I made some paper mache pumpkins today. It wasn’t that I was feeling particularly cheerful or festive. It is that creating art helps me cope with my depression. Art has become one of my favorite and most used self-care techniques in my mental wellness toolbox.
When I am struggling under the weight of my own emotions, I often write about the impact my illness has on my life. When I am feeling numb, I prefer crafts that are multi-dimensional and messy, so I can feel with my hands even if I cannot feel with my heart. When my life feels dark and hopeless, I use bright colors. When I feel lost and alone, I create with warm hues, hoping to dd warmth into my life. No matter how my depression distorts my perceptions, there is a way to combat it with art.
Some people assume that if I am well enough to create art, I must not be struggling too badly. Honestly, the opposite is true. I have found that I create the most, and the projects with the deepest personal meanings, when I am struggling the worst. I use artistic expression as my lifeline back to reality. It is the life preserver that keeps me from drowning in even the roughest of storms.
When someone is struggling with depression, the world feels dark and bleak, devoid of any glimmer of light, hope or goodness. There is no beauty in depression. So it helps me to create something beautiful out of my despair. In my artwork, I am reminded that there is more to the world than darkness.
When someone is suffering from depression, the feelings can be overwhelming. You are often raw and feel everything too deeply. You feel like you are drowning in pain and anguish. It helps creating something that will express what I am feeling inside, to release some of the agony that is consuming me. As a wise Ogre once said, “Better out than in”.
When someone has been diagnosed with depression, it seeps into every corner of their consciousness. It is exhausting and overwhelming. It often feels like there is no escape from the prison of your own mind. It helps to create something that can distract me from everything going on within myself. When the creative juices are flowing, it is easy to forget for even a little while the weight of this illness on my shoulders.
When someone suffers from depression, they often feel they have no control over anything in their lives anymore. You often feel like you are on a runaway train, with no way to slow down, stop or get off. You are held hostage, just along for the ride. It helps me to create something artistic because it gives me back some control. My artwork is in my hands. I choose what to make and which direction to take it.
When someone is struggling with depression, they often feel useless, like an utter waste of space. Depression distorts reality and destroys self-esteem. You feel as if you can do nothing right and that everything you touch will become damaged, tainted and tarnished by your very presence. It helps me to create things because art is about expression, not perfection. There is no right or wrong so even when I am feeling like a complete failure, I cannot mess up my art.
When someone who has depression feels isolated and misunderstood, it is common to feel all alone in the world. It can feel like no one is there, nobody cares, no one could possibly understand what you are going through. It helps me to create things I can show others, share with them, to create something to bring them back into my circle, back into my life. Art brings people together. It starts a dialogue where otherwise there would be silence.
There are times when someone who is suffering from depression is at a loss for words to explain how they are feeling. You might not even be sure what you are depressed about, only that those feelings are there. It helps to create things not only so that I can work through and understand my own feelings, but so that I can help explain it to others, as well. Art doesn’t have to be neat and easily explained. Art can be a messy, jumbled mess and still get its point across.
There are many reasons I create, a multitude of reasons why art comforts my mind and soothes my soul. Using art to combat depression isn’t about clear and concise thoughts, raw talent or creating masterpieces. It is about letting emotions out, replacing the darkness with some light and adding your own brand of beauty and creativity into the world. Art is a wonderful tool for mindfulness because it brings you back into the moment, back to reality to focus on the here and now.
When the world feels broken and hopeless and you feel lost and alone, it might feel impossible to find the motivation to create. Use your illness as inspiration. Put into your words or on your canvas how you are feeling inside. Share everything you wish others knew. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even coherent and understandable to anyone but you. It can be raw and painful, mirroring how you feel inside. If you have the urge to express how you are feeling through your artwork, don’t hold yourself back. Art is about letting your feelings flow.
You don’t have to create based on the negativity of your depression, either, because you are so much more than your depression. The beauty of art if that you are only restricted by your own imagination. The world around you is full of inspiration. Look to the future for upcoming holidays and events. Look to the past for cherished memories. Take inspiration from friends and family or beloved pets. Open a window into the nature outside or look to the heavens above. Revisit your favorite book, movie or television show. Pick a color that calls to you or an abstract thought and run with it. Find your inspiration in something beautiful, something that reminds you of light, happiness and hope.
You don’t need to overthink art. Don’t question things. There is no right or wrong. Just go with the flow. Focus on the here and now and the creative process. Put yourself into your art, the person you are at this very moment or the person you wish you could be. Art is also about possibilities. You start with a blank canvas or empty page. As you create, open yourself up not only to everything your art can become but everything you can become, as well. Remind yourself that you are more than your diagnosis. You are many things, many pieces that are not as dark, bleak and hopeless as your depression makes you feel. You are an artist!
I created some paper mache pumpkins today. Those pumpkins might not seem like much, but they helped me get through another rough day. Though it by no means cured my depression, it gave me a much-needed reprieve from my struggles and a way to add some beauty to a world that would otherwise feel dark and bleak. Art might not be a panacea, but it is a useful crutch that can help get you through the hardest of times, making you feel stronger at a time when you otherwise might not be able to stand on your own.