The truth is that I haven’t felt like myself in quite a long time. So long, in fact, that I wondered whether my personality had simply changed over the years into something sad and unrecognizable.
The symptoms (I can call them symptoms in retrospect) began so subtly that I can’t even be sure when it all began. All I know is that over time, I had become a shell of myself, perpetually tired, anxious, achy, and withdrawn. My emotions felt raw and constantly at the surface, sometimes progressing into panic attacks, and getting through even the most mundane of days was exhausting. Though always an introvert, I came to avoid social situations like the plague, and no amount of rest or retreat seemed to help. Fueled more by shame than anything, I would throw myself into work and burn out in an increasingly unproductive cycle, never feeling like I had achieved, or ever could achieve anything.
Most disturbingly, at least in my mind, I had trouble summoning my own creative drive. Art has always been a grounding light in dark situations, and I felt lost without it. I’d dealt with temporary blocks before of course, but something about this was deeply and persistently wrong. It was as if I were constantly in a fog and the “flow state” had become completely inaccessible. Waiting for the mood to strike and in lieu of real work, I would focus on the studio or the materials or the research and effectively ignore the disquieting muteness of my inner voice. I simultaneously avoided working on things that didn’t inspire me (everything) and engineered situations that would force me to work on something. I’d put lines on paper or clay on the wheel, but the joy and satisfaction I expected just wouldn’t surface. I felt completely broken and stalled.
When I could summon the energy, I tried yoga, meditation, herbs, vitamins, vegetable cleanses, and whatever I could think of to feel better. A lot of things helped a little, but it just felt like the most precarious house of cards- a breath of wind and my careful constructions came tumbling down to nothing. A part of me wondered if I was just coping badly with the normal fatigue of life, but as it got worse, I began to suspect a deeper cause. Still, I struggled to explain to myself, much less a doctor, what was a symptom and what was just my own personal failing to be healthy and happy.
After a long series of appointments, tests, and scans, I was finally diagnosed with a benign tumor on my pituitary gland. Delving into the research, I discovered what an enormous impact this tiny little tumor had been having on my life. The symptoms read like a list of everything I’d been feeling guilty and ashamed of: chronic fatigue, unexplained weight gain, infertility, anxiety, lack of motivation, headaches, low energy, joint pain, and brain fog. All right there, clear, scientifically documented, and curable.
I decided to take some time off from the studio to rest and allow the medicine to balance all my lovely hormones and neurotransmitters. It was like turning on a light switch, flickering at first, adjusting, and then I was awake again. The full palette of emotion was back at my disposal and I was delighted. Real, actual, effervescent delight, and not just for big things, but the sunrise and the smell of the air and the way acorns are so beautifully shaped. It’s all come rushing back in focus and color and I am so, so thankful.
I share all this mainly to say, sometimes shit happens. Sometimes you don’t have the physical or chemical infrastructure to support all the things you want to do, and that’s okay. Taking it slow is okay. Stopping and starting again is okay. Keep trying, listen to what your body tells you, and look for help when you need it. Whether you’re an artist or not, creativity is part of your health and wellbeing.