Art my Medicine
I have suffered in silence for many years. As a teenager, I had no idea what was happening to me. Everybody always perceived me as a bit anti-social, very shy and a geek. I was a high achiever, and although it did not make me very likeable amongst my peers, it helped to overshadow my inner struggles because there were no concerns about my academic abilities and achievements.
At some point I was convinced that I was going insane, hence I hid my limitations under the umbrella of needing to study, whilst I was crying my eyes out for no apparent reason. Suffering from insomnia, I got very irritable and on edge, even engaged in some activities that were far from safe because this was the only way of giving me some sense of being alive. This adrenaline rush was something I could finally feel, a self-confirmation of being alive.
However, it never lasted long enough and always led to self-loathing; it was a vicious cycle. I’d like to state that I have made some life choices which turned out to be the consequences of my behaviour. Now, after two decades I can see that, but it is better late than never, and I have learnt from them.
When my first child was born, I easily rolled down the hill into a postnatal depression. Of course, it was not recognised as such, even by me. I was convinced that I was extremely down and emotional as a natural consequence of the hormones surging through my body and the fact that my relationship was far from perfect or supportive.
In between my first and second child, there were many life events and some trauma, which justified my state.
Then my second child arrived along with a second round of postnatal depression! My baby also had a few health concerns, and with that came the worry that drove me to the edge; the professionals were quite convinced of that.
I’ve lived on a see-saw throughout my life.
In 2006 I paid London a visit and never returned home (not by choice, but that’s a different story).
This brought isolation, a new environment, difficult adjustments to a new culture, betrayal, domestic violence and I hit rock bottom, including a suicidal attempt.
I climbed out of this void, not without difficulty, and not quickly….. but I climbed and it took me several years.
Then when I thought all was better, I gave birth to my third child and I almost died due to postpartum complications. All my past trauma was triggered by this experience. As a result, I spiralled down into depression again.
But this time round, it was recognised, and since then I have received professional help, which also led to a rediscovery of my creativity.
I was referred to the Expressive Art Sessions for Mums through the MumsAid charity. In the beginning I was just splashing inks or paint around and producing only dark images, but I felt good after each session. Like some weight was being lifted from my shoulders. And then, at one session, I felt something opening up within me and the first image containing colours emerged.
From that moment, with encouragement from the sessions’ facilitator, I started to draw and paint at home as well as during sessions. I also started to express my thoughts, feelings and states of mind through poetry.
Art became my medicine and the way I advocate for mental health and fight against the stigma attached to it. I have an urge to engage in whatever art I can daily or I find myself feeling unwell.
Of course, I still take my medicines, but art is the one thing that provides me with a unique tranquility.
Art found me but I found myself through art.
I have followed an independent artistic journey ever since. This doesn’t mean of course that my life is like a rainbow, but I am dealing with the monster of depression much better and have found some joy and fulfilment in my life.
But do you know why it was possible? Well, my life is better now because I found the courage to TALK ABOUT IT.
I have opened up about my mental health; I have stopped being ashamed of it and I have stopped undermining my worth. I have stopped being humiliated by admitting that I am taking antidepressants. And now, I actively advocate for breaking the stigma around mental health by sharing my story and my own experiences of mental illness.
Should you identify yourself as struggling with any mental health issue, something not being quite right and affecting your day-to-day life, please find someone to talk to and who will really listen. Perhaps at the beginning a trusted friend, or perhaps a professional, but please do not suffer in silence.
My name is Dorota Chioma. I am a self-taught artist based in London. My artwork explores the varying states concerning the mind and mental health. Engaging in these diverse subjects leads me to a reflection and visual representation. I aim to provoke a participant to engage with unexplored territory or to soothe them with familiarity, should they identify with the concern expressed.
My art manifests and represents struggles of many people who suffer from mental health issues. It also evidences the healing properties of art, hence advocates for raising awareness.
That is why I am an active Champion at Time to Change Campaign and engage in many projects trying to tame mental health illnesses and abolish stigma associated with it.
Please join me on the tour through my first solo exhibition captured in the book titled: Mental Health in Pictures. It presents over 30 pieces of artwork accompanied by the narratives and my poetry, which explore the thought provoking and insightful journey into a life with mental illness.
Mental Health in Pictures is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mental-Health-Pictures-Dorota-Chioma/
I have also recently launched a small business and hope it will take me one day to engaging in art full time. Indulge the Artisan creates unique, handmade items, with artists and creative souls in mind, which make it easy to reward, spoil and motivate the creative in your life with a gift guaranteed to inspire. Visit the website: https://www.indulgetheartisan.com/