Depression Doesn’t Make You an Artist

I read an article a week or so ago about mental health, creativity, and treatment. I’m not going to mention where the article was posted or anything about the article specifically because it is without a doubt one of the worst, disgusting, and harmful pieces of writing I’ve ever seen on the internet. Now you might say Amanda, there is a lot of terrible things on the internet, why is this one more horrible than the rest of it?

The intention of this article is the reason I would put it up there with the worst of the worst. In it the writer claims that it was better for her friend to have committed suicide than be on medication, because she wasn’t able to be her true creative self. I’m going to write that again. Someone thought, wrote down, and posted on the internet that someone killing themselves was better than their friend living a ‘lesser’ medicated life.

I don’t know what’s scarier, the fact that she thought she was being insightful or innovating, or a person struggling might use this as justification to not try therapy or medication. I can only speak for myself and my mental health journey, but I can say with 100% certainty that my writing was absolutely awful before I started a therapy regime supplemented with medication. Insanely terrible. I could barely write in coherent sentences, and if I did manage to write something not awful I had no confidence to let anyone read it. I wasn’t living up to my true self. I wasn’t living up to my creative potential. Honestly, I wasn’t really living.

After I started managing my depression and anxiety I’ve had people tell me that I had changed and my different self was not as good as the ‘old me.’ Apparently I was a better friend and a better person when I constantly grappled with chronic loneliness, anxiety, and depression. My medication and therapy has helped me find who I really was, not a depressed version of myself. And for some reason people have a hard time when people they know with mental health issues struggle toward being their better selves. It probably does look like we’ve changed, but really it’s just a matter of rediscovering who we are without depression or anxiety completely controlling our lives.

Romanticizing mental health problems as a way to being a great artist is dangerous, unhealthy, and extremely untrue. I was an unproductive writer who occasionally wrote sad, terrible poems in a journal I was never going to share. Now I’m writing a book, writing on this blog, and writing for Geeks Out. I’m a much happier and content person, and my writing benefits from that. A person who is struggling to be happy or stay alive isn’t automatically better at their craft. And even if they were for some reason? A person’s life is far more important than their art. A person shouldn’t feel like they need to sacrifice themselves to create something for the world.

Our lives are more important than our art. Our better lives help us create better art. This is what we need to be telling our friends and family. Struggling doesn’t make you a better artist, writer, composer, or anything else.

Our friends’ lives have no less value when they are trying to get better.

27 and Counting

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My cake looked a lot better

I’m a little behind, but I figured I would dedicate a post to my 27th birthday.

I really haven’t cared too much about my birthdays. I’ve gotten slightly more excited about them over the last couple of years since my girlfriend’s birthday is the day after. But, I still really have a hard time enjoying birthday celebrations geared towards me.
There was a lot of stuff that happened when I was a kid, especially around my birthday that did not make me exactly feel excited for the day. I’ve been using that excuse, but in reality, I’ve had very good birthdays for probably the past 10 years.
It’s not just indifference, I could understand indifference. Once you turn 25 and rent a car without extra fees, there really isn’t a monumental birthday.
I can’t think of the right word, but the closet word that I come to describing how I feel on my birthday is ‘uncomfortable’. Not uncomfortable because I’m getting older, but I think due to the unknown.
I know no one knows their future, but they usually have a good idea of wear they want to generally be at a certain age. And they’ve had these plans for quite some time. I feel like I’m making up my life plans as I go along. I honestly didn’t think I would make it this far, so my childhood and young adult wonderings really never made it this far.
Does this give me some weird advantage, that I can’t be disappointed because I didn’t have any goals? Maybe if I had some longer term goals, I would have a better idea of how to move forward in my goal to work in non-profits?
Does it matter?
I think the real reason I become so uncomfortable and anxious on my birthday is that I become way to retrospective and caught up within myself. Instead of focusing on surviving and thriving for another year, I find myself stuck in the murky past or the hazy future.
I probably will never be very excited about my birthdays, but the goal for my 27-year-old self needs to be focusing on the present, and celebrating the victories. So when my 28-year-old self comes around, I might just look forward to April 22.

How To: Write a Grant

Grant writing can be a very subjective process. Many funders are very specific in what they are looking for in proposals. While there is no one way to write a grant, there are a few basic components that most foundations / corporations require. My list may or may not include aspects, to make sure – READ THE DIRECTIONS FIRST.

 

1. Introduction + Organizational Information

Who are you? What do you do? Why are you so awesome that an organization or company should give you funding? This is where some non-profits are tempted to change their mission statements to fit the grant they  are applying for. DON’T. As tempting as it might be, it just isn’t sustainable in the long run, and it is hard to explain to your constituents why you decided to change you mission. There are ways to frame your mission in a light that lends itself to the funding without changing your entire direction.

 

2. Need Statement (Summary)

This is probably the most important section. It’s necessary for a non-profit to write out exactly how the funds are going to be used. Use percentages to show much of the money would be used for administration, project implementation, etc. This is also where you need to stress why you really need this money. If you have data, show how the implementation of your project or program will, for example, reduce hunger, promote civility, or help clean up the environment.

 

3. Goals and Objectives + Program Design

This is where you need to break down the program implementation plan. The more detailed your program design is, the easier it will be to identify goals and objectives. Bullet points and logic models will show short and long-term goals. It is important to be as specific as possible – phrasing is crucial. If the funders focuses on youth empowerment, show how the objectives of your program will lead to  increasing youth empowerment.

 

4. Evaluation

No funder wants to throw money down the drain; they want to know tat the program they are giving money to is using it at optimum capacity. List how you collect data on your program: surveys, people served, etc. If you have the materials that you are using to evaluate, you should attach them as an appendix.

 

5. Sustainability

If the funding lasts for two years, a foundation or corporation doesn’t want to see the program fail in the third year. Will you try to obtain other grants? Larger individual donations? The funders want to see how their investment will succeed beyond their funding.

 

6. Budget + Financials

Break down the project costs line by line. Every expense needs to be accounted for. Sometimes funders will ask for a full organizational budget, or sometimes a proposed budget using the proposed funding. They also might ask you to included your IRS tax exemption letter in your appendix. Don’t include unasked for financial documents. Many of these foundations are receiving a plethora of applications, and extra information will be seen as a negative.

 

7.   Sending it off!

Whether you are sending your proposal through the mail or electronically, you want it to look put together and professional. A short note in the body of the email or in the envelope will help introduce you in a professional manner before anyone reads your proposal. If sent by email, make sure all attachments are clearly identified and organized. If you are mailing it in, a binder with tabs looks professional and organized. If your appendix has many sections, include a table of contents at the beginning of the proposal.

 

Good luck and happy writing!

So You’ve Fallen in Love with a Non-Humanitarian

My girlfriend is terrified of going on airplanes, she absolutely loathes them. She certainly doesn’t understand how I fly 20+ hours at a time for my organization, or why I would that fly that far, or why I am so passionate about my cause. When it comes to a powerful news story, I’m the one crying and she’s the one looking at me strangely. I’m not saying she is apathetic and heartless, she is a very caring and loving person to her friends, family and me. Honestly anyone compared to me would appear at least mildly apathetic. Really, I am hyper emotional and empathetic.

Honestly, before I started dating her, I thought my ideal woman would be very much like myself- someone in the aid or non-profit sector, probably working in education development and/or with kids.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’m not saying that two humanitarians couldn’t have a successful romantic relationship, I’m sure many do. (I’m in no way shape or form an expert on other people’s relationships.)

I could write a 10 page essay on all of the things about my girlfriend that I love – but I will spare you (you’re welcome) and list out a few reasons why being with a non-humanitarian makes me better at what I do.

  • She balances out my emotional tendencies – which helps me think more objectively about my work and the world.
  • She challenges my worldview. We can debate and discuss global and domestic issues; we might not change each other’s minds, but perspective is definitely expanded.
  • She cares because I care. My work is important to me, so it’s important to her.
  • She tries to understand what I do. I can talk about my day and she is truly interested and asks questions.
  • She respects my passion. No, she doesn’t get it all of the time, but she respects that part of me and allows me to feel how I feel.

Like in any relationship, balance and respect is essential. Could I have found that with a humanitarian? Sure, but other humanitarians will have the same emotional hangups and the manic bouts of passion towards a cause. Which could be good for some people (again, not a relationship expert), however, I would not be great at it. Really, I just imagine us being in separate corners curled up in the fetal position.  How could we be emotionally supportive of each other if we were stuck in our own heads, worrying over the state of the world?

What makes being with a non-humanitarian so special is that she cares in spite her worldview. I get a peek into a different worldview and so does she. She helps me draw myself out of my head. She is my rock and my balance. I wouldn’t be the humanitarian I am today without her.