Everyone’s journey with mental health is different. Talking with a therapist is the version of self-care for some people, while others need regular moments of quiet bliss. Some even look to creative outlets to help process their trip, like artists Morgan Harper Nichols and Jamie Grace.
Jamie is a two-time Grammy nominated singer, songwriter and actress. Diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, OCD, ADHD and anxiety at a young age, Jamie advocates for joy, well-being and mental health through the prism of music, cinema and faith. Her sister, Morgan, is an artist and poet whose work draws on interactions and real-life stories.
This article is part of our new series, sponsored by Unite Health Share Ministries.
The Creative Sisters recently spoke with Brittney Moses, a psychologist whose goal is to partner with the Church with public health for youth and young adults, about how they rely on creative outlets to treat life and how not to exhaust yourself as a creative artist.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Brittney Moses: How has the art of music, writing, creativity played a role in your mental health journey?
Jamie Grace: For me, it’s essential. We’re a musical family – you know Morgan and I are sisters – and growing up music has always been a part of our lives, but drums became very important to my physical health when I was about 13 because I ‘had Tourette’s syndrome. Well, I have Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. My tics were really bad so playing the drums was essential for me. But now I literally consider it as important as going to therapy. Whether it’s listening to music, singing a song, or drawing right after therapy when I get home, art and creative expression are essential to my mental well-being. So I’m really grateful to have it.
Morgan Harper Nichols: I feel exactly the same. I found out that for me, Jamie, we both go to therapy and we’re very open about it. And I know that for me, going to therapy is like letting it all out. It’s not even always a “okay, we have to come away with a point-to-point-B solution”. It’s just a safe space to let out whatever is inside. And much like what Jamie said, art is similar to that. Most of all, if you could afford to tear yourself away from “I need to make a hit song” or “I need to make the most beautiful masterpiece ever.” If you could just let go, like a small child would, and move to the music however you like or play the instrument however you like, draw doodles even if you’re not good at drawing .
It’s a part of my life every day. I was literally doodling right before that. So yeah, it really helps me regulate. Art and music are an integral part of my mental health journey.
I love everything you say so much because especially with social media and as a content creator or whatever, you constantly feel this urge to create for a product, to create for a result, for a result. And this idea of having a space in your life that’s for creativity, for expression, and not just for having a certain outcome with other people, I think it’s incredibly liberating and definitely therapeutic. Another common part of creativity or hard work in general is sort of a slippery slope of burnout. As someone who produces a lot of content for you and for the art and continually pouring out on others, also in such a genuine and sincere way which helps you to stay grounded and prevent burnout so that you can continue the flow of what you are doing?
MHN: That’s such a good question. It’s interesting because there is a part of me that I haven’t kissed for a very long time and now I’m starting to kiss. And it’s the fact that… I used to think, I’m like, am I being lazy? But in fact, I found out that I was a fairly low-energy person and that there were actually medical reasons why I was like that too. And I’ve learned to use that as an advantage when it comes to engaging on the internet and sharing online, creating art, and producing things. It’s like when I’m tired, I stop. If I wake up in the morning and have nothing, then that day it will be a repost, if it is a repost. So I feel like it has become a strength for me.
This is something that I actively work to cultivate, is to push back this myth that you always have to produce and do something new. So yeah, a handy thing is like I literally took all social media off my phone and only had it on my iPad for about six months. And I just put it back and it’s probably about to go again because it’s just a lot. I think it’s important to do practical things that sometimes take you away from it. Because if not, it’s just gonna keep… All the different notifications and different invitations to do things and do things like it never stops. Just to be very clear, yes, I just don’t have the energy for this. I don’t have time for it or I just don’t want to. It’s a part of me that I’m learning to embrace and that’s totally normal. And I don’t have to be ashamed of that.
JG: On that note, just like the absolute practicality – for me it’s a lot less about social media and more about digital communication as a whole. I felt so guilty when people texted or texted me and I didn’t respond for a long time. And then they’d say, oh, well, do you take forever to text back or is it because you’re on tour? Like all that stuff. I started telling people that only a year and a half ago I don’t like texting. I do not. And a lot of times it made me feel like, oh my god, I’m not a good millennial.
As if I wasn’t… But in what context? Where does it say … We’re going to go. Where is it written in the Bible: “You have to text your friends within 48 hours or you have to apologize?” And so I’m just trying to say to people, “Hey, if you want me, if you need me, my porch is always open.” I have probably given my address to people who don’t need it. I tell myself that if you are on my porch, you will have my full attention. But my phone, it’s not a safe place for me because I’m going to text you and end up writing a plan for a private school that I want to start next year. That I’m never gonna start, but I have ADHD and I convinced myself I have to start a private school.
It’s been a huge limitation for me to prevent burnout, it’s just asking “what’s overwhelming me?” Oh, communicating with people through a device I’m paying too much for. So I’m going to start to be honest with people and say to myself, I can’t do this, my brother. But if I see you in Target, I’ll talk to you for 40 minutes.
MHN: It’s very true. In fact, I made a new friend not too long ago and this was the very first time I was letting her know right away. I was like, “Hey, just to let you know, texting just isn’t a strength of mine and it takes me a lot longer than other people to respond.” And there is so much freedom in there. Some people might feel that way about phone calls or emails or whatever and say, “yeah, it’s just taking me longer to work with that. And yes, that might sound awkward, but then at the same time, there’s so much freedom in learning how to just put that out there.