my journey with art + healing (the long version- part one)

I started drawing and experimenting in art in grade school, taking those once-a- week classes when an outside teacher would come in. Of course I loved that time not having to do "real work," but didn’t know there was any skill until my (awesome) mom enrolled me in official classes. I fell in love with my teacher immediately. She was kind and I felt connected to her and the students more so than my classmates at school. We started with pencil and moved through every medium possible; chalk, charcoal, pen, watercolor, acrylic... and finally oils. I loved it all, but when we got to oils, I knew something was different. The colors I desired were more achievable. Even just mixing the paint was therapeutic. Oils were so creamy compared to every other medium I'd worked with. I was warned that the drying time would drive me crazy, but it never did. I liked that I could go back and tweak things for weeks (ahem... where my perfectionists at?!) I've recently started challenging these perfectionist tendencies by using acrylics for minimal pieces, but that's another story for another time! 

I took classes through high school, entering contests, gifting paintings to family members… but I was always scared to sell them. I was afraid it would take the joy out of the process. There was a long time where I fell away from art. Looking back now I can clearly see that was one of the first manifestations of my depression. In college, I would occasionally start to create again but it broke my heart to find there was no joy in it anymore. The colors seemed to fall flat. College and the first few years after I graduated was a blur of un-diagnosed severe depression and panic attacks, over-drinking and over-partying, and constant physical illnesses brought on by the abuse I was inflicting on my own body. 

A few years ago, when I was at my worst, I gave in and was all but dragged to a counselor. The events that followed saved my life. (Side note: this is why I'm passionate about mental health. Real talk; You deserve a chance to live. Don't give up.) After working together for a long time, she referred me to a psychiatrist. We found the correct medication and over the next few months I started to see things the way I used to. I didn’t feel like I was walking in a haze. I was able to laugh without it feeling fake, able to think clearly, to see colors in richer tones, able to openly love other people.

(Part II coming soon)