Hi I’m Blue, and I struggle with mental illness.
Some of you will dismiss me, some of you will be scared of me, some of you will blame me, but a surprising amount of you will understand me, because 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues. Considering so many people experience it, we hear so little about it; it’s the family secret you can’t tell anyone, the fake smile so know one knows, the calling in sick but blaming food poisoning. It’s hard for me to write about, but I write this hoping it makes it easier for the next person to speak about it.
I am going to tell you my story, of my path with mental illness. I don’t know if it has a happy ending yet…
It began with a tough situation at home, which triggered the anxiety. It’s hard to explain the exact feeling. It’s kind of like where you’re leaning back on your chair, and go that bit too far and you just about to fall back. That sudden jolt of panic inside your chest, that half second spike that makes you fling your hands forward and grab the desk infront of you to steady yourself. That ‘oh shit’ moment. It’s that. Only it didn’t last for half a second, for even a minute, it lasted years. I thought I’d just have to live with it until the situations improved, but even when it did anxiety still clung to me like a scarf of live electricity. That feeling could come when I was alone in a room, sitting comfortably, with nothing to do and a clear day ahead. The world would spin and tumble, and I’d want to put my hands out to grab the desk and steady myself, but there was nothing there. Nothing to grab onto. Over and over.
And so, through anxiety’s hot trickery depressions cold crept in, it sat at the back of my mind and laughed at me. “Why are you even trying? It’s useless anyway” and when you’re fighting a non-existent force from a chair you’re not even really sitting on it’s hard to argue with that. And this feeling spread.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t feel happy, and it wasn’t total sadness per-se, I did feel sad, but the harshness of depression is that it makes the process of living excruciating. It’s like walking through thick treacle, every movement pushed against and held back by sticky tar. Suffocating and exhausting. Even when there’s no energy left you still have to walk. This same tar is in your brain, slowing your thoughts, numbing your feelings, even when there’s no energy left, you can never stop thinking. Then everything feels overwhelming. Even the small things, one task in particular for me, washing my clothes, was a mountain, even to think about it required so much energy, I could wash my clothes, but then I’d have to pick up the dirty clothes, taken them to the washer, open the washer, put the clothes in the washer, close the door, open the detergent bottle, put the detergent in. It was just too much. So the clothes sat there. And you know it’s absurd, everyone else can do it no trouble, so, I thought, maybe I’m just lazy, I should push on, I’m a strong person, so I pushed. Now you can push yourself do enough to look like your functioning normally, but it doesn’t get rid of the tar, the sticky molasses in your veins, on the outside I was normal enough, inside I was decaying. My mind was ablaze trying to grab a desk and my soul was swallowed in the bitter treacle. The worst thing, was that I never felt at peace, however still I sat, however beautiful the morning, however hard it was searched for, no peace arrived. It was torture, and my own mind was the torturer.
I didn’t -want- to kill myself, that’s messy, and probably involved going out of the house, a body, sad friends. I just wanted to be dead. My brain fantasized about it. That sweet release of deep restful unexistence, it seemed so much better than existing like this. If only, I thought, there weren’t people who loved me. It’s a sick twisted logic you don’t have control over; to you it all makes sense. I didn’t even know I was depressed, I thought what I was feeling was justified, life -was- meaningless, I -would- be better off dead. It had been a slow decline into darkness, the light wasn’t just switched off, I had no ‘oh shit it’s dark’ moment, I didn’t even realise I couldn’t see properly, my eyes had adjusted to the dark as the light faded, my mind replacing reality with it’s own twisted night vision, of strange shadows and dark half logic.
Yeah, I won’t go out today, no I don’t need to do my essay yet, it can wait, they probably don’t want to hang around with me anyway, It’s not worth it, I’m not worth it, I’m worthless.
So I hurt myself. Mostly to feel better, or to feel something, I’m not sure, but it proved a point. When I saw what I had done to my own skin, I had a thought: “This is what sick people do” The thought turned over a few times in my head and twisted into a lump in my throat “Am -I- sick?” That was the first time I really realised. Despite crippling depression, despite feeling suicidal, being unable to properly care for myself, I had barely thought I was ill, I’d just thought I was lazy, or sad, or worthless. But I looked at the blood, and the damage I’d done, and knew I needed help.
So I went to the doctor, and yes, I was sick, and the slow process began. Full of relapse and recovery. It’s not over, and it may never be for me, it’s more complicated than I can say here. But now I can recognise the signs and know what to look out for and I have learned how to manage my condition. I took a break at the start of this year, and didn’t do any conventions, just focused on getting better and giving myself a steady foundation to stand on for the rest of this year. At the moment I am doing well, and I appreciate the peace in my head so much more now I’ve known such darkness. But life is worth living, and I try and do it with vitatily.
Depression is so disgusting because it erodes the you-ness of you, the qualities you like in yourself are taken over, even the things you enjoy doing you have to do in the tar. It is not your fault, though it can feel like it is, and others may think it is. I hate that some people think it shows weakness. It shows no more weakness than walking up a mountain with a broken leg shows weakness. Your brain’s broken and you must get on -despite- that, doing the washing can be a huge victory, higher than climbing a mountain with a broken leg, and a lot more sensible. People congratulate me for creating a piece of art, or running my own business. No one congratulated me when I did my washing. But really, in my darkest time, it was one of my greatest achievements. And, on some future day where I’m feeling bad, putting another load of washing on will be a big achievement again.
I juts wanted to let you guys know that you were a small light in the huge darkness. Thank you so much for all your comments and notes, I treasure each one of you. Thank you for always being there for me. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I can reach out and so many people would grab my hand to help. I know many of you are suffering with the same thing I did. Please reach out, and for those of you willing to, please offer a hand to someone when they reach out, they probably need it more than you know, they might even need it more than they know.
It’s my birthday, and if I have a birthday wish, it’s for this message to be shared.
Peace, love, and mental well-being,
2 thoughts on “Drawing From Emotional Pain: One Artist’s Struggle With Mental Illness”
I to suffer from sever anxiety & life’s overloads. I started very young not learning a pepper way of exerting my angers, frustrations & feelings. As a young adult it lead to drug abuse to mask & at the time mentor my feelings. I though have tried not in many years but to commit suicide just to make the anxiety plus irratitional fears subside. Now 35 I’ve be we held a job. I have 2 children 16 & 9 that I effect on a daily basis. On daily I mean tasks. I can’t leave my home for long periods of time, I reserve safety people & things to do the smallest dealings. Shopping, events, schools, ext. I’m also a great artist wit tons of ideal time. I’m not sure exactly what my point is but it helped to share. I was given Zoloft to minimize my thoughts/emotions but have a fear of taking meds. Which goes hand & hand with my irrational fear of dying. Which I’ve had to from a young age. I wish I could break this cycle of self & venture to feel I’m living not existing.
Sorry reguardless of my proper spelling it still coaxed new words hope you can read between my lines. Enjoy your day