Almost a year ago I started what I have come to call my “creative recovery journey”. Life had led me to a place where I started to realize that somewhere along the line, I had set down who I really was, what I was really good at, what made me come alive inside, and traded it for what the people around me expected me to do and be, all in an attempt to survive and belong.
For the most part, this looked like me neglecting my creative gifts & calling, and while I would pick up creative expression from time to time throughout the course of my life, I would be consumed with guilt for doing so, eventually abandoning every project, every medium and every pursuit out of guilt for it being “too much fun”, “too fun and easy”, “too weird” and most of all, “not responsible enough”.
What I picked up instead was a lot of people-pleasing which eventually grew up and matured into the identity of “being the helper”, a road I have been on since I was ten years old, and which always leads me straight into burnout.
This pattern came full circle at the end of 2021.
- I was self-employed, doing very well for myself, living on my own schedule, being my own boss AND I started to feel the all too familiar shadow of burnout creeping up on me.
- I was in complete control of my life, time and energy expenditure, and yet I was still exhausted, resentful and overwhelmed.
- I was doing what I was good at – something I had been mastering for decades – helping others, being a helper, and being successful at it… and it was burning me out.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with helping others.
There is nothing wrong with building a career around it – if that is who you were created to be, but if you, like me help or build a life around helping because that’s just what “you’re supposed to do”, or worse, you like me, begin to build a life on the foundation of your trauma responses, you might end up in the same place I did – burnt out, exhausted, resentful, and crumbling.
Enter: Creative recovery.
A friend had mentioned a book called, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and I picked it up out of curiosity. Little did I know that random ‘choice’ to follow my gut would eventually stabilize me through one of the toughest seasons of my life, redirect me when that season brought me face-to-face with a dead-end, and usher in a season of healing that continues to this day.
In celebration of the one year anniversary of my journey (and an invitation to you to begin or continue your own), here are the 3 most valuable lessons I’ve learned or changes I have experienced:
- My battle with anxiety has actually been a symptom of creative suppression:
I know this may not be true for everyone, but the more I ‘indulged’ my creative urges, the less anxiety I felt overall. Over the course of the past year, regular and debilitating anxiety episodes gave way to simmering restlessness which eventually gave way to peace for the first time in my memory.
Learning to surrender to Creator God creating through me (rather than control it) has helped me heal.
- Surrendering to my creative gifts, and the creative process has helped me slay the internal dragon of perfectionism
Taking watercolor classes is another decision I have made this year that has had the most unexpected positive impact on my life. My mentor has helped me approach the page with total detachment to the end-product, and absolute surrender to the process.
“The maestros are as skilled with the eraser as they are with the brush” and “sometimes the work in front of you is only the next step. Don’t be afraid of starting again when you’ve taken a piece as far as you can.”
Learning to give myself permission to be in progress, to create for creating sake and in turn, to live for living sake (rather than for the sake of achievement) has brought me so much peace.
- My creative recovery has actually been my emotional-sobriety journey
I have come to learn that I have been addicted to emotional turmoil, and that peace, stability, equilibrium had become so unfamiliar to me, that NOT having an activated nervous system was outside of my comfort zone, that I would regularly make choices that would ultimately keep me out of peace, as close to chaos as comfortable…
Learning to surrender to creativity eventually brought me to a place where I had to choose whether or not I would risk peace, and begin weaning myself off of adrenaline & dopamine highs that had been keeping me safe my whole life.
December 1st marks the beginning of my creative recovery, my journey towards emotional-sobriety, and ultimately the long walk back to myself and the God who created me. My hope is that anyone reading this would feel inspired to risk their own journeys, and be delighted at the treasures they uncover along the long walk home.
Lauren da Silva has been a mother and entrepreneur for over 10 years and helps other women just like you overcome co-dependency and people-pleasing, and reclaim their power to succeed in life and business. Connect with her at laurendasilva.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org