I have dealt with debilitating bouts of anxiety and depression many times throughout my life on this earth. I also know many artists who have went through, or are currently experiencing the same. I could talk about what it felt like and thoughts that ran through my mind during these mental episodes, but I would rather not go there, at least not at this moment.
I have found that the past only lives in the mind and it is my attitude toward it that can change it.
It is up to me how I want to perceive what has happened there.
I can look upon a negative event as something which has happened for me or against me.
Artwork by Betsy Frahm
For example, when I think about my childhood, I sometimes think of my neglectful and sometimes abusive parents. They learned from their mistakes later in life, but my mental scars have lingered. My natural inclination has always been anger for what they put me through. During these bouts of depression and anxiety I felt the feelings of that child in the present, just as I had actually returned there.
Currently, I take a different perspective on these and other traumatic events throughout my life - so that I don't put myself through that continuous cycle of "what ifs".
I honestly believe that there is a positive reason for everything, even the negative things. I realize that I would not be the person I am now - and where I am now - without that struggle. It's one of the contributors of my passions, beliefs and dreams. My mental struggles has been one of the main reasons I create art in the first place - essentially using it as self therapy and self analysis to help counter the anxiety and depression.
Take a look at most of the greatest achievers and artists in this world - such as Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh and Monet. The main way they got there is through a series of failures, setbacks and mistakes. I realized that it's how we treat adversity that makes the difference in our lives!
So, this takes me to the intent of this article - to let you know some ways creating art has helped me cope with anxiety and depression.
Creating art that is positive
As I wrote in a recent article, it can be hard staying positive in a world that is mostly presented as negative on social media and network news programs. Find this article here: How to Stay Positive as an Artist
Artwork by Candy Waters
In the past, some of my art has been about traumatic events in my life. While these works may have been therapeutic for me, in some ways they only caused me to repeat the same cycle of negative emotions. Nowadays, I try to reflect my newer positive outlook in my art, instead of the negativity of the past.
I think of the act of art creation itself as a powerful force, with the potential for intense healing. It is through creating that art, and sharing it with others, that I hope to have a positive impact on the world.
This is a positive thing in itself, which is continually building my sense of purpose the more artwork I create.
Using expressive art to release emotions such as anger and fear
As I said, I have done this to focus on certain traumatic occurrences. Even though the earlier works caused me to experience the same mental pain in the present, I eventually learned to face these feelings and fears. I now look at them as things that happened for me and not to me - but I would not see it that way if I did not release the anger and fear first.
Using art to explore who I am
Believe it or not, knowing who I am did not always come natural to me, and is something which I am still exploring to an extent. I've found that the more I paint, the more I learn about myself. I learn simple things like my favorite colors, forms and themes. I also learn what makes me happier and what I am passionate about, and try to focus on that.
Artwork by Natalie Norrell
Keep going and stay positive
Above all, realize that you (and your art) are valuable and worthy of being loved. Keep this in your mind always - and write it on your heart.
As an aside, I have returned to writing here in a non-pressured and no stress capacity. (ie taking things slow) Let's see how it goes this month. If all goes well, hopefully I can return full time in the new year.
Thank-you and love you all!