I’ve always thought I was different. People don’t always get me. Maybe you don’t. I can be really smart and really dumb, scary and scared. People regularly tell me I’m ‘inspiring’ or ‘brilliant’ and become huge fans. Others look at me, baffled. The truth is, I live for whatever I am doing or making or thinking and get consumed by enthusiasms with little distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’. If I care, I care a lot. My mind is always busy, sometimes too much so to listen, and I tell it how it is because I simply can’t lie. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing, but know other people are good for me. I’ve always considered these to be the challenges of being an introvert.
But this year, I wondered, what if it’s more than that? What if my ‘different’ is a condition – like sensory overload, anxiety, adult ADHD, or even bi-polar? What if I could get help? I went as far as talking to my GP and was referred for assessment which led me to see a wonderful therapist for three sessions. It was a relief to talk to someone who seemed to understand so completely. At the end of the sessions, I hoped I could continue seeing this wise lady. But this was just an assessment, and she had come to her diagnosis. In her view, I was not mentally unwell after all (at least not unwell enough for NHS treatment), so there would be no more sessions prescribed.
What she concluded was that I was – wait for it – ‘creative’. She went on to say that I would most likely feel different. And that that was ok. It was allowed. I was different, but a good different. What I needed to do was understand my ‘condition’, and find other people who understood it too.
This should be no surprise – I went to art school after all, and have the certificate to prove it. Perhaps because I now create strategy and words more than visuals, I’ve not allowed myself to identify as a fully-fledged creative. But now, somewhere in my NHS files, I like to think there is now a letter that officially diagnoses me as ‘creative’. It’s certainly made me think. In a way, it’s been empowering. It’s made me feel maybe I don’t need to be apologetic about experiencing the world in high-definition technicolour with internal commentary and analysis, as if always using binoculars and a dictionary to make sense of it all.
In fact, my renewed identity has inspired me to do more creative things – like creative writing, photography, print-making – because they feel right. And I’m spending more time with people who share my ‘condition’. I’ve found a wonderful group of them. And they’re called writers. More so than designers, they searching inwardly in their creation. When I spend time with them, I don’t feel so different. Because they are truly barking. And together, we can be thankful we’re not normal, for that really would be cause for concern.
My Christmas project urges everyone to ‘Be more present’. I’d like to wish a very happy Christmas to everyone who has enabled me to be creative this year, and especially to those who really do keep me sane. I hope I do the same for you too.