Being Creative and Bipolar

Statue“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” ~Friedrich Nietzche

I’m bipolar.

It’s not really a secret or anything, although it’s not necessarily something I talk about either.  I plan to write a more extensive post on my journey with it in the future.  So if you’re interested or it’s something that you might be struggling with, I’ll tell you more about it later.

But this is about how I deal with being bipolar and creative.  More precisely, it’s about how I deal with the depression/low energy part of it and still am creative during those times.

I used to think I was crazy (in a bad way, that is.  I still think I’m crazy in a beautiful way.)  I sometimes stay up all hours of the night.  I sometimes have trouble just getting through the day.

At first I thought it was just being a teenager and then college is pretty crazy with lots of work and deadlines.  Sometimes you just have to stay up all night.  It never bothered me.

It has only recently occurred to me now that I work from home and sometimes my husband travels that if it were up to me, that I would likely have no schedule whatsoever with sleeping.

I tried stuffing myself into a corporate schedule and was usually pretty miserable.  Although I didn’t always hate the jobs themselves, following someone else’s schedule always was very difficult for me.

I have an amazing partner.  We live in a smallish apartment now where my work space is in our bedroom and he is always understanding when I stay up late, even though it’s not necessarily his schedule.  Sometimes he’ll ask me if I’m ready to go to bed and I go into a panic.  I look at the time and it’s hours later than I thought.  I’m not tired.  I have about a billion more things I wanted to get done that day.

I go through periods of time where the creativity flows and is almost unstoppable.  Where ideas come and I create and I just keep going and going.

I go through periods of time where I can’t think of one darned thing and I’m sure I’m destined to never have another creative idea again.

Although, at this point in my life the doom is no longer so painful or worrisome to me because I know that it will pass and I will be back to my creative self again.

Since I have been dealing with being bipolar for quite some time now I have learned to adjust and have systems for when those periods of un-creativity happen.  If you have similar issues (and maybe you’re not even bipolar — we all have times of creative blocks), maybe some of these will work for you, too.

“Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.” ~Carrie Fisher

Here are some things to help deal with being bipolar and creative:

(or if you have periods of high creativity and low creativity)

#1  During times when I have a lot of ideas it can even get to the point of being overwhelming.  I can get flustered that I can’t even do all of my ideas or make all the jewelry or whatever my ideas are in the amount of time I have in a day.  But then I worry that I will forget that great idea.

So my system is note cards.

I always have plenty of blank note cards on hand.  I simply place an idea on each card or draw the design for the jewelry and then I keep all the cards in one of those index card boxes.  I do have different categories in the box, but sometimes I just place the whole big chunk of ideas in the box during one of the bursts of ideas to go through later.

You could do use a notebook or journal or whatever works for you.  I like the index cards because they’re easier to separate and organize later.  I can just flip through until I find one I like, pull it out and focus on just one thing.

#2  During periods of less ideas or I’m depressed, I can refer to my note cards for ideas.  I have a variety of cards that range from simple to much more complex, so I can go through them to find something that I can accomplish to start to feel more creative.

#3  I’m more understanding with myself.  I used to get angry and frustrated and it caused even more pain and made everything worse.  Now I know that it’s just going to be a low energy day and just let it be what it is.  Tomorrow is another day and hopefully things will look up then.  Or maybe not, but eventually it will be better.

I just do the things on my To Do List that are absolutely necessities and don’t worry about the rest.

#4  I try something other than making jewelry.  Making jewelry is my passion and my biggest creative outlet, but sometimes trying some other creative activity helps me because it takes the pressure off and I can start feeling creative again.

#5  The sun!  In my particular brand of bipolar I have more issues with the depression part of it.  I can hole myself up in my house and now that I work exclusively from home it’s even easier to do.  If I’m not conscientious during these depressed times, I could not even leave the house at all.  I make an effort to remember to open my blinds to let in the sun and also to actually go outside and be in the sun.

(Walking most every day really helps with this as well.)

#6  I go to my creative bag of tricks.  Things I know that will help me when I’m not feeling creative that help get the creative juices flowing again.  (This is what I share and teach in my eCourse, Rediscover Your Creativity & Make Jewelry.)

Being bipolar or having depression does not have to be a hindrance to creativity at all.  In fact, the more you spend time around other creative folks, the more you realize that it is much more common than you may think.

When I first was diagnosed it seemed like such a big deal.  That was more than 20 years ago and things were a lot different then, but mental health issues are still misunderstood today.  There are people and places in the corporate world that I would have never, ever told that I was bipolar.  In the creative community, though, people more often understand.

I hope my tips above help you if you are feeling creatively blocked or you’re bipolar like me and have periods of high and low energy to work through.  Find a system that works for you and still with it.

Update:  The more you work with systems the easier it gets.  Yes, I still have these times of low and high energy (and all the messy stuff that comes with being bipolar), but having these systems have really been life changing for me. I rarely think about “being bipolar” anymore.  I simply refer to my systems to get me through the day when I’m having up or down days.

And I can’t reiterate enough the power of walking for me.  I start almost every day with a long walk and it has done amazing things for me!

Please feel free to share your stories and hints in the comments below if you like.

Please note that I (and from I understand it’s a kind of common feeling among people who are bipolar) don’t like to get emails like, “You seem down today in the video” or “I can tell when you’re up or down.”  Frankly, if I made a video I’m probably not depressed because I would have most likely not made the video.  🙂  (I do appreciate the care and support behind comments like that, but I promise you I am 100% A-okay!)

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