what i've learned making art with my hypomanias
WhAT i've learned making art with MY hypomanias
So, an very unexpected and neat thing happened after my rock bottom and during the start of my recovery — something entirely new — when my psychiatrist and I found a new mix of medicines, at the right dosage, suddenly art just started pouring out.
I had no idea that taking recovery action -- the little daily steps of recovery -- would not only build hope, and allow me to manage my co-occurring disorders — but it would also bring a new kind of joy and happiness into my life beyond my children, friends, and loved ones — as a result of finding equilibrium and balance, I suddenly also had creativity and an additional meaning and purpose in my life.
What’s more, the more I did the daily recovery steps I was supposed to do, the more genuine the art became -- just as my identity and relations with others became more genuine, too. I think it was because, thanks to the medicine and the talk therapy from my doctor, I was finally able to have trust, and compassion, and forgiveness and self-forgiveness, and courage — the courage to be comfortable with my bipolar brain.
This in turn lead to another type of breakthrough — I realized, in talk therapy, that I now had the courage, through my art, and through showing it at exhibitions, to end my secrecy about my bipolar diagnosis and my co-occurring disorder. Imagine revealing to thousands of strangers who are passing by, judging your art, that you have a serious mental illness. It takes a leap of faith. But I learned that it can be done. (See, for example, here and here.) And, in my experience, while it doesn’t need to be done, it definitely helped my recovery and hope.
Making art also unexpectedly gave me courage to trust others like never before, including new artists I met at major art fairs in New York and London, in year four of recovery. I was open and honest about my co-occurring disorders. Without planning it, I gained an additional team for support and inclusion. These artists, from cultures and countries all over the world, could relate. They, too, had family, and friends, who had been touched with mental illness. I was accepted for just who I am. Which in turn strengthened my recovery and hope.
In my experience, the action of managing mental illness and ending substance abuse leaves your mind free to think and feel at a better level. A more clear and authentic level. And this can be great. I see and feel beauty everywhere now, almost all the time, every day — and I can give myself permission to feel it, and spread the joy of it, to the people I love. And this strengthens both my recovery and the art.
In my experience, finding something you love to do in recovery not only builds and strengthens hope, and recovery itself, but also improves your inclusion, and reduces the impact of stigma. You're left feeling that you can accept, and handle, whatever may arise -- and you're able to handle whatever setbacks come along the way, too. Yes, I have periodic downturns. The sun does not always shine; my sky is not always blue. But my recovery tools, including my art, helps me get back on my feet.
In my experience, you don't need the rumored "madness" of bipolar to be creative -- and you don't need to be under the influence of a substance, either. In my experience, my best creative ideas come during my mild hypomanias, monitored by my psychiatrist with labs, while on my daily medicine, and while under the influence of nothing else at all, except my own feelings and thoughts and connections.
In my experience, it goes to show that life can be even more exciting and fun — not less — when you are in recovery. When my art comes pouring out, during my mild natural hypomanias while on my meds, the rush is real, and it is legitimate, natural, and doctor approved. I wouldn't trade it for anything else, these times of creativity -- with the exception of being with my kids, and my friends, and family, and the other people I love.
In other worlds, in my experience, and as my art has taught me, recovery isn’t about merely existing, or surviving, and missing the glory days. Recovery is about having a better and more vibrant life than you could have imagined existed.