The life of a creative can feel chaotic at times. In a world where spreading yourself thin and being “so busy” is often seen as a marker of success, it’s easy to pressure yourself into overdoing it.
In 2015, I was fighting a losing battle against “busy.” My portrait photography hobby had grown into a respectable side business, allowing me to leave my full-time job and take a position in a quiet office with a flexible part-time schedule. I even had Fridays off, which gave me the opportunity to volunteer at a local animal shelter. Each week, I would grab my camera and photograph the stray and adoptable cats for the shelter’s website and social media. It burgeoned my portraiture skills. I used to joke, “If I can take a sharp, flattering image of a feral kitten, I can handle anything a toddler throws at me!”
I had more time for my creative endeavors, but the busyness didn’t seem to ease. My responses to normal stressors became disproportionate. I was getting physically sick, and I began having panic attacks. When I finally sought help for anxiety and depression, I felt like I was extremely lucky. I had the support of my spouse, a network of good healthcare providers, a new medication regimen that brought nearly immediate positive results with little side effect, and most importantly, people to talk to.
Counseling, clergy, a support group, or just an objective and honest friend can be an invaluable tool to maintaining emotional wellness. Sometimes organizing your thoughts by journaling, prayer, or even blogging can be a great creative outlet. What’s more, sharing the truth about your own brain health is the best way to destigmatize it. I found that as I was healing, I wanted to put my camera to more use than ever before. I began taking bright, colorful still-life photos because the process both cheered and soothed me. I started sharing them on Instagram with punny captions or brief thoughts about why I was taking the pictures in the first place. With that, I turned my feed into a micro-blog about my emotional wellness journey. I wanted to be able to share with other creatives and photographers the things that I most needed to hear: You are not broken. You didn’t do anything wrong. We all need a little help sometimes.
Melissa Pugliese shares her photos and stories at www.instagram.com/melissisms