Some Ponderings About Depression

I know lately I’ve been focused on sharing my art work and the process behind what I do, but tonight my head is heavy with thought.  My ponderings are of a serious tone tonight.

There was a comment that one of my friends made today on Facebook about some guy who committed suicide… that the person was selfish for taking his own life and how he’s needlessly causing his family pain.  This struck a nerve with me.  I had mentioned in a previous post about having personal experience with depression.  I do understand how someone could see the situation in the way like my friend did.  All you see is someone who had shloads of potential and they cut their life short.  All you see are the people who are left behind grieving.  One, I would hope that people could give the deceased a little compassion without having to personally walk in their shoes… obviously they were in some sort of mental anguish to get to the point where dying seemed more preferable.  But two, I also know that some people have to experience something first hand before they can see from another perspective.  So another perspective I shall give…

First of all- was there ever a time where you were depressed?  I mean utter despair… a horrible break up, a huge betrayal from someone you know and trusted, someone close to you dying, or some other tragedy… not something that is really sad, but you can get over it in a few days… I mean something that upsets your very core and feels like it will never get better.  Now imagine having those feelings without any tragic event triggering it.  You’re just doing your normal thing and this deep sadness overwhelms you and your thoughts begin to circle around the hopelessness of any obstacles that life may bring.  Normally you’re pretty upbeat, but today you can’t stop thinking about all the suffering in the world and how it feels there is nothing that can be done to stop it.  Or you think of how you put your foot in your mouth sometime in the past and now are convinced that you pissed your friends off and how you really are an insensitive jerk of person anyway.  You may even try thinking positively and try to say to yourself that you don’t really “know” that people are unhappy with you and perhaps it’s just all in your head.  The unfortunate thing is that your brain isn’t operating logically at this time.

The brain is a storm of chemical reactions, synapses firing, and hormones giving messages.  What if that process was out of whack?  What if there was something happening inside of it preventing it from reasoning properly?  One, it would be a terrifying feeling… for your mind- the center of your consciousness- to not be working.   How horrifying to not be in control of your own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?   This is what it can be like to have clinical depression.  Logic doesn’t work.  Whatever troubling thoughts you have, even if highly unlikely, seem like the absolute truth.  So if normally you could see where you have good things going in your life worth living for and that a bad day isn’t permanent, that isn’t necessarily the case when you’re experiencing depression.  And the mental pain really sucks!  Remember how I said it feels like a tragic event has happened without the event needing to take place?  So not only are all these askewed thoughts going through your head, you’re aslo feeling the worst sadness imaginable.   Believe me that there are times when death seems preferable.   There are times I’m convinced that friends hate me, or that I can never accomplish anything in life, or that life is so cruel and why should I bother trying.  On the flip side- there is someone I deeply love and am looking forward to spending more time with, I have a potential art career budding, and I am a creative silly person who loves to do things to make positive change in the world.  But if I were in a certain state of mind, my thoughts would convince me that there is no hope, it’s pointless to try to improve the world , or my special someone would be better off with someone else and deserves better than someone who is crazy… if I were suicidal, I could reason that he and other close friends would get over it if I wasn’t around anymore.  Now don’t worry- I’m NOT suicidal.  As much as I may be dipping into depression the past couple of days, I am not in that frame of mind.  But this is an example of a possible scenario.  Luckily I have coping mechanisms, therapy under my belt, some medicine in my system, and knowledge of what to do if my thoughts did turn that severe.  Normally I wouldn’t be too comfortable sharing such intimate personal details like this on a blog.  But the suicide discussion today made me realize that talking about such things may help with others understanding.  Especially when some off-base notions were being mentioned; a notion like the one I’m about to describe.

Another comment that was brought up in that conversation was how crappy people who commit suicide are to think they are in pain when there are people dying of cancer and such.  This is the stigma people with mental illnesses have had to endure for a long time.  This is PAINFUL condition.  No bones are broken, no tumors causing blinding sharp physical pain… but mental pain IS painful.  People brush off emotional pain or pain of the mind as not real.  Is it because they can’t hear the person’s inner thoughts or feel what they are feeling?  I’m not sure.  I guess awesome for them for never having to go through that… to be able to go for their goals and pursue their desires without their brain interfering or their self preservation instinct not functioning properly.   I guess what it comes down to is compassion.  If someone is hurting, why not believe them?  Why does it come down to a “scar contest” and who’s wounds are the most severe?  The thing about our minds is that no one experiences life the same.  The way we perceive and our thought processes are hidden from view.  Even the way we see the color “blue” is different and we’ll never know what a friend’s blue looks like without seeing it through their eyes; without processing it with their mind.

So remember that we all have these hidden worlds and some people’s worlds are on fire.  Instead of judging them or discounting their struggle, you could offer them some water.

Just a thought.

Tales of My Personal Art History 3: Subconscious Journeys

In the fall of 2013, I began to feel much better mentally & emotionally; going to counseling had helped repair my trauma, my self esteem had improved, and there was love in my heart again.  I started painting a Christmas gift; a gift that wouldn’t be ready until a couple months after and would stall any other creativity until it was completed.  But that project is a post for another day…

 

So 2014 has been an interesting year thus far for not just me, but my artwork as well.  I took my exploration of color and kinetic line (like in my Portal Paintings), and added form.  These pieces started off as abstracts with no plan; just allowing color and line flow freely.  I experimented with heavy washes of paint that would drip down the canvass, splashes of pigment that I flicked off my brush, and thick strokes of color.  But, it was in this unplanned chaos of paint that I saw figures, faces, landscapes, and creatures.  And then, I drew these shapes out.  I really didn’t know what direction the paintings would take; I just put more detail in the figures I saw peeking out of the blur of colors.  Was I tapping into my subconscious?  Or was I channeling information out of the ether?  I’m not sure.  I do know that I enjoyed being pleasantly surprised during the entire process.

 

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You are Loved ~ 2014 ~ acrylic on canvass ~ 24 x 24

(This painting is actual A LOT more turquoise colored than the photo suggests.  Actually, the photos I have currently are admittedly pretty crappy,  but I am using what resources I have at the moment.  In future, I’d hope to have professionally photographed images to display, but there is a reason the term “starving artist” exists, unfortunately)

This painting started out as a swirl of pthalo blue and turquoise hues… and then I saw a face and drew it out…

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I saw another face that became the ‘guardian angel’ type figure and then saw the faces of the little demon guys, and so forth…  I began to see this scene playing out of someone with depression or another sort of mental anguish being plagued with those inner negative thoughts.  If you’ve ever suffered from depression or similar mental illness, you know that the pain of the mind and/or soul can be so much worse than the pain of the body.  It is more than “being really sad”; more than something that merely thinking positively would cure.  The horrible thoughts running through your head and the negative perceptions they cause can feel like being under a curse or being tormented by malevolent creatures.  This painting became an outlet for my own experience with clinical depression and anxiety disorder.  The thoughts and perceptions one can have in that moment are not real or logical, but they feel like the ABSOLUTE TRUTH- that everyone DOES hate you or you really ARE this horrible person.  It is only after you come out of the depression that you can begin to see how false your perceptions were.

In this painting, there is this ‘being of love’ or ‘guardian angel’ bringing in a calming energy… dispelling the demons… letting the person know that what he’s thinking and feeling does not represent the truth, for he IS loved.  The words I painted are:  “The demons in your mind are NOT real. You are LOVED… and never alone”.  Funny how a painting with no plan turned into a powerful message that mirrored my own experiences.

 

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Sacred Water ~ 2014 ~ acrylic on canvass ~ 40 x 30

 

I actually started this piece in 2013.  It was start and stop during my healing time and mostly finished, but I didn’t like it.  But, more on THAT later…

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I wish I had taken a pic when this painting was an abstract- before I drew out the mountains, waterfall, moon, trees, and unicorn, but hindsight and all.  It was a series of drips and slashes of orange… which you can still see the slashes of “pre-phoenix” in this shot.  In the pattern of drips and slashes I saw this magical scene.  It was I place I have had reoccurring dreams about; the “waterfall place” as I call it.  This realm actually became my sacred space during meditation (hence the title).  And throughout the years, I have learned that others have visited this same place in dreams, astral projection, and meditation.  That’s an interesting phenomena that perhaps will be written more about in the future, but yes, another blog for another day indeed.  But in any case, I was happy to be finally creating a work describing this dreamscape that has been in my mind for years.

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Then I added the phoenix… and hated it.  Seriously.  It is common for an artist to be their own worst critic and for the inspiration and drive to flow some moments and in others, stop completely.  So this painting sat and sat in my room.  It may have been 2013 still when I fixed the tail and added talons- I can’t remember.  All I know is I liked the new tail, but hated the talons, ha ha ha. And my painting sat and sat some more.  Finally after finishing “You Are Loved”, I went back to this piece and fixed it to my satisfaction.  Even after that , it took me awhile to warm up to it.  Now I see it as a strong work, but yeah, definitely a lesson in not necessarily trusting my inner critic.

 

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I Am My Own Knight ~ 2014 ~

acrylic & high gloss varnish on canvass ~ 24 x 48

This painting has not been subject to my inner art critic of doom.  I absolutely love it!  I can actually see that this work is good and has potential- seriously that doesn’t always happen, ha ha ha!  Again this one started with drips, slashes, and chaos.  I had this weird, large, white shape in the middle of my canvass, and even though I had no idea where this painting was taking me, I was digging what I was seeing so far.  So at first this big white shape was going to be a scorpion and I was going to go with an astrological theme and call it “Scorpio Rising”.  But there was also something horse-like about it and friends who were around commented that it looked like a white horse.  So, immediately the song “Ride a White Horse” by Goldfrapp popped in my head.  It’s one of my favorite songs in general, but also to sing for karaoke.  But I resisted going that direction at first because of the drug reference… I saw this land as a dreamscape, not a drug trip.  But I added a tiny horse head and started blocking in a rider.  I was seeing that this was a dreamland (people have mentioned that the horse reminds them of Falcor from The Neverending Story, lol).  That this woman/ me was having an awesome dream of riding this mystical horse and being her own knight in shining armor.  And then the concept struck me… this was an artwork of empowerment; a subject that I have been working with in my own life.  That’s right!  She’s her OWN knight!  She’s not waiting around for someone to make her dreams come true, but making those dreams a reality herself!  I am woman- hear me roar!  Feminism not withstanding, I love the dream-like quality and color scheme.  This really is one of my favorite paintings I’ve created thus far.

 

So this the path I’m currently on.  I have started a new painting this week, that started out drippy, but I have a feeling it will have figures soon.  Maybe I’ll add a dinosaur… yeah, dinosaurs kick ass!