Mental illness and creation

Once I was so depressed I took to having baths in the middle of the day. They soothed me – a little. It was five years ago and we’d uprooted ourselves from our happy home in Preston and relocated to the beach. At first I was ecstatic – our new environment was divine, the new school was fabulous and I was going to follow my dream of becoming a writer. I went off my anti-depressants…

and came crashing down. I didn’t really know anyone and I allowed that to give me an excuse to hide away. I remember going to the supermarket and being bailed up by one of those charity types – ‘sacrifice your two bought coffees a week and commit $6 (or whatever) to us…you need to sign here’. I’d taken the clipboard and was pretending to look at it through blurry eyes. ‘I’m not actually earning at the moment,’ I muttered before charging off in a humiliated puddle of tears. I felt like a fraud – unpublished, writing from home, the rejections rolling in. The kids went to school, my husband went to work – everyone had their thing, except me.

It was during this dark, dark time that I wrote Happy Pants.


It just came to me – here I was telling myself ‘put on your happy pants and go out and see that world’ and it dawned on me, what a great metaphor to explain depression to kids. Happy Pants became my first published picture book.

Last week, I went to a talk on childhood anxiety. Children’s author Nicky Johnston was there with her swag of books about kids overcoming anxiety. A few days earlier I’d heard a Radio National interview with Matt Haig about his struggle with depression and the resulting book Reasons to Stay Alive.

And it got me thinking about the link between creation and mental illness. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I think it’s a prerequisite but it’s amazing how often mental wobbliness and creation seem to go hand in hand. So I’m writing this as a reminder to myself and others, that when things get grim it may fuel your creative fires…and that can only be a good thing 🙂




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