It’s nearly two years since I ‘came out’ about my mental health, and one of the most amazing outcomes of being brave and speaking up is that people have started to approach me to share their stories. It’s an amazing privilege when someone tells you their struggles, that they trust you to open up to you. Not too long ago I got an email from Emily and Morgan, the creators of Unpolished Journey, an e-commerce platform specifically for creators who’ve used their art to manage their mental health. Morgan in particular was keen to share her story of using creativity to share how creativity has, in her words, defined her recovery journey. Of course I couldn’t refuse…
I spent a lot of time in the dark. Dark rooms filled with Kleenex from tears releasing years of suppressed emotions, dark bathrooms purging out those feelings in attempt to numb them once again, and dark headspaces filled with hopelessness and exhaustion from the years of fighting my mental illness. I was sick, head sick with an eating disorder and PTSD, and at the time I felt like there was no way out. I felt trapped in a tunnel of darkness with no ladder or rope. I was just there floating in my pain, feeling alone and forgotten.
Art is unique in so many ways. I am convinced that art comes straight from a person’s entire body’s experience. It tells a story of where each person was at a moment in time - their thoughts, their desires, their fears. It is a compilation of everything within that person being purged out for the world to see. Art is personal. Writing, painting, photography, dance, drawing, videography, textiles, and so many other forms of creativity have literally been created from someone’s mind.
Did you know that listening to music is the only time that you use your entire brain? Your whole mind is consumed with the melodies and lyrics. It is a deeply personal experience, which is why I never critic anyone’s music preferences. Those songs are theirs. They speak to them in a way I’ll never understand, which is beautiful and something I don’t feel worthy to have an opinion on. In the same way that music is uses your entire brain, I have a theory that the creation of art uses your entire body.
I came up with this theory through the evidence spilling across the pages of my sketchbooks. I spent a lot of time in the dark and my artwork reflects this - scribbles of dark images, filled with red monsters, and terrifying compositions. I look at these images and my body remembers. It remembers the pain, suffering, and struggle that I was consumed with during that time in my life. I used every part of myself to purge creations onto those pages. It was my release, my singular way of documenting to the world what it was like to be trapped inside my brain. As the years past and I began to receive help for my mental illnesses a narrative of healing began to unfold.
Slowly those images began to gain color. The black and white scribbles starting taking shapes. Birds symbolizing a reach towards freedom, water symbolizing renewal, and trees symbolizing growth became common motifs among my work. I gained strength both physically and mentally as I began to nourish my body and mind with words of hope and meals of kindness. My artwork reflected this. As the years of recovery would pass, my artwork became more and more free. Rainbow colors and playfulness entered into my sketchbook as I fell deeper into the person I was created to be. This became my evidence that my creativity matched my body’s experience. As my soul grew healthier so did my artwork. My body remembers. It remembers everything and the artwork that spilled out of my soul throughout the years documents my body’s narrative.
Art is unique in this way. It is a deeply personal act of vulnerability as it documents a person’s journey through life. My evidence comes from my own recovery journey. My creativity is a full body experience, leaving behind stamps on the world defining healing and change. Art became my unique means of sharing with the world what my recovery actually looked like.
Unpolished Journey is a community of artists seeking to share their stories of recovery from mental illness through art. Unpolished Journey has launched a marketplace where artists of any medium who have a story of recovery can sell their work to the world and share pieces of their journey along the way.