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4 min read

'Creating My Mental State’ by Emily Johnson

'Creating My Mental State’ by Emily Johnson



'Creating My Mental State’
by Emily Johnson


Hi my name is Emily, I am the owner of a small company called Artists Clubhouse (AC). The aim of the company is to help people discover positive mental health through the power of creativity. 

AC in someways manifested itself after I started an art club during the pandemic to help keep myself and my family positive, others joined in and I got some great feedback about how it had helped maintain a sense of calm during the lockdowns. 

The amazing thing about positivity is the power it has to connect you to others, like vibrations in the air finding each other! I was invited to get involved with a few creative projects; helping set up a lockdown art gallery, hosting a creative competition and then through a mutual friend I had recently reconnected with I was asked to support the Herefordshire and Worcestershire NHS Trust to find local artists to create an art trail around 3 cities to promote mental health services.

This was an amazing experience and I got to meet so many amazing creatives and start sharing AC’s message to more people at a time that I think people increasingly need it, ‘creativity helps’, this experience enabled me to start applying for funding for different projects that help connect people to arty things and encourage them to try to express themselves positively.

When I began writing this blog my intention was to share more of how AC started, but I realised that it’s actually part of a bigger journey…one about my own mental health struggle and how creativity has taught me about who I am; which I think is actually the real origin story.

Since high school I struggled to feel like I fit in…as a child I was just me, I laughed, I played, I don’t remember being concerned with how others saw me…until high school, suddenly boys were a high priority, playing games wasn’t ‘cool’ and being silly was a big no-no. I remember clearly, double and triple thinking through everything I said so that by the time I did speak the conversation had moved on. 

Skip a few years to adulthood and I’d lea
rnt how to mask that silly and playful side of myself, well for the most part…unfortunately that voice in my head sometimes managed to sneak out causing some serious moments of ‘uncoolness’! 

The feelings of overwhelming hatred of myself after these leaked moments were so loud in my mind; “why did you say that, why did you use that squeaky voice, why did you have to speak at all!” Years later in therapy, the counsellor explained how these voices in my head were the same as being severely bullied, I had effectively locked myself in a room of hatred as a coping mechanism when I was too young to know a better way and stayed in there for years! I was now in my 30’s having to unlearn what had taken most of my life to perfect.

I should say at this point that creativity and art was in my life from a young age, my single mum was a constant creative source from baking to foraging to crafting, she loves to create and I in turn got the bug. Choosing to focus on fashion and making clothes as a career ambition often put my creativity in to the ‘work' category of life and so I stopped taking pleasure from the process of being arty, it was school, college, uni, work for a long time. Occasionally during this time I would dabble in trying to be creative again but often started projects without finishing and would get angry or upset that it wasn’t good enough.

Turning 30 may have prompted a crisis mode in my mind, thinking of my lack of achievements; I wasn’t married, didn’t own a house, I didn’t have kids and I had no savings. I felt that I had worked so hard through all my anxieties and fears but had destroyed any career opportunities though anxiety and self doubt and so now was stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy, surrounded by people I didn’t get or they didn’t get me. Every step I took in the right direction seemed to make me more stressed and unhappy. Even changing jobs hadn’t worked; anxiety, depression and self doubt had followed me. I felt angry all the time, snappy and in a state of panic, crying in private and just trying to catch my breath. 

I’d walk in to work along the river, my mind in a deep void of panic and unhappiness…the water almost calling to me as a way out. I had never felt this low before, I felt like my head was swirling and I just had to find the answer to a question I didn’t know, happiness was just over the other side of that…it was confusing and all consuming and I wanted it to stop! 
Staring at that river and feeling that pull is when I knew I needed outside help. 

I’d tried for years to make things work, I’d pushed myself to keep trying; now I realise I was looking in the wrong places. The more I pushed the further I was getting to the real answer; I took some time off, I got some counselling and started creating again, not to sell but for fun. 

I felt like I could breath for the first time since childhood. I understood the answer wasn’t necessarily about getting a better job or to be different in some way, it was to learn what I loved and to live my life honestly through those passions.

Art has been a massive part of this process, creating and learning to switch my mind off by concentrating on fabric, paint, clay or wool has been almost a form of meditation. Discovering other peoples art forms has also been a huge part of learning about who I am; surrounding myself with art that I love, music I can feel and movies that take me away and inspire me.

Life hasn’t been all sunshine since making this discovery, with a pandemic and a skin cancer diagnosis yet to come but every time I have felt overwhelmed, stressed or sad I have made sure to set everything aside, make a creative space in front of a great movie and paint, sew or draw. 

Nothing magically gets fixed around me but I cope and I smile and sometimes I even thrive!

My Wellness Routine: 

A lot of the time I will work on Artists Clubhouse on my days off so they get taken up by meetings, emails, applications etc, so I make room for myself in the morning by having a chilled breakfast to myself with a big mug of coffee and then I force myself to do an annoying work out for 30 mins on the exercise bike…I hate working out but I know it makes me feel better physically and mentally so really try to push myself not to avoid it. 
Any evening I have free after dinner, I will paint, sew or create in some way, for the most part whilst sitting on the sofa in my messy creative nest…this is not part of my partners wellness routine but he copes because I am a happier person with this escapism.

Written by Emily Johnson
Instagram @artistsclubhouse
FB @weareartistsclubhouse

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