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While I was volunteering for my old high school, I got into a discussion with one of the teacher’s wives about starting meds and how it sapped my ability to paint. She had a novel suggestion that I thought I’d share with you guys.

She asked me how large my paintings and mixed media pieces were at the height of my ability, and I told her that they were always very large. She said that maybe I could start painting again using small canvases and work my way up to my old size.

It hit me then that the huge blank space that I was trying to fill had intimidated me to the point that I stopped trying. I’m hoping that this simple change in my art may give me my creativity back.

As I was leaving, my teacher’s wife took me aside and hugged me. She whispered in my ear that she has bipolar as well, and wished me luck. I’ve been shown the necessity of finding other bipolar survivors to bounce ideas off of once again.

Do you have other tips and tricks for people on meds who want to be creative again? Do you work in another medium and need some advice? Leave a comment!

-Ashes

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I know that those of us with mental illnesses aren’t supposed to do hallucinogens or other drugs that can hugely affect brain chemicals, but I have only glowing praises to share about salvia divinorum. It’s a plant-based drug that can cause mild hallucinations and perspective shifts while intoxicated. In my state salvia is completely legal, but a handful of other states rushed to criminalize it after young teens were found to be using it.

Salvia doesn’t create the strong effects (so long as you use it as a tincture rather than smoking the dried leaves) that acid or mushrooms can, but it does can some effects. Each time I used it I was able to see my life and bipolar disorder in a new light. I credit it with being the catalyst to my final acceptance of this lifelong illness. Although I had been diagnosed for 3 years before I started using salvia occasionally, I hadn’t really let go of my overwhelming sense of bitterness and anger. I still have moments of those feelings but I would still be a wreck without the two hours in my head that let me see that I’m relatively lucky; that I have the strength to live with this and still be myself.

The other nice thing about salvia was my ability to be honest with myself and Koios without breaking down like I usually do. Salvia let me get over some of the things that were holding me back. After I started my medication journey I lost the ability to paint or create mixed-media pieces. I have the technical skills and knowledge, but my drive was purely based from my bipolar emotions. I was very bitter and angry about it. I miss painting. I miss letting my mania actually result in something tangible and real. I miss losing my depression in mixing my paints and using my painting knives to create something totally different. But it was during a salvia trip that I was able to turn to Koios and say “I’ll never be able to paint again but it’ll be okay. There will be other things that will let me express myself. It’s okay if it’s not through oil paints and wire mesh and newspaper clippings.” The amazing thing was that I actually felt what I said. After I came down, I realized that I was right: I knew that painting wasn’t what made me me, that I didn’t need to hold onto that sadness. I didn’t need to mourn that loss anymore. Now that I’ve found a passion for writing fiction I have another outlet. If I was still refusing to create in any media because of my resentment of my lack of ability to paint, I wouldn’t have participated in NaNoWriMo and discovered that I love writing.

I’ve only had one “bad trip” on it, but it wasn’t terrifying or immobilizing. I was aware that it was just a trip and that it would end soon and it was an interesting experience. I’m not certain why my mind manifested the image of me being bludgeoned to death with a hammer, but it didn’t have the frightening feeling of reality that it would have if I had taken another drug. It felt almost like a buried memory or past life experience, but I obviously haven’t died and have never experienced any type of “past life memory” so who knows? Either way, I wouldn’t call it a bad trip personally, just an odd one.

While I’m not advocating that all of us crazy people go out and use mind-altering substances, I’ve found in my own life that salvia divinorum can have a positive affect on my opinion of bipolar and its implications. It might not be for everyone but it certainly has helped me.

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