Talking FreELY Tuesday is part of our growing campaign to break the stigma of mental health through honest and open conversation.
Launching our campaign is Siobhan who discusses how art helped her to express depression.
“I started painting in my early 20s. When I was a child, I would spend hours creating things from all manner of materials for no apparent reason other than because I wanted to. I had never painted though and, to be honest, didn’t really know how. I never knew why I started painting or why I kept doing it. My work would just build up in great rows of unwanted canvases in my mother’s loft space, or in my various spare rooms. They became like a huge photo album marking times in my life. I became aware that these moments were dark ones, times when I was feeling lost, sad and alone. I assumed that painting was cathartic, a way of emptying out my troubled soul onto canvas. I began waiting until I was depressed to paint, because that was my medication, my way of getting out of the mood I was in and into a lighter place.
I took the plunge in the early 2000s and got myself a place at The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague on a one year programme for mature students who felt they had maybe missed out by not going to art school. I was in my element. It was stimulating and rewarding and although I never learned the technical ‘how to’ of painting, I learned to look at the world differently. I also learned that I didn’t need to paint to get out of being depressed; I needed to paint to stay happy – only painting when I was glum was the reason why I was getting glum. The more I painted, the happier I became.
It’s taken me nearly 30 years to find my own style and to start selling my work, and also to realise it is not the act of painting that makes me happy – it’s the complete absorption in a task where I forget who I am, where I am, what time it is and when I last ate. The state of mind is called ‘flow’ and it is akin to meditation, apparently.
My advice to anyone struggling to deal with their own mental health issues is to find the flow. Start looking in your childhood for the things that kept you entertained for hours: digging in the soil, swinging on a rope, writing fantastical stories or creating endless works of art from all manner of materials. When you remember what it was, try it again. Find the flow”.
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