"My work deserved more from me. Even when I felt like I didn't."

June 18, 2018

As an artist, it is often too easy to "let things bleed out". There is an unspoken misconception in our profession that, in order to produce good work, our lifestyle must resort to undergoing heavy torture and despair; The deeper the valley, the higher the mountain. I believe this is only half true. 

 

As a painter it is my job to grab hold of the damage and channel my grief into a realm that molds beauty out of the wreckage - but it is not my job to sink my own ship and expect some (inevitably mediocre) masterpiece to come out of it.  There is a difference between "catharsis out of tragedy" and "self torture out of insecurity in your craft". Instead of putting the dedication into my work, I used to circle in my grief, hoping that eventually it would spark some supernatural "artistic epiphany" and the creative process would just sort of happen for me. I was giving into laziness out of fear that my work wasn't enough on its own.

 

I have been diagnosed with clinical depression, various anxiety disorders, and PTSD. It sounds like a cocktail of chemical imbalance, and it is my superpower. None of these things were my fault, but for years I allowed myself to be a slave to the mania by consciously choosing to live hot and cold. I would have rather died than rely on a tiny blue pill. I needed help. But would I be risking sacrificing my passion?  

 

It's no secret there is a stigma surrounding anti depressants and psychopharmaceutical treatment plans. I feel it heaviest coming from the same community of those of us that actually struggle with chemical imbalance. I know this, because I was one of them. You get one bad therapist in high school and suddenly you "don't need any help from anyone." 

 

"But I don't want to 'need things'..." 

"It's not even that bad..."

"What if I don't feel anything anymore..."
 

All of these phrases served as defense mechanisms covering the fact that I had been off balance for over a decade. But why was I so afraid of  getting help? Because I have a disease that exists to make itself worse. That is how it works. I wasn't actually afraid at all, I was powerless - or so I thought


A lot of my insecurity surrounding getting help was driven from the fear that if my feelings were watered down by medication, that would in turn water down my talents. That is a big risk to take when we often feel like it is our talents and passions that keep us alive. But it isn't. When we break it down, I am living inside a machine that has the sole purpose of staying physically alive as efficiently as it can. Sure, as a member of society I have purpose, but at the end of the day it's most important that my organs are working. How could I have expected my talents to thrive when my brain was spinning out of control with eating disorders, sleep depravity, panic episodes, night terrors? - my work deserved more than that. Even when I felt that I didn't. Plain and simple. 


I chose the well being of my body over my art, in hopes that at the end of the day it would save my passion - and it did. And it did much more. 

 

The painting "DOSE"  is inspired by the impact prescription psychopharmaceuticals have had on my life, and how they continue to lead me to balance. Who are we, as artists, if we're not working to use our emotions as efficiently as we can? It can be all the more real, without the blur of the pain. 

 

Working through repressed memory with EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) in treatment has been a rejuvenating experience in my work. My art feels like it can finally breathe. I am coming up for air by processing trauma in healthy ways, and giving those scars a more beautiful imprint on the world than their tragedy. I may not consciously remember a lot of it, but I can feel the weight of it there and I know I can use it for good.

 

                                                                           

                                                                                     -e.r.

 

                                   

 

 

 

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© 2018 Emily Kay Rice

© 2018 Emily Kay Rice