It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and it’s been amazing to see so many folks in the creative industry opening up about their own experiences with mental health, especially during this time of lockdown.
One of the reasons it resonates for me when I see folks in my industry share is that I’ve quietly struggled for a long time with self worth issues and as a result shouting about myself is super difficult for me. I’ve often felt it’s just me. Which is of course, not true.
It lives quite happily hand in hand with the dreaded imposter syndrome a lot of creatives have. Even when I produce something I’m very proud of — I have in the past found it quite hard to celebrate that.
So self promotion for Squid has been… not stellar. This is something I’m definitely hoping to change in the coming months. And there’s a reason behind that change which I shared over on Twitter earlier this week.
As it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek I thought I’d talk a bit about my own — I finally took the plunge and started therapy last year. I wasn’t in a severely bad place — but I’d noticed things creeping in — a general sadness, more frequent, harder to ignore.
I had ignored it for a long time. I was getting married, that’s stressful. The climate emergency, well that’s huge. Politics… oof. And those were factors sure. But I felt helpless, and useless. But most things were good in my life.
It’s the classic my pain isn’t as bad as someone else’s pain, you don’t deserve to feel bad. I have lots of friends with bigger issues, more profound problems with their mental health. But I did seek help.
And it really really helped. I’m not sunbeams and joy, the world is still a ****show. But I know where my issues came from, have a better understanding of how everything is connected. And everything is connected.
I’m now able to recognise when I’m liable to push myself too hard and write off a day. I feel less guilt when I don’t produce creatively. I feel less guilt when I play a game, or do anything that I enjoy.
I stop myself from saying I’m being “stupid” “irrational” “nonsense”. Because I now know that’s not true. I might have a reaction which is not proportionate. But it all comes from somewhere in me.
For me it’s tied into being queer — I grew up during the 80s and 90s. I think I was 7 when Section 28 came in, so it covered all my formative years. Teachers couldn’t say anything and my parents didn’t have the right language or education to make me know it was safe to be me.
So you grow up thinking you’re alone, an alien, something other. And with the casually homophobic language used around you, certainly something to belittle and hate. It stays with you. You belittle your own work. Nothing you do is right. Not worthy.
The imposter syndrome that so many creatives feel, I think is magnified by this. I know my work is good. But can I stand up and shout that it is? Not easily. And anything that’s personal to me? Almost impossible.
I’ve written the best part of a novel each year for the last nine years as part of #NaNoWriMo and each year I promise I’ll share a draft with someone to get feedback. And each year I wait until they forget, then do nothing with it.
It’s the same with my personal projects — I can share client work because it’s impersonal, my role is to make something spot on for the client, it represents them, not me. Personally initiated designs? Very very hard to share.
There’s more but maybe I’ll save that for #pridemonth I’m just another queer damaged by ignorance, and I’m so happy to see younger queer folks happier, healthier. And it’s meant a LOT to me to see other creatives talk openly about #mentalhealth so here’s my few pennies.
As much progress as there has been — I see a lot of the same old arguments being made against trans folk. I don’t want to see that happen again — more rights for us doesn’t mean less rights for anyone else. Support all LGBT+ people. We all just want to you know, exist.
After years, I’ve got the support I need thankfully — I have a loving and supportive husband and my counselling sessions have massively helped. It’s scary being this open, but I know how much it meant to me to see others open up, so here’s me doing the same.
If you’re in need there is a lot of support out there:
The Samaritans offer support 24 hours a day: 116 123
Switchboard LGBT+ helpline: 0300 330 0630
Mind: 0300 123 3393
Rethink Mental Illness: 0300 5000 927
And within the design industry there’s an amazing initiative called Design Recovery