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The Storm of Creativity and Mental Health

May 31, 2023
The Daniel Johnston Hi, How Are You frog mural in Austin, Texas

Hello Dear Readers,

As mental health awareness month comes to a close, I want to share a personal journey.

There is a definite interplay between mental health and creativity. It is a complex issue.

And while I cannot speak to it from a psychological point of view, I can share some personal experiences.

I hope that this helps you on your journey. Learning to embrace yourself fully can lead to extraordinary beauty.

The Gift and the Curse

My uncle was the late Daniel Johnston, an American singer-songwriter and visual artist.

His raw, lo-fi aesthetic resonated with many. His art, marked by an unmistakable rawness, touched the souls of many and sparked conversations about authenticity and creativity.

His creativity was overflowing, but it came with a heavy companion: mental health issues. 

Daniel Johnston plays Highline Ballroom, NYC. February 21, 2008, by Bryan Bruchman

Observing his struggles up close was disconcerting, especially as a child.

I remember being scared of him, his artwork, and his music. While my parents shielded me from many of the issues, the tension in the room when he was present was enough to leave a lasting impression on a small child.

I remember when my mother sat us down one day for “the talk.”

She explained how our genetics led us to be extremely creative. It was an inheritance we’d been born into – one that gifted us with extraordinary creativity but also threatened us with mental health struggles.

She warned us about the dangers of recreational drug use, which could further harm our already complex brain chemistry.

Embrace the Storm

Growing up, I often felt pursued by a storm cloud.

Sometimes, it enveloped me, casting everything into a grey, depressive shadow.

Other times, it hovered just over my shoulder, a silent threat I desperately tried to outrun.

As years passed, it became evident that outpacing my personal storm cloud was not the solution. Instead, I needed to accept and learn to navigate, embrace the storm, and maybe even dance in the rain a bit. 

I learned to see my predisposition towards depression not as a crippling limitation but as a conduit for deeper understanding and expression in my work.

It nourishes me, watering the seeds of creativity and giving my work depth and dimension.

A Message for Mental Health Awareness Month

In this mental health awareness month, my message is one of acceptance and bravery.

Let us not shy away from our inner storms.

Embrace all aspects of who you are – the sunshine and the clouds, the joy and the struggle, the creativity and the mental health struggles. 

Live in the tension and the duality that deepens who you are as an artist.

Our strengths and struggles are intertwined, making us who we are.

I wouldn’t give up my “little rain cloud.” In fact, I’ve come to embrace it. My creative friend follows me everywhere I go, watering the seeds of my creativity.

Don’t get me wrong, I have to keep a close eye on it, but it doesn’t bother me the way it used to.

And remember, it’s perfectly okay to seek help, to speak openly about our struggles, and to prioritize our mental health as much as our physical health.

Wishing you sunshine and strength.


Heading photo by Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress


Inspiration is everywhere.

Keep discovering. There is always more to learn.

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