The first proper ‘illustration’ I did was a zine called Fuck Depression. And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m here.
I think like anyone starting a new creative hobby, I started illustrating as a way to express myself. As a lifelong sufferer of clinical depression and anxiety (among other things, which we will get to another time), I had always used creativity to feel better about myself, and my life. I started playing the piano aged 5, and started songwriting at 11. It was such a core part of who I was. About six months after finishing my music degree, I found myself unable to do either. I discovered various other stop gaps – drinking a main one – but nothing quite matched the cathartic experience I used to have while bashing some Einaudi out on a rainy afternoon. Searching for something to tape up the gaping hole I was left with, I took up my other great love at the time, writing, and spent a year trying to make it as a journalist.
In the off chance you’re reading this and don’t know me, I got mid-way through a masters degree in magazine journalism, when everything went tits up. I found myself in a place where I couldn’t overpower my depression any longer, it was overpowering me. I remember the very first therapist I saw saying to me; “have you ever considered taking a break?” and honestly, I don’t think I had. I’d always been pushing on to the next goal, the next big thing I could tell people about that would make me feel valued. After six months of feeling suicidal every damn day, it was like being given permission to do the thing I feared most in the world. To stop!
I left that session, got an Uber to the train station, and came home to Dorset. I originally planned to stay for three days, but here I still am, coming up to two years later.
I get waves of pain thinking about my ‘old’ life, of all the things I failed to do, all the things I’m missing out on, all the people I’ve lost contact with. But drawing gives me respite from that dark space, if only for a few hours. More than that, it makes me feel more like a capable person, even if all I’m able to do is a silly doodle of someone actually living their life.
If I had to review 2018 in a few words, painful would pop up fairly soon, exhausting alongside it. But I’d also say grateful. Grateful for lovely tubes of paint, and days spent in art shops. Grateful to my cocker spaniel, Biggles, for sleeping on my bed and near-curing my regular nightmares. Grateful for sunny days, rainy days, stormy days and calm ones. Most importantly though, grateful to every single person in my life that is trying to understand what’s going on. And to everyone I’ve opened up about the scary stuff to that has stuck around, which is more than can be said for some.
It’s a phrase I’ve said a lot recently, because I can’t think of a better way to express the sentiment: wishing you all health, wealth, and happiness for 2019.
Lots of love,