Browsing Tag

social anxiety

Art, Mental illness

~tortured artist feelings~

11 September, 2012

Illustration with purple clouds and the text “I’m so sad. What do I do with all this sad?” written in orange and surrounded by rain/ tears.

I’m really fed up with the tortured artist trope. People have said it about me since I was a teenager, and while it’s true that I am kind of a bit artistic and also depressed as fuck, the latter does not positively affect the former. If this were the case I’d be a lot further along in my artistic practice and career.

My craziness has affected me to the point where I can’t leave the house most of the time, let alone go to ~cultural events~ and network with local art people. Making connections is incredibly difficult for me. It’s not that I’m shy, I actually really resent being called shy, it’s that I am overcome with panic whenever I try to do certain social/ professional things. When I say panic, I don’t mean butterflies in my stomach. I sweat. I don’t perspire. Sweat rolls down my face, I get flustered, I forget how to form words and I get disoriented and dizzy. People don’t tend to react favourably towards a leaking, bumbling mess, and so I end up compounding panic with the fear of looking ridiculous. And so on and so forth. I only found out there was a name for this a few years ago, and it’s called Social Anxiety Disorder.

So I don’t go to art events, I don’t hang around with arty types, and I rarely get to immerse myself in discussion and critique. It’s frustrating. Every few months I descend into despair over my worth as a person who creates things, in addition to my worth as a human; but it’s balanced out by hypermanic episodes of frenzied sketching and creating. So it’s ok I guess. My psychiatrist says I might have Bipolar 2. I was put on Lamictal (lamotrigine) and for the first time I felt almost balanced, but now I am experiencing very familiar depths and all creating has halted.

This is my life since 15 and from now on, and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. I don’t wish to receive advice when I talk about my health (I want to emphasise that mental health IS health), I just think it’s important to talk about it instead of feeling ashamed. I try to talk about it, but it’s a struggle, because people’s responses pretty much always fall into one of the following:
* unsolicited advice (try this diet! meds don’t work!)
* redundant platitudes (chin up! be positive! it could be worse!)
* conversation terminated awkwardly (and usually the relationship)

So don’t do that. Thanks.

Illustration with text “Jam sandwich club” surrounded by jam splatters, a jam sandwich, jam donut, jar of jam and jam on a crumpet. A faint piece of bread is in the background.

What I am trying to do is be gentle with myself. I have started to learn ACT techniques, and it’s challenging remembering them but I’ve made a start. I wrote a list of steps I want to take towards sorting some of my drawing feelings out, and that made me feel less hopeless about my creative situation. My plan is to focus on research as well as technique, and to draw every day. Even if it’s simple.

So that’s what I’ve done for the last few days. I hope I can keep it up. These vector illustrations aren’t super slick or fully rendered but they’re something.

Illustration with two roughly cut out photos of manatees that look like they’re about to embrace with “Manatee hugs” above them.

People seem to like this one. You can download it to use as a desktop picture if you like!

Mental illness

Stitch and Twitch: Social anxiety and public crafting.

3 April, 2011

Over the last few months I’ve been coming to terms with learning something new about myself. I’ve been dealing with generalised anxiety and depression for many years but a few months ago I found out I was also suffering with social anxiety. I’ve never been into partying a lot (well, besides my early 20s and that wasn’t terribly enjoyable) and I score dead between Introvert and Extrovert on the Myers Briggs test. I just thought I was being introverted and stuff!

I’m afraid of using the telephone. Sometimes I don’t go outside because I’m afraid of falling over. When I go out I get terribly anxious, I hyperventilate, sweat a lot and stumble over my words. In the last year I started to withdraw into myself, not going outside and I even started falling behind on my work which is largely undertaken inside in the comfort of my own home. My social anxiety is strongly linked with avoidance so I will avoid seeing friends, taking calls (which must distress my mother!) and even responding to emails.

I’m seeing a psychologist and taking medication to help get me through years of pretty crippling anxiety, but it’s very hard. I wonder if there’s a line between just not wanting to socialise because I don’t get much out of it and being afraid of socialising, but these are things I am currently seeking therapy for. My psychologist suggested that I do at least one social thing a week, and after thinking about it and negotiating between all the things in my brain I settled on doing something that I like in a challenging environment.

I love to make things but it’s been a private thing for me up until now. I see the ways in which the crafting movement has enjoyed a revival and how crafty people have started to reclaim public space for making things. Knitting, crocheting, stitching and stuff. I went to a “Stitch and Bitch” night a few times years ago and wasn’t terribly confident about stitching but the social aspect was great. On twitter the other week I wondered aloud about holding a “Stitch and Twitch”, a weekly social crafting session for people with social anxiety. Wonderfully, a few people (pretty much my friends!) said they’d love to attend, so we’ve had a couple of meetings so far and it’s been great!

Today we went to Kerbside and took full advantage of the lovely mismatched vintage furniture, working on our own individual projects. The bar is actually a huge shed type structure filled with interesting stuff and good music, so even if the conversation lulled (another thing I fear!) it was filled with humming and concentration.

I didn’t have much of that concentration today and after unpicking a huge mistake in my cross stitching I switched to crocheting a necklace, then taking photos! Here’s lots of them.

A photo of mismatched seats lining a long table against a fence made out of lots of odd bits of iron fencing facing the street.

A photo of people sitting in mismatched lounge chairs in various floral tapestry fabrics.

A photo of a framed picture of Jesus on a wall next to a mirror.

An out of focus photo of Sonya's silver sequin jacket spangled with lots of silvery bokeh.

A photo of Nick working on his cross stitch.

A photo of lots of bangles on a pale skinned wrist, one is a coiled snake and the others are various big plastic and resin bangles.

A photo of Mem holding up her small Finding Nemo cross stitch in front of her face.

A photo of me taking a photo of my reflection in the mirror. Written on the mirror in white pen is "Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? And can I have their number?"

A photo of various glasses of cider on a table with Zoe and Sonya out of focus behind.

A photo of various crafty things on the table like cross stitch, crochet, scissors and a drawing.

A photo of some cream yarn and crocheting on a floral tapestry couch.