Growing up, and throughout the beginning of my young adulthood, I seldom considered my mental health as something that needed to be addressed. It wasn't until my early 20s, when I entered a long lasting friendship/relationship that I began analyzing my mental health and its effect on everything that I do. It has been a nonstop rollercoaster ever since.
There were times when I was really up and able to create and execute effortlessly and flawlessly in academic settings, in my art and in balancing home/family life. But then there were times when I barely wanted to leave the bed. I found myself unable to wake up before 1PM in the afternoon, stressed out and delving in various coping mechanisms (usually in the form of processed and sugary foods). I thought I knew better than to indulge in such bad habits, but I didn't. Although I had 'learned' that such coping mechanisms were bad, I hadn't internalized the severity of the damage I was doing to my already fragile mental state. Furthermore, I was at a point where I didn't know I was coping. Honestly, I didn't even know I was depressed.
As an artist, and coming to the realization that I chose to follow my artistry, I'm learning how important it is for me to address my mental blockages in order for me to create. I titled this post "Expression and Artistic Depression/Depression and Artistic Expression" because, although they're similar, they are not the same.
- Expression and Artistic Depression
My lack of communication is what I'm specifically referring to when I say "expression". I've spent much of my life talking to myself in my head. My lack of healthy, open and honest expression coupled with life's events, developed into a full lack of communication. I passively aggressively hold my tongue, until I explode, or I completely refuse to effectively communicate my thoughts and feelings due to fear.
Either way, I still have to face my absolute truth at the end of every single day. Not communicating my thoughts and emotions only masked/stifled my truths to the point where I could no longer see them for myself.
This back and forth led to an inability to effectively create. This wasn't a conscious action, I just know that when my head is not clear, my artwork cannot come to fruition. I cannot logically think about or describe my photo series and projects. I also fail terribly in social settings. My thoughts become a jumbled mess and artistically, I begin rambling. Meaning, I have spur of the moment ideas that are amazing, but will likely never come to fruition. When it gets really bad, I cannot create at all, my camera sits on my desk for weeks straight and never sees the light of day.
My lack of expression leads to artistic depression.
- Depression and Artistic Expression
My inability to create, manifest or clearly think is driven by clouded thoughts. Usually this leads directly or contributes fully into my entering a depressed state.
Ironically, my being depressed often leads to some of my greatest artistic ideas. Manifestation is the issue. I physically do no feel comfortable "going out and getting it" while in this state, no matter how much I need to go out and get it. The spectrum of my depressed state and its effect on my artistry ranges from me only being able to capture content and nothing more (no editing, no posting, no publishing) TO me not being able to create at all. When I am on the severe end of the spectrum, I actually hate my camera.
I used to feel this way in relation to my music. If I felt broken, I could easily hate the piano--the very thing that, I felt, once gave me a voice and sense of expression. It was hard to explain to anyone that wasn't me.
Where Do I Go From Here?
I don't have all the answers, but I know this is a start. The beginning of some sort of communication and a willingness to engage with my mental health. This is the beginning of expression, which can only help me manifest healing, rather than coping.