by Izzy Pilkington

Image credit: Bonnie Calderwood Aspinwall

It is a headache going through it, and a headache attempting to get people to understand it.

There are many other expletive words you can use to describe it. I chose the word headache, not because it’s more PC, but for the term “ache.” The “ache” of mental health flows from the head to the toe. Instead of saying head-, shoulders-, knees- and toes-ache, let’s keep it to the source: the head. I could write a thrilling ten-book series on all my mental “aches”, but that is not the purpose of this article. I want to give you strong, beautiful women a helping hand, with something that helped me. Before I begin, I want to say you are never alone. Ever. I say it because it’s so easy to forget. I have forgotten so many times.

Let’s start with a little something about me and my mental health. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. One month into drama school. That being the case, I have been living with depression and anxiety for over a decade. The reason my diagnoses came so late is that I didn’t have the words to describe what was going on with me. I knew the thoughts I was having sounded crazy; for example, being afraid to leave the house because I had this knowing feeling that something bad would happen. Then the thoughts would spin round like a blender with extra sharp blades: “How could I know that?” “If it sounded crazy to me, what would other people think?” “No, don’t believe it.” “What if?” “I don’t want to die. I have to believe it.” A thing that hurt me was no one talked about these thoughts and feelings. Depression was mentioned I think once about a friend of a friend. And like everyone else I thought it meant you’re sad or you wanted to die. Now I am aware of how complex it can be. I can go on and on about my journey through depression, and if I ever write my ten-book series, I’ll give you a heads up. But for now I want to talk about creative outlets, and one in particular.

A creative outlet is a way to get things out of body, express yourself and give yourself some quality time to yourself. Quality is the important word here. How do I do that? Well, I’m glad you asked. A few years back I was introduced to a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, an American teacher, author, artist, poet, playwright, novelist, filmmaker, composer, and journalist. “The Artist’s Way” is a personal development book to help people creatively recover from mental blocks, pressure, lack of inspiration and, the way I use it, depression and anxiety. It is heavily writing based, which is one of the best outlets there is. The book is divided into a 12-week course. Cameron gives you insights and tasks to complete, but the most important part of it are the two basic tools: Morning Pages and the Artist Date.

Morning Pages are “three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing before the day begins”. This means the minute you wake up, you get your pen and paper and write about whatever first comes into your mind. If there is literally nothing in there, you can just write “I am sleepy” for three pages. It takes time to get used to it, but it’s important to do it even if you don’t want to.

The Artist Date is when you take yourself out on a date. You make space for yourself one hour a week, and take yourself somewhere. Somewhere old, new? Your choice.

“The Artist’s Way” helped me so much when I did it. I remember stopping morning pages for a few months; my anger and rage built up and I aimed it at everything. Morning pages helped me release that, and be kinder to myself. Treat myself as I would if I were going out on a date with a loved one. I’m not telling you that you have to go out and buy the book, but I am encouraging you to use these two tools. You’ll notice the difference.

Creativity is the key. And if that makes me sound like a creative wanker. So be it.

I also invite you to come on a journey with me through her second book, “Walking into the World”. I will be sharing my experiences with Fearless Femme as I journey through book number two.

Author Image: Izzy Pilkington

Izzy Pilkington

Izzy Pilkington is an Irish actor/writer, based both in London and Dublin. She trained with the Bull Alley Training Theatre Company, and then on the MA course at East 15. Her aim is always to find her joy and help others find theirs, to give a voice to mental health, and to explore all the stories in her.

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