Creative Steph says hi!
Hi. My name is Steph and I use creativity as a distraction from mental illness.
I’ve been writing and illustrating for nearly two years now, with a website that started about 18 months ago after my life seemed to have fallen apart.
My mental health journey started around 8 years ago when I experienced a series of close bereavements. My mum, my father, three miscarriages and the still birth of our first daughter all had a profound effect on me, and my life (and my partners) hasn’t been the same since.
I gradually received multiple diagnosis. BPD, panic disorder, social anxiety, depression and more recently mild Tourette’s and acute agoraphobia have been added to the list. To date, I haven’t stepped outside for 13 months.
I also have mobility problems because of degenerative changes in my spine and arthritis in my pelvis. That meant that in 2019, I had to start using a wheelchair…and I HATE it.
So with my physical and mental health in a state of distress, I was unable to socialise and unable to work. The solution I found was to isolate myself completely, feeling ashamed of the shiny, metal wheelchair and my broken, tired brain. I haven’t felt able to integrate with society since and I lost my social circle too.
I took me a long time to find a way of being productive again. I know I’m not ready to be outside yet, I know I feel ashamed for my family to be seen with me (although my partner tells me all the time that I shouldn’t) and I know I should be doing more with my life. Besides my partner and daughter I have no contacts at all. But I’m 41 for goodness sake!
Eventually I signed up for a degree with the Open University. Their way of learning meant I could stay indoors but still be educated – something I haven’t done for 25 years! I’m about to start year 5 of 6 and I’m covering subjects I’m truly passionate about – Mental Health, Creative Writing and Design.
Then I started the website – creativesteph.co.uk
As I said before, it was originally intended as a place for my creativity to sit and I hoped that one day my daughter would see it and understand that, although her mum was weird, she didn’t give up.
I entered competitions with creative writing that centred around mental illness and drew pictures to represent each one. As the stories started being selected (and winning a few times too!) the website became a place people came for mental health conversation and advice, and Creative Steph changed into something I had never intended.
The website is now one of Feedspots’ top 35 Mental Health sites – number 23 at present! I am a Creative Volunteer and Mental Health Advocate with the UK’s national bereavement charity too, providing them with a monthly newsletter column on mental health and its relationship with grief. I draw for them as well and I’ve created artwork that’s been used as cover art for magazines, on journals and other websites. I write content for online journals, social media and charities that I can help, such as my recent Twitter post for Tourette’s Action.
And there’s more to come…
So, although I live in a very difficult landscape, without feeling the breeze on my face, sand under my toes or splashed by a puddle for over a year, I am still proving that the most unexpected and wonderful things can happen even in the strangest and most painful circumstances. Through creativity I have found a way to live positively around my limitations, and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far.
My mental and physical challenges are going to be with me for life, but so will my creativity, website and crusade to make it easier for others.
For now, that’s my reason to keep on keeping on.