One day, I drew Fear as a scribbled mess on a piece of paper and gave it the captain “I know I feel real but I promise you I’m not.” And from then on, I’ve been using art to help with my mental health. I’ve always been creative, but I haven’t always used my creativity as a way to sort out what is going on inside my heart and my head. Art took on a new shape for me once I started to create with the intent to help myself. My work is all me just talking to myself and using visuals to sort out and make sense of what is going on in my head. To some it appears that I am creating with the intent to help others, but that has become a positive byproduct of me helping myself. When I write or draw the feelings out, I am able to look at them more objectively and see what I really feel and know to be true. The tricky part of mental illness is you have to make an effort to not believe everything your brain is telling you. To be aware of the false narratives your mind can create.
I have always struggled with anxiety and depression, but in my early 20s the product of me not learning how to properly cope with these illnesses lead to addiction through me abusing Adderall. I used it to push past the parts of myself I couldn’t manage. The “I’m not good enough” mantra became loud of enough for me to try to cover up. At the time, the only way I thought I could deal with these struggles was through suppressing them with substances.
After a few years of this escalating my depression and anxiety; I finally reached out for help. I had to recover from the first layer- addiction, before I could learn how to take care of myself when depression and anxiety rose up. Learning how to have empathy for myself and not shame myself. Learning healthy ways to cope, such as; meditating (even if it is for 5 minutes), reaching out to someone I trust with our hearts and learning how to talk gently to yourself. Something that has helped me tremendously that I illustrate in my art is breaking down these feelings and visualizing them as the child-like fears inside me. To think of anxiety as just my 12 year old self that feels lost and confused and letting myself take care of that emotion the same way I would take care of a scared 12 year old girl. With empathy and love. Not anger or shame.
I’m aware now that if I don’t constantly maintain my mental health, then everything quickly becomes uprooted and distorted. It has taken me years to get here, and to be honest I still have so much work to do, but I am consciously aware that it is a practice. I have to practice it. I have to practice tuning into my body and mind and asking it what it needs before the spirals start. It has also taken me a while to accept that I do struggle with depression and anxiety and that is totally OKAY. That they are waves that come and go and they will pass. It’s come with learning how to let the thoughts come and go without acting out on them or believing in them. To remind myself daily that I am enough, despite what my head might yell at me.