I have a purpose. Some sort of inspiring or helpful takeaway. I don’t like just hearing myself speak and I definitely don’t want to be all woe is me. All I have to say right now is: I’m not okay. If you’re not okay either, that’s okay. You’re not alone. I’ll be okay soon, and I hope you’ll be okay too.

Also, I’m sorry for being gone. I suppose that is the title of the blog, so it’s a pretty important point to touch on. I’ve been dropping the ball on this whole creative entrepreneur gig. So this post is partly an apology to those of you that support me.

I haven’t been painting as much as I should, and when I do sit down to create, I just get mad. Try as I might, my brain is like “FUCK THIS! Go do something else. How about nothing? Let’s do nothing. Or eat. We can do nothing or eat.”

I haven’t been responding to comments and messages on social media in a timely fashion. Because, it takes energy–and that is in short supply. Emails sit in my inbox, unopened for days–sometimes weeks. I’ve let some opportunities just slip right by, because I was too tired to even attempt to grab onto them.

When I sit down to write a blog post, my brain just goes blank. Depression has this way of robbing you of anything you found enjoyable before. My depression takes my ability to communicate. I’m already introverted, so it takes a lot of energy for me to interact with people, but turn the depression on and it’s hard for me to even put sentences together.

Words are hard.

For those of you who support me on Patreon, I am sorry that I haven’t followed through with writing new content. Believe me, I think about it all the time, but I just can’t get the words to shake loose. Though, I’ve got some ideas that I hope I can bring to life soon.

I have a lot of okay/good days–days like today where I can wake up early and actually articulate basic thoughts, but most days I feel exhausted before I even get out of bed. I wake up and groan. I go to bed and groan. Just a lot of awkward internal groaning over here. But I’m trying and I still manage to ship orders within 24 hours of getting them–so I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for that…

But don’t worry About me

The darkness takes on many forms. It’s a gradient. From the deepest darkest black you can imagine, to a light shadow like a cloud covering the sun for a brief moment. I think it’s fair to say I have experienced a broad spectrum of darkness.

At my worst, it was paralyzing, breathless, hopelessness. Spending hours, even full days in bed. Unable to do even the most basic tasks. My body would feel heavy, my muscles replaced with sand. Every movement was a burden. I’d cancel on plans with friends and family. I have quit multiple jobs. Had panic attacks at my work desk and in college classrooms. Cried in a doctor’s office while they handed me prescriptions to “fix” my chemical flaws. At times, I was basically catatonic. Some days, I just would lie in bed in silence while I watched the sun rise and fall out the window.

That is not me right now and that hasn’t happened for years. THAT is when you can be worried. As proof, here’s a visual of my current mental state:

See, it could be much worse. My bad days used to on the far left. So in a way–I guess I did conquer the deeper levels of my darkness. If I keep distracted, I feel okay, but if I’m left in silence and really sit with my own thoughts, the darkness is all like “Hey, I’m still here!”

Cool.

Or, when I try to get my brain to do any of the financially productive things required for an adult to survive in the real world, the darkness gives me a bear hug and knocks the wind out of me. Like:

*squuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeze* “Hey friend, I see you wanted to be productive today. Let’s not do that. Look at how tired you are.”

*groan*

Moral of the story, I haven’t been okay, and I don’t know definitively what brought my darkness back, but I can say that I’m going to kick its ass again. And when I do, I’ll write all the blog posts, make lots of art, respond to social media comments within 24 hours instead of 5 weeks, and get back to waking up without a dark cloud over me. I will not accept that this is who I am forever. I conquered it in the past, and I will do it again.

I wish this post was more about fun artsy things, but maybe you’ll feel connected to this and feel like you’re not alone. Maybe it will be helpful to know someone else periodically falls apart too. Don’t hide or suffer in silence if you’re struggling.

When I wrote my recipe for happiness, all of those things really did help me, and they will continue to help me as I move forward. Today, I started writing a much longer recipe. I hope to share that with you soon. If any of the resources I have can help you, then my struggles can have a positive purpose, and that’s pretty cool.

But don’t worry about me. Just forgive me for being inconsistently present. And thank you for being patient with me.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. But, I’m sorry if it takes me a little while to respond 😉

💓Kelly

***

If you want to support me in this strange time, my art store is still fully open and I do have energy to ship things. Patreon is also a a place where money happens.

Further Reading:

You Don’t Have to Quit Your Day Job


*This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links: I will earn a commission if you make a purchase!

Be an original and do things differently–but limit your risks.

This last week, I took a trip to Minnesota, and on the plane ride from California, I pulled out my Kindle and started reading “Originals” by Adam Grant. I had every intention of reading the entire flight, but I only made it past the first chapter before I was inspired to write this blog post.

I don’t want to talk about the actual book or the concept of”Originals” (though, it’s a good read so far!), but I do want to talk about something Grant said, and how doing something that doesn’t conform with the world around you involves taking risks–but not as many risks as you’d think.

When chasing creative success, a lot of people often have the idea that they need to go big or go home. Commit to the dream or inevitably fail. Grant wrote about notable cases of success over the years that involved original thinkers/non-comformists succeeding while still minimizing risks.

He wrote about well known originals like Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and the founders of Warby Parker who didn’t abandon their “safe” jobs and life plans to pursue their new concepts until momentum was already building.

Instead of quitting everything and jumping head first into their projects, they balanced both safety and risk until the risk became more stable. You don’t have to be a huge risk taker to be an original. In fact, those who minimize risks can find more success in their fields.

The Ultimate Creative Risk

So let’s talk about the biggest risk a creative person may deal with: Quitting your day job and depending on your creativity to pay the bills.

The desired outcome is to actually have enough money to pay the bills–the risk is having the math not work in your favor. I’ve had a lot of people tell me this is their goal. It’s a great goal to have–but does your day job need to be abandoned in the beginning of your journey? Or can you wait until you make enough progress with your dreams so that you can transition slowly from stable paycheck to dependable entrepreneurship?

Can you make the numbers work?

I love spreadsheets. To me, nothing is more comforting than seeing my life laid out in concrete numbers. I am risk averse. I do what’s safe and I calculate the pros and cons of just about every situation I enter. From career changes to driving in a snow storm. I don’t blindly jump into a situation I know nothing about.

If you are considering quitting your job to chase your creative dreams I want you to look at your life right now. What are your expenses? Do you have a family to take care of? Do you have a mortgage to pay for? Do you need healthcare? All of these things should be addressed before you even consider abandoning that stable paycheck to chase your dreams. It can all feel very overwhelming at first, but look at your expenses. Start calculating what areas you can cut down. Trim away anything that you don’t NEED. Compare your total expenses with your current income and savings.

Can you make the numbers work? Can you minimize the risks in your life?

You DOn’t Have to Do What Everyone Else Does: Make your own plan

I encourage you to make a plan. One of the scariest parts about abandoning your job is figuring out where your next payday will come from, but having a plan decreases risk.

How far along in your creative career are you? Do you have any sources of income that can grow? Include this in your spreadsheet. How many art shows can you do on the weekends? Do you have a savings built up that you can pull from as you progress? Do you have a partner or roommate that you can make a deal with?

Think of all of the possibilities of replacing your day job income and put it on your spreadsheet. How do the numbers look now? Probably still a little scary. Which is why I say: You don’t have to quit your day job.

You don’t have to go big or go home. You don’t have to focus all of your energy on your creativity. You can succeed creatively while still maintaining a sense of safety in your life.

Consider these 4 things before quitting your day job:

1. Balance your energy between creativity and income

When aspiring actors move to LA, they become waiters, bartenders, and fill other service positions. It’s not because they suck at acting or don’t have any other skills, it’s because they are balancing their energy/time output and their need to pay the bills.

If you want to pursue a creative career, how can you find a sense of safety while working on your dreams and still have enough energy to do creative work?

Maybe your current 9-5 job is too exhausting and leaves you with no energy to even think about your dreams when you get home. You don’t have to keep that job. Find something that gives you a paycheck and doesn’t sap your energy. There is no shame in working a service position or part-time gig. The only thing that matters is giving yourself a balance of time, energy, and money to pay the bills.

2. Don’t ask too much of your creativity

I have to point to another book here. “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I don’t remember where in the book, and I don’t remember the exact quotes, but Gilbert writes about how unfair it can be to put expectations on your creativity to make money.

How asking so much of it can actually push it away. I can confirm in my own life that the moments where I need to produce something in order to make money are the least enjoyable creative exercises for me. The moments where my creativity wanes and the pressure to produce waxes can feel soul crushing.

Some people thrive under pressure, but many people like me crumble. In order to nurture your creativity, sometimes it’s best to take away the burden to make money. Take the pressure to create away.

If you quit your day job, how much pressure will that add to your creative process? How will that pressure change you and how much you enjoy what you do?

Maybe you will be the person who always has a day job. Maybe your creativity is there just for you. Maybe down the road it will take off and suddenly become your main source of income. There is no wrong way to be a creative person, but if you find that pressure to create makes you miserable and unproductive–then don’t quit your day job. Remove that burden from your creativity.

3. Life informs your Creativity

Another reason why you don’t need to quit your day job is that creativity needs fuel, and life is like gasoline.

If you are a writer, you may have noticed that you need to experience life to really flesh out what you write. Work places expose us to different people, situations, characters, and problems to solve. Sometimes a day job is exactly what we need to inspire and inform our creativity.

Instead of quitting your day job, look at how it can actually fuel you. This is the same for anyone considering quitting school to chase a dream. I may have quit the art program in college, but I shifted my focus to other areas that would still feed my creativity. How can you do the same?

4. Do you just need to rest?

You may be wondering why I’m encouraging you not to quit your day job to pursue a creative career, when I did that exact thing. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when I quit my last full time job, it wasn’t because I so desperately wanted to just focus on my art. It was because I was deeply, dysfunctionally depressed. I started to have panic attacks at my work desk. I couldn’t focus on simple tasks. I was stressed and unhappy and I simply couldn’t be a productive employee much longer.

I used art as an excuse, but I knew I needed to just stay still for a moment–a week, a month, maybe even a year. I would tell people I was going to focus on art, and in a sense I did, but I didn’t have any real plan to make it a business. I just needed to make myself feel productive while I healed my mind, and so I painted and shared it with the world.

If you have dreams of quitting your job and working on art all day–is it because you are so fired up about your craft and you have a plan to make it into a business? Or, do you just need to rest (or maybe even find a new job)?

Mental health is talked about a lot these days, but not enough. There are so many of us that struggle with daily life. It’s perfectly fine to dream about an escape and to think about doing art all day. It might be exactly what you need. Just do yourself a favor and remove the pressure to make money from it. I can speak from experience that the pressure to make money while healing can just perpetuate the negative health state you’re already in.

If you need a rest, then take one. Truly. Use art as therapy until you feel whole again, and consider finding a new job that isn’t as mentally taxing if you aren’t financially able to take time off.

***

You don’t have to quit your day job in order to succeed as a creative person. Take a look inside of yourself and see what YOU need in order to take care of yourself and your creativity and carve your own path. Day job, side hustle, part time gig, or whatever–just do what’s right for you and take care of your responsibilities.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Move Past Failure and Believe in Yourself

How I keep moving forward after my many many failures.

When I was a kid, I believed I could do anything. I would happily sing Spice Girls and imagine myself being equally famous some day. I ran around the yard and mixed potions out of collected rainwater and colorful leaves, dreaming of being a scientist–or a witch. Both were viable options. When I experimented with my own apple cinnamon muffin recipe when I was nine, I fully believed I could run my own bakery in the future.

When I started skateboarding when I was thirteen I imagined becoming pro. Same with snowboarding. Never mind the fact that I had few skills and a very VERY low pain tolerance. (I’ve still got a scar on my hip from a graceful belly flop onto a sidewalk…)

I dreamed about all of the different lives I could choose for myself. I didn’t see obstacles. I didn’t see limitations. I saw a thing that I enjoyed doing, and a vision for what life would look like if I pursued it. I was also having a fantastic time.

I believed in myself. And–

Believing in yourself is the most important thing you can do to move past failures.

I didn’t succeed at any of those dreams (yet). You could say I failed at every one of them if you look at the definition of failure as a lack of success. You could even say that I’m failing at my current dreams depending on how you look at it. A few recent failures prompted me to write this post. I found myself looking at job listings online, because maybe, just maybe I should explore other non-creative career options.

But that lasted all of ten minutes, before I started giving myself this pep talk and turned it into a blog post.

Many of us fear failure, as if it defines us or is a permanent state, but I define failure as accepting an unexpected outcome without further action. So if I applied for a job for someone else and gave up on this whole creative pursuit of mine–then that would be failure.

You’re going to fail many times in life. A lack of success happens over and over again. The important thing is what you do after each failure and how you convince yourself to keep moving forward.

And that’s where the belief in yourself comes in.

Three Reasons Why You Need to Believe in Yourself:

  1. Belief fuels you to continue moving forward.
  2. Belief makes the present moment more enjoyable and worthwhile.
  3. Belief turns failure into opportunity.

Belief is a catalyst. If you belief you can do something, you are pushed to pursue it. You are charged up by the pursuit of a possibility. It doesn’t really matter what exactly you believe you can accomplish, and it doesn’t matter if you ever reach your end goal. Just having belief that the future will look the way you want can make every mundane and arduous task ahead of you seem more enjoyable.

Believing in yourself assigns you a purpose. It makes everything you do have meaning.

What happens when you don’t believe in yourself:

  1. You don’t move forward (because what’s the point, right?)
  2. You may depend on others to hold you up and encourage you.
  3. You abandon your dreams before you even try to reach them.
  4. You don’t enjoy the present moment.
  5. You internalize failure.
  6. You become a pessimist.

If belief in yourself is a catalyst that moves you forward, a lack of belief will hold you right where you are. Look at all those unpleasant side effects of not believing in yourself. Are you ready to believe?

How to Believe in Yourself Right Now and Move Past Failure

I spent a long time not believing in myself. I lost the thirteen year old skater punk, and the nine year old baker and became a pessimist for years. For the last three years, I have been rewiring my brain and have worked hard at reclaiming my belief in myself. Now, I’ll share with you how I’ve done it.

1. Challenge your negative confirmation bias.

When I was a pessimist, I was always looking for proof that I sucked. Proof I couldn’t succeed. Total confirmation bias on my part. I believed I couldn’t succeed, so I found evidence that supported that belief everywhere I looked.

I had to turn off this thought pattern. The first step was recognizing when my brain latched onto a negative belief, and then saying “Whoa there, Kelly. You don’t have to think this thought.” or “Whoa there, Kelly, why are you searching for jobs that you know won’t fulfill you?!”

Recognize when you are following this thought pattern and stop it in its tracks. Overtime, you can replace this with a positive thought pattern and train your confirmation bias to work in your favor.

If I tell you to notice the color red, you’ll start picking it out in the environment around you. If I tell you to see all the areas where you are succeeding, you’ll do the same. Don’t tell your brain to see all of your failures.

2. Realize you don’t need proof to believe in yourself.

You don’t need to know you will succeed to believe you can succeed. Knowing and believing are two different things. Belief needs no evidence.

I repeat: YOU DON’T NEED TANGIBLE EVIDENCE TO BELIEVE POSITIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF.

You don’t need anyone to tell you what you’re capable or incapable of doing. Though, if you meet someone who excitedly encourages you to do the things you love and makes you feel like you can take on any obstacle in your way, keep them around. Those people are the best. Just don’t depend on them to replace your inner belief.

3. Do what a person who believes would do.

Remember when I said a lack of belief holds you back and belief moves you forward? Belief may be a catalyst, but you can still move forward without consciously believing in yourself. It just takes a little more work.

Our brains are big and powerful, but sometimes our conscious mind is a little slow to pick up on the benefits of positive habits. You don’t have to think “I can do it!” You don’t have to have mantras or sticky notes on your mirror with affirmations. You don’t have to gush positivity. You can start by simply taking the same step that a person who does believe in themselves would take. It’s a little “fake it ’til you make it”, but I stand by it.

If you want to run a marathon, but don’t believe you can, what would people who believe in themselves do? Get out of bed early and run? Do that.

What would a painter who believes they can make a living from their art do? Find the person doing what you want to do and mimic their actions. Let their belief carry you until yours develops.

4. Take power away from “success”.

Success isn’t everything. One way to prevent the sting of failure is to take the power away from success. Don’t hold tightly to your expectations. For example, if you want to learn how to draw hyper-realistic portraits, start by learning the basics. Break your goal down into the smallest tasks you can and build incremental success. Don’t expect to achieve your main goal right away.

Sharpen a pencil. Get out a pad of paper. Find a reference photo. Put the pencil to paper. Draw a single line. Draw another line. Shade over here. Shade over there. Don’t psych yourself out by thinking you have to draw technically perfect portraits right away, or even at all. Focus on the actions you can complete right now and don’t focus on your expectation for the end.

Recognize each task as a moment for success. Sharpen a pencil=Success. Draw a line=success.

***

Alright, I’m feeling sufficiently pepped, and all job hunting browser tabs have been closed. I hope you enjoyed this post and found a little encouragement to believe in yourself as well! What’s the worst that could happen? 😉

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: