There’s this immediate conclusion that with anxiety and depression comes this innate inability to conquer it’s rigour-mortis skeleton grip on your mind. Like someone with these illness’ can only fall into a desperate state of paralysis and fear, like the only face of anxiety is that of panic attacks and cold sweats. Like depression is either all encompassing or absent. Like the true faces of failing mental health are the ones you see on the posters; people curled up on the floor of their kitchen screaming, people sitting outside in the pouring rain, people swallowing pills just in time for someone to find them and save them.
There is nothing further from the true reality of the sickness. They are a shadow, they are in your bones, in your blood — the air in your lungs and the smile on your lips while you're screaming bloody fucking murder, ”Hail Mary, Someone Save me.”
The cure is to stop breathing, once you're blue and cold - I'm sure the voices will finally be silenced enough for you to get a full night’s sleep.
I have had nights so dark and so deep that the madness that comes literally becomes real, to actually start seeing the metaphorical skeletons in your closet actually hanging in your door way, noose around their neck, I've had mornings where i walk through my house and the only thing i can see is, a catalogue of items that could carve out my veins or I could choke down with a swig of whatever i could find, circled in red — neon signs flashing “use me” “take me”. In those nights or mornings; I've gotten dressed and put on my part of society skin and walked outside and no one, and I mean literally,
noticed. They all commented on the warm weather, laughed at my poor jokes and kissed my lips like the world was fine while to their left — my best friend I should have saved-sits with a bottle full of gasoline to his lips and the lighter in his other hand — smirking. You learn to blink and force it out,
It's not real — it can’t be real.
You learn to cope, however possible. Self medication has its perk’s — it works and it takes it all away, for a period of time — things are shiny and everything is numb but slowly you're dying, which means — it — wins and it-can never win.
Self Mutilation is a viable solution, I found I could open a vein and for a while at least, I could make it through.
I found I could fight my devils with a pen and ink, I found I could get through the nights with tiny little lifesavers known as Ativan and a daily dose of Wellbutrin.
The sleep would come and when I woke up twelve hours later, the sky wasn't total black and the light had washed some of the thick despair off the walls, enough to get through another day.
I find the worst thing about this plague is those who have never, experienced a darkness even close to our, average. They sit on their throne of mental health and judge how someone dying deals with living. For some fucked up reason, they've decided to assign a stigma to real help, be it prescription or self prescribed. Like somehow sticking “addict” to our person like a name tag and guilting those clambering for a chance at a decent tomorrow is beneficial to someone.
Like telling us to cheer up, get dressed and go for a walk
Hasn't fucking occurred to us.
Like we don’t do that, almost every hour of every day.
Like we don’t deserve a little helping hand.
I have often tried to explain this oxymoron of a life to someone who's never felt it, and while you wish they could FEEL it, you are endlessly grateful they never will.
I’ve tried to explain it in words that can express the emotions, but how do you explain the reason you cut yourself till you pass out from blood loss, or even just enough to take the edge off — is BETTER than the alternative your brain is screaming for you to choose. How do you explain without sounding like a drug addict justifying the fix that will kill him-
“I don’t cut for attention, it’s not a cry for help, I don't want to die, I cut or scratch because it releases the fucking voices, it quiets my demons, it takes my mind from the screaming in my head, to the burning on my skin, I can fix physical pain. I can put a bandage on a physical wound and it will give me enough of a break to shove the fucking monsters back into the box in my head to keep myself alive for another day, another hour, another minute. And that is enough of a validation for me to be selfish.”
Have you ever listened to “Hurt” — the original or the cover, it doesn't matter “I focus on the pain, the only thing thats real” - I can fix it when its real. I can’t fix something I know isn't there. I can’t fix something I can’t touch.
Now, I'm sure there are plenty reading this with shock, who are only continuing because it’s like watching a slow motion train wreck — but this is the truth, maybe I'm speaking for myself, or maybe I'm speaking for all of those in the darkness in their minds while they’re outside smiling, building empires every single day. but the reason I'm opening this box of uncomfortable thoughts and fingers tightly griping your throat, tightening every time I hit a nail on the head, is because I get asked more often than not, when I admit without fear - I am sick. I am dying but fighting myself to allow myself to live, that I am hopeful that I can beat hopelessness, that I am medicated and I encourage everyone who needs it, to do the same, that I am not addicted while I admit I am an addict, I am a fuck up but I will not let my fuck ups become my legacy, I will never let depression and anxiety be my headstone- is “how?!”
Like because I have not succeeded in my perpetual hunt for eternal sleep, somehow I don’t qualify as their idea of someone with mental health concerns. I couldn't possibly be sick because i don't seem “depressed” or “anxious” and because i have achieved success and happiness and i am so fucking proud of the things I have done right, i couldn't possibly be suffering to get up every single fucking day,
Well, I am. and I am not alone.
I promise you, I am not an exception, and in your circle of friends, we are many.
This morning, laying in bed beside my husband - we were just discussing the state of the world, the upcoming election in the States, this story of a woman who got 20 men to buy her an iPhone which she then sold to put a down payment on a house, priorities of people in general. This led him to mention the thing he loved most about being an artist, the constant struggle. It's the exact opposite of a 9-5 office job, every day you're faced with a new mountain to conquer, regardless of your mood, how you're feeling, it’s not a job where you can just turn off, tune out. It’s not like writing, where you can stare at a blank page for hours and justify it by being ‘uninspired’. As a tattoo artist, you have to be inspired every day, sometimes for 8 hours straight, there’s no creative block break when you're dealing with skin that fucking hurts.
I mean, if you've ever gotten a tattoo - a fifteen minute break feels like you're pouring acid on a fresh wound going back in. Your body starts healing, starts trying to recover and going back in is an always unpleasant SURPRISE to your system.
I’ve watched him get up some mornings lost, frustrated and tired. He drags his feet, drinks his coffee slowly while mentally trying to find some motivation to tackle the day’s tattoo, regardless of size. It's not something you can paint over, or half ass and hope for the best - every client comes in expecting 100%, no one wants to pay for some artist to not give a shit. I've watched every single one of the guys who work in our shop, come in on sick days, with bags under their eyes or a world weighing on their shoulders and still sit drawing a design with meticulous dedication and immense effort even when they struggle to finish breakfast. The love for what they do is something I've never seen with any other art form.
Each tattoo they bleed, they pour a piece of themselves into each finished product, and every time when they are finished a piece; you can physically see the pride, then the complete self loathing wash over them as they appreciate their successes and then immediately hate their work. No matter what level these artists are on, be it the top tiers or the first few weeks of their careers, all good artists go through an immediate conflict of immense pride in their work, they wipe it down, take a photograph, wrap it up and send it out the door, they pull out the camera or phone and their immediate satisfaction you can actually watch wash off their face like the ocean’s tide. They pick apart every detail, every line or white highlight, every texture or blend - like it’s not quite smooth enough, not quite sharp enough, not quite dark enough. That’s the thing that drives them the next day - their failures, more than their successes. They want to be better, they push themselves to be stronger with every single tattoo they put out.
i know, my husband comes home and sits on the couch beside his children and his wife and stares at his tattoo that day, cursing every mistake made and asking for my ‘honest’ opinion, and when I tell him what I see wrong, almost always alerts him to at least one more thing to hate. Eventually giving up on that piece with frustration, tossing aside his phone with a silent resolution to fix that mistake next time. It’s always next time.
I think that’s what makes a successful artist - the perfect balance of self confidence and complete self hatred, like somehow these artists manage to function with the two polar extremes of a personality type co-existing and feeding each other. It’s one of my favourite and yet most infuriating things about my husband, his obsession with personal and artistic growth, but how do you fault someone who is never satisfied with good enough. You watch them every single day scroll through Instagram with the sole purpose of seeing better artists than them, and picking apart HOW they made that blend so smooth, how they made that texture look so real, how they came up with that idea. When he finds a piece similar to something he’s done - he pulls them up side by side and dissects them like a mad scientist searching for some major breakthrough - the answer to some question, comparing details that the client is more than likely completely unaware of, and the average person has never even considered.
I think what it boils down to at the end of the tattoo or at the end of the day is it’s never quite good enough, but rather than rolling over and accepting defeat - they learn and push themselves harder to do bigger, better art. They force themselves to become stronger.
If that’s not the definition of loving something with every inch of your soul - I don't know what the fuck it is.