Looking at the shades of color in my lineup of acrylics should spark something inside of me yet it doesn’t. Discovering how my ADHD mind works from day to day has been a lifeline during the clouds of burnout chasing me again and again. Yet even in figuring my shit out I still had that harsh realization…I needed to acknowledge everything and figure out how to move forward.

Art in the Midst of ADHD Burnout
Photo by Britt Bender

Realization Arrives in Waves

Trash piles up and brushes sit in stagnant paint water within vibrant cups as I sit slowly spinning in my chair and in my mind. Every fiber of my being wishes to clean up the space around me, but my mind fails to send the signal to my body. It looks like I don’t care about the elements of my space I’ve invested in or the art I’ve poured my soul into but deep inside I DO.

Art in the Midst of ADHD Burnout
Studio Space Cleaned Up, Picture by Britt Bender

Ideas pop into my brain and they often bring me so much joy. From a simple landscape painting to a colorful abstract pattern, these projects and goals do a lot for my mental health in the moment. Shortly afterwards will come the inevitable, “yeah I’ll do that sometime in the future”, and so the lack of spontaneity increases and planning subsides. It doesn’t become worth it anymore as my mind moves to the next subject and leaves behind something that would’ve pulled me out from under stress-filled weights.

Art in the Midst of ADHD Burnout
Example of a Favorite Painting, Picture by Britt Bender

Ridiculous assumptions fill rationality as I see my skills and talents as tools towards monetary gain or financial stability. Past paintings and random craft projects don’t receive the usual adoration. The mess surrounding my artwork feels like more of a burden and something that rightfully blocks creative goals. I could put things away as I go through life. I could keep my space clean each day by remembering the little things and thrown out the random bits of paper or garbage. Instead, my brain moves quickly to what is next. ADHD keeps me locked on one thing or else my mind crumbles just like the recycling I have yet to bring downstairs.

Connecting the Art to the Artist

Art in the Midst of ADHD Burnout
A Favorite Day of Mine from Winter Fest. Photo by Josh Nelson

I attempt to push myself to create art without worry over cleaning up every inch of my studio first. A belief comes crashing in that a clean slate equals boundless creative potential. I’ve proven to myself that is a false narrative yet I invest a lot of hope in it. I’ve had the spotless and near perfect space for me to create but outside forces were the issue not my studio. Sure, a clean studio helps and the guest bedroom I’ve made into my space thrives from that but in the end there’s a deeper issue.

Art in the Midst of ADHD Burnout
Shrimpina being a cute, but less than helpful assistant. Photo by Britt Bender

The issue remains outside of that room. The blocks and dead ends originate within. I internalize interactions with men who don’t see how they’re blessed by social and industry-led privilege. I witness toxic leadership and it can sometimes drain my soul. These things add up and I attempt to balance that, my inner artistic joys and understanding my neurodivergent mind. At some point my fall is inevitable due to the crushing weight I’ve fed my soul.

Art in the Midst of ADHD Burnout
Sign for a past exhibition of mine. Collage & art by Britt Bender

My art expands beyond my painting or photography, it reaches into my writing and the way words hold me together. ADHD flipped my world around in many ways, but part of it forced me to look at the toll masking has had on me. The essence of who I am continues to struggle with expectations of productivity and the “worth” of my art. But I finally am starting to feel like I understand bits and pieces of the guidebook to my mind. I’m not certain on how to fix my creative lull, but day by day I feel that spark somewhere inside me and I have hope to bring her back to life.

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