Art as a Coping Mechanism. Toxic Homes, Bipolar Disorder, Self Preservation.

I was reminded of how much art has helped me to deal with negative circumstances in the fall, when I was spending time with a difficult family member and found myself fiercely digging my graphite stick into the paper while they were talking. As if I had to physically feel something to further distance myself from the interaction, to protect myself from the harshness of those shitty vibes.

I have been making art my whooole life. Because I was an only child, and there were not many other children near where I lived (the boonies, sticks, middle of no-where) I had many hobbies to keep myself entertained. Art, playing with animals, and roaming around in the forests were my favorite pass times.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time alone. I think that is part of what fueled my artistic drive, as an adult I much prefer to be at home looking out at the trees and working on a project, than going out and doing normal 20-something-year old stuff, like drinking.. or whatever normal people do. In my life, I have noticed that some things just don’t change.. As evidenced by a little book that I found, I made it in kindergarten and my artist bio for myself was, I like crafts, and I just want to be a good witch. Very relevant.

I think that creating art helped to fill the time where I was alone, and may have felt lonely growing up, but also gave me a sense of purpose and a way to connect with others. “See what I made?” always resulted in a positive reaction. I had a little hat that I crocheted (for my cat) put into the Fall Fair when I was 7, that was exciting. People always were impressed and smiled when I showed them when I made. Art also purposed as an escape from the negativity of my family, at times my house was very chaotic and toxic and I could completely detach from reality and throw myself into my projects. Isn’t it funny how the things that we find that feel good to us as children, can be such a big part of our whole lives?

I had a very active imagination as a child. I would write stories, poems, and songs as far back as I remember. I would come up with detailed stories of different worlds and realities, and pretend (and believe) that I was part of them. One day when I was around 8 I convinced my friend that everything was just make-believe, and we were like Sims in a big video game and there are players, so much bigger than us which are controlling everything in our lives. I can remember things like this happening as I got older as well, making up extravagant / unrealistic stories of other realms and trying to convince my peers that it was real-life, at 10-11 years old I was still doing this.

Maybe, using art so heavily as a coping mechanism in so many ways.. resulted in me being a bit detached from reality? Not that it’s completely abnormal for a 10 year old to play make believe.. but I was also starting to drink alcohol at this age. In the coming years I struggled with various addictions and further detachment from reality. I found myself constantly surrounded by people who also came from chaotic, toxic homes and felt distant from their families, many of whom ended up with addictions and mental illnesses as we got older. I see a connection between escaping the current moment using art and imagination to create better feelings and emotions within myself, with mental illness and a distorted sense of reality. Some psychologists/therapists will say to people, its not that your reality is WRONG or non existent, it’s just that the reality you are experiencing is not the objective reality. People with psychosis or schizophrenia can see/hear/feel things that aren’t there, and there are arguments of whether the brain is simply misfiring, failing to accurately sense the environment around it and sending faulty signals, or if the person is tuned into a different frequency of reality and experiencing things that others aren’t able to perceive. Some people are extra sensitive, they feel everything much more intensely than most people, and.. is that the brain misfiring? Or are they wired up that way because their childhood experiences primed them to be extra aware of certain things. Who knows! Science doesn’t. But one day i’m sure it will, and that’ll be pretty cool.

Not all artists are mentally ill    o b v i o u s l y

But when they are, it’s fun and interesting to look at what could have caused things to be the way they are. I find it entertaining to think about why I enjoy something like hand stitching so much, and tracking the way I feel throughout a project. Everything that I make is an expression of something inside, on the days where I complete 1/3rd of 50 projects and throw them all away, the days where I complete ONE thing and feel exhausted, and the days where I do literally everything that I could have imagined and feel amazing. Bipolar Disorder has many MANY parts of it that are absolute CRAP but there is no denying that it makes life interesting.

I talk more about my “wellness path” and mental illness on this channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfP07xUfSOVNQpJZKoQpkpg

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