Battling Anxiety With Creativity – My Personal Journey

battling anxiety with nicole lautore

I do a lot of lists on this blog. Mostly because lists break up the information in a way that is easy for the reader to remember. I know you have little extra time on your hands, as do I, so I usually want to share my knowledge with you in the quickest way possible. But today I want to talk to you one on one. No lists or silly gifs or puns. Today I’m speaking as a person who has suffered personally and artistically from mental illness.

I’ve thought about doing a post like this for a really long time, but every time I tried to type it out, it never came out right. Today I’m going to ask you to forgive my grammatical errors. Forgive my run on sentences. Forgive my misspellings. Today we’re just going to talk.

We are going to talk about anxiety.

It has become such a light, tossed around term, hasn’t it? Anxiety. It doesn’t quite measure up to the weight that I feel on my chest from day to day. The chronic side-effects that I grapple with doing simple tasks. It’s not a good enough word anymore. Anxiety. Deemed temporary or non life-threatening. You have anxiety? So what? Doesn’t everyone? Well, yeah. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18+.

It’s so common, yet still taboo to talk about. At least in my experience it has been. If it’s a different situation for you, that’s fantastic. For me, anxiety is a label on a debilitating feeling that I’ve had for most of my life. This feeling makes writing, or any other type of creative task, extremely difficult. The self-doubt is through the roof. The guilt. The pressure for everything to be perfect. Sometimes it’s just too much to handle.

I had a lull in writing a few years ago. It happened right when I got out of college. I was thrown into acting like a full fledged self-sufficient adult with a 60 hour work week and a wedding to plan. Not to mention the debt. It’s all too much to even think about. So I stopped writing. I sacrificed the one thing that made me happy so I could be a person that everyone else wanted me to be. That was a huge mistake. Because that’s when my anxiety shot from mild to unbearable.

For some reason, in our twenties, we start to become a product of the people around us even more so than ever before. We’re trying to find our place in the world and in our workplace, and we are so easily manipulated and persuaded by people we believe know better. Trust me, I’ve been there. I wanted to be taken seriously in the work force. I wanted to make money for a future family my Husband and I would have. I wanted success and for my parents proud. I was manipulated into believing that writing just wasn’t going to accomplish any of these things. So I let it go.

At this point, I had stopped writing completely. Ceased to care about my creative endeavors. It was all a pipe dream I left in grade school, pressed between the pages of forgotten journals and notes to friends. I thought focusing on “real” goals and “acting like an adult” would make my life better. As you may have guessed, my anxiety got worse. So, so much worse.

Up until this point I hadn’t even told anyone I thought I had a problem. But as my anxiety started to morph into a very severe depression, my husband and close friends started to notice. I wasn’t creating anything anymore. There was no outlet. No coping mechanism for understanding the world around me. I was lost.

Until I had a pen in my hand again.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Writing again took time. I still grapple with my anxiety and depression. I still have attacks. But they’re fewer and far between, and I’m able to talk about them now like never before. So what changed?

There was no magical turning point, as much as I wish I there was. As a matter of fact I’m still battling this and probably will be for a very long time, if not forever. Although, now I’ve got something extra up my sleeve. I have a secret weapon. I have come to an understanding that I can actually use my creativity, and my writing, to battle my anxiety. Fight off the helplessness, the emotions, the panic. I stopped thinking of “being a writer” as something I could only dream about. I set goals and got to work. 

Everyone has their own personal way of dealing with things like anxiety or depression. Mine just happens to be control. (I’m a control freak. Not a tiny one, a HUGE control freak. But that’s a different story.) Right around the time all these things became a mess for me was around the same time I felt as if I was losing control of my life. Things were spiraling in several directions and I had no control over the steering wheel.

With writing, I have control. (Or so I like to think.) I dive in, I create, I tell my story. My anxiety doesn’t matter here, because this is my world and I built it.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is: I messed up. I should have never let go of my passion. What makes you money isn’t necessarily anything that you’ll gain from emotionally or creatively. And while writing wasn’t making me any money at the time, it was offering me so much more than that. It was therapy. It was lucrative for my heart, not my wallet. Sure, sometimes I wish friends and family would ask me how my novel writing is going with the same enthusiasm they ask my husband about his mechanic career, and my friend about her biology degree, but I can get over that. Writing is for me, not for small talk around the dinner table.

With that, I want to encourage you to hold tight to your passions. Don’t let them go for anything. As adults there always has to be a “point” or “purpose.” An end result to something we spend time on. Toss that out the window. Work hard at your job and take care of yourself, but set aside certain things that you do purely because they make you happy. This is how I battle my anxiety. How do you battle yours?

<3


Sometimes, an outlet isn’t enough. Sometimes a pep talk from a blog is far from what you need. Sometimes you need help, and that’s okay. Here are some resources you can turn to:

Crisis Call Center
800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
http://crisiscallcenter.org/crisisservices.html

National Hopeline Network
800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
800-442-HOPE (4673)
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
http://www.hopeline.com

National Mental Health Association Hotline
800-273-TALK (8255)
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
http://www.nmha.org

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Comments

  1. Wow, that sound familiar, and different, too. I think mental illness is different for everyone. Maybe that’s what makes it hard to talk about.

    I’ve been fighting Generalized Anxiety Disorder (compounded by pinched nerves causing headaches and fatigue) since I was in my teens. I kept fighting it, but eventually I ended up on disability. I couldn’t have kept going if it wasn’t for art and writing. It was really the only thing that gave me hope. Things are so much better, now. A chiropractor is helping with the pinched nerves and I finally have the strength to deal with the anxiety, making use of the techniques I’ve been taught over the years. Like you, there are still times when the attacks come, but they’re getting farther apart. Funny thing, the better I get at handling them, the better I get at my creative pursuits.

    For anyone else dealing with mental illness – there is hope. Sometimes it takes time to find the right treatment, but don’t give up.

    1. It DEFINITELY has made you stronger to deal with all of that, I promise. And it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the worst of it, but at the end of the day, we’re both stronger because of these struggles.

      See you on Twitter! 🙂 <3

  2. I gotta say thank you for this post. I deal with an autoimmune disease, which helps feed the depression and anxiety, but writing is something that I feel breaks through all of those things. And, I’m totally the control freak, too. I completely understand.

    1. I gotta say thank you for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it. <3 And I'm so glad it spoke to you. Control freaks unite!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I went through something similar — right after college, I sank under a mountain of debt, moved away from home, took six months to find a full-time job, and lost most of my life’s savings in the process. Writing just seemed like something I had to feel guilty about wanting to pursue when everything around me demanded money and success. You’re absolutely right: creative outlets are imperative in this world, and I too started feeling more like myself when I focused my energy on writing again.

    1. I am right there with you! I am so glad you connected with the post and took the time to comment! 🙂 We’ll get through this. <3

    2. Well, I may not be 17 anymore, but I do know what it’s like to have srtess, depression and anxiety hit you all at once, and I do know how hard it can be. I also do not want any medication.All these things run in my family and sadly enough, most of them have become dependent on the medication. I have promised myself that I would never let that happen to me.Sometimes I break out into these horrible moods one minute, the next I’m crying my eyes out, and the next I just want to be left alone. That is no way for any person to live. You need support from loved ones to help out a little. We all need some help sometimes and the first step at helping depression in wanting to get better. I have chosen away to help myself, but I also ask others around me to be patient with me, it is a long process. I have been dealing with this in my life for years now, but slowly it is getting better.I realize this is a long answer, but I know a lot about this topic, and it saddens me to know that too many people suffer from this illness. In some cases, people need medication due to the chemical imbalance. Some just need learn that they have the power to overcome this. That is what I’m choosing to do, and so far I’m getting there.You are 17 years old and life can get better or much much worse. Always think to yourself, you are much greater then the srtess, the pain, and the worries that you deal with everyday. School can be tough on people, but always know you can only do so much to please people. Try pleasing yourself, worry about yourself.Take one day at a time and just know that the horrible day will not last forever, and try not to bring your worries to the next days, that is the past and there is nothing you can do to change that.

    • Stephanie
    • December 10, 2015

    Hey there. Thank you for writing this post. Thank you for being so honest, for putting yourself out there like this. It can be really difficult to put these things into words. I feel I can relate. I want to write so bad, and yet I haven’t written properly for months. I can understand self-doubt and the desire for perfection. I’m struggling, but your post gives me hope. Stay strong! And good luck for the future! <3

    1. I’m so so glad it spoke to you, and I hope you find your spark to write again soon! Even if you don’t, you should try to write anyway! Sometimes the inspiration won’t come unless we give it a head start first.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! <3

  4. I felt incredibly down when I graduated graduate school and didn’t have a job. People would ask me what I do and I would shamefully tell them nothing yet. When I first got work writing for an online magazine I was ecstatic because I could talk about it, but then that contract ended and I was jobless. As a freelancer, I go off and on from having a job and having to search for a new one and I long for a job with security, but I would hate working in a job where I don’t get to write, edit, or do social media. That passion and the belief my family, my friends, and my girlfriend have in me keeps me going. (I’m shocked when people tell me how much they love my writing because I get so used to it that I forget it’s specialness.)

    My mild depression seems to come to most when I have no work, so to deal with that I try very hard to follow the advice in ‘Stop Worrying and Start Living’ because I’m encouraged by these people who have been close to dying, but stopped worrying about it and started living and got better. I don’t want depression to hold me down so I immerse myself in my passions (even if that’s just helping people with social media) and ‘do’ something each day. I find that helping others does help me forget my worries and depression. 🙂

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