(I am writing this in response to a series of panic attacks I have experienced in the past month. I think it is important to talk about issues of mental health. So many people that deal with mental health issues are scared to say anything and get the support they need. Hopefully this might encourage a few people to get help. There are links to some great resources at the bottom of this page for those struggling and don't know where to start.)
I often wonder what drives people to their passions. What underlying elements in their pasts that make them choose a particular way of expressing themselves. There are so many talented people that create amazing works of art. Where did that come from? Was it something that inspired them? Was it something that made them afraid? It is hard not to wonder, because it is something that drove the creation of that piece.
I can speak from my own experience in that my work is influenced by my life experiences both good and bad. I have mentioned on social media before that I have long struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, and depression. Growing up was tough. I was a sensitive kid and was bullied a lot. This drove me inward where my imagination could take to me to far off places where I was safe and in control. As I got older, I had a harder time retreating inward. My anxiety and depression became worse and I often would feel sick to my stomach with worry and sadness. I didn't have a great outlet besides the typical escapes of video games and movies. While these would help with the problems I was dealing with at the moment, they often did nothing to fix the problems overall. After I turned the TV off, the feelings would come flooding back and I was drowning again. A few times my depression became so bad that I began to have thoughts of suicide. Never to the extent that many people with my same conditions have experienced and acted upon, but enough to cause concern. I was and am still fortunate to be surrounded by supportive loved ones. My mother deserves a medal for all the work she did helping me keep everything together during the darkest points in my life.
In 2006, my family went on a week long vacation to Puerto Rico. Unlike many that head to the Caribbean, we weren't the type to go to a resort for the week. We are explorers and I knew we would get to experience much of what the island had to offer. I thought it would be smart to get myself a camera to document the trip. I lost myself behind that camera. I pointed it at everything. Suddenly the world looked a little different. A little more of something I had control over.
A ten year leap forward brings us to today. I still struggle with the same issues I have always struggled with. I probably always will. Thats one thing that they never tell you in any form of popular media. There isn't a happily ever after, but there is a tomorrow, and the day after. I will always have ups and downs, but at least now, I have an outlet for it. In a lot of ways its an advantage. Sure, it can be a huge pain in the ass to get anything done when you have a hard time getting out of bed, showering, feeding yourself, but you are also gifted with an emotional dichotomy that allows you to see things that others might not. On days I feel great and happy, I create brighter images. On days that I feel down, I create dark and moody images. The point is that I am able to pour myself into my creations no matter what I am feeling. That is a powerful thing and it lends its power to the images I create. I will never feel sorry for that.
So to those of you that have your own struggles, know that you are loved and that your feelings are valid. You don't have to feel ashamed that you feel the way you do. You have the gift of knowing what lies in the depths and heights of your soul. You have a large emotional palette to pull from. I encourage you to find whatever your canvas may be, whether it be painting, film making, photography, writing, etc. Instead of turning inward, put those feelings into something. Show the world what you feel and declare in a loud voice "This is who I am and its amazing!" It could save your life. I know that it saved mine.
If you are struggling with any of these issues or know someone that is, but don't know where to start, here are a few places to find resources to get help and support. Don't be afraid to reach out.
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network