James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

47: For the Sake of Mental Health

It pains me to say that I’m going to place the newsletter and podcast on a different schedule over the next 10 months. Since we are always about getting real around here, let’s get real.

Last night, I had a break down. I’ve had one of these before but this one was different, one that not only came in silence but built up within it.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit sick, so I decided to work remotely for my day job. After that was over, I physically left my computer in the other room and looked out the window. This moment was supposed embrace some mental relaxation, one that told me “hey, you are all done with your work, how about you embrace this downtime that you have.” Instead, I started to panic minutes into my “relaxation”. Panic about what it was that I was supposed to be doing, what needed to be done, what my to-do list was looking like. This went on for hours. With the exception of cleaning out some rooms and getting rid of some stuff which is what I tend to do as a nervous habit, none of those to-do list items were completed. I decided to take a nap to see if that would erase my panic, and what planned to be an hour nap turned into a three hour one, one that I was awakened by the sound of my wife coming home from work.

I had no appetite, I couldn’t rise from bed, the only thing I could eat was almonds and an apple. I was at the same place I was last year, overworked and not putting enough into one thing, but instead dipping my toe into a multitude of things. My brain was short-circuiting.

I started going to therapy in April of this year originally to help with the death of my best friend but it morphed from talking about Brian every week to talking about stress management as an independent creative: what to take on, pressures, and fears. 75% of the topics I brought up in these letters has been something that I additionally shared with my therapist. As I’m writing this week’s letter, today will be my last therapy session. As I think back to yesterday, being in the fetal position on the bed in a panic, I wondered about what brings us to these points. Is it expectations or fears of saying no because there may not be any other opportunites that arise? In my experience, it’s been a combination of both.

I had a long talk with my wife about where I am and where I should go next. It was quite apparent that I was taking on too much which was forcing the rest of my projects to suffer, simply because the time necessary wasn’t being dedicated to each thing, all while having (virtually) zero downtime to let my mind rest. Between actively balancing (takes glance at my project managament app) 13 projects and client work (while having my mind wrecked with everything happening to my neighbors in Ferguson, Missouri), I decided I need to tell my ego to quiet down and step away a bit. I’m human and not a machine.

I decided for the next ten months (which happens to be the length of my artist residency) I will be severly trimming back on smaller projects to dedicate time to the larger ones.

That means:

• The newsletter will drop from a weekly project to one that is sent when the writing strikes me. It will never be more than once a week, as it’s never been.

• The podcast will be released on the same schedule as the newsletter, whenever audio strikes me. It will never be more than once a week. I’m thinking about taking a new route with it’s structure, but I finally got hosting all set so subscribe in your favorite podcast app here, that way when something is released, it will drop right onto your device of choice.

• After the completion of my current consulting projects, I will not be taking on any additional freelance work for the next ten months.

• I will still keep an open schedule for speaking and teaching opportunites, but I will be much more selective in what I say yes to.

I’m hoping that these measures will not only lead to better quality artwork to commit towards over the next ten months, but will also result towards a happier me with better mental and physical health. I also hope that by myself being open with my methods and thoughts, it may help you with anything that you are working towards or thinking about during this season of change.

Thanks for reading,

-James

James T. Green