The single most important thing I learned is that your art is not defined by your life. (https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/vow/: I wrote this after a very scary panic attack that continued to impact my life for months, confused about how to turn my negative, fearful feelings around.)
That’s when I realized how important art was to me. I had been bugged by the thought of art as wish fulfillment and emotional catharsis (Last year, I forayed into Photoshop compelled by the image of a snowboarder riding the wall of the Lonsdale loop, which expresses both my limited experience and how I limited my vision to my experience.) The idea made me feel angry and jaded, because it made me think of all that I didn’t have, but it was really a reflection of my inability to overcome mental blocks than a true expression of what I thought about art. After all, I knew for sure that I hadn’t created anything that made me feel as if I was creating genuinely and originally for a very long time. When I stumbled upon the helpfulness of counselling and having a public blog (as a opposed to a private journal), I rediscovered that art is the expression of visions and ideas; while the best artists are invisible, they incorporate their identity into the photo but codifying it in such a way that it is inseparable from art. Art is creation that belies life, not just pretty turns of phrases or pleasing images (a feeling that makes the world seem boring and trite when you aren’t able to overcome mental blocks of any kind). And moreover, you don’t need to write or draw or create based only on your life experiences-you don’t need to even know something to create something with it. All you need is an attraction on a deeper level and general understanding and love for your craft to incorporate that element of the thing which speaks to you. That’s what makes art unique. That’s why a million artists can look at a sunset and paint it a million different ways. Because you aren’t replicating something; you’re creating something new out of your understanding and attraction to an inspiration.
Counselling has been instrumental to this. Although I sought to improve my emotions, what I really found was that emotions weren’t something I change. What did change though was the perception of the hold I saw emotions had on my life. Counselling peeled that back, lessening the haze from overpowering firing of emotions and allowing me to hear the quiet tune of outside sources of inspiration. It eradicated the fog of emotions that had always hovered over the blank canvas in my mind when I wanted to make something and instead of having my thoughts train wreck, directed by emotional lows and highs, I parked my train of thought and set to work without its distracting rumble. I have rarely, and only in certain periods of my life, really created without mood disorders. These times I can pinpoint clearly in my mind because they were the times I was most proud of my creations.
Another thing counselling has helped me do is broaden my perception of people. I don’t know how true this holds for everyone else, but only understanding people similar to you, or being able to identify with only certain types as a result of limited empathy or thought about the wide range of human emotions is one way that we fail to connect with broader humanity. Although we might use our highs and lows and map them onto other people’s lives, the only true way to understand is to get multiple perspectives of one’s own emotions and generalize that multilayered approach onto the unmappable, but fathomable realm of human experience. Everybody hurts the same way, even if their situations are extremely different from yours. A highly trained and successful person, brother, mother, 80 year old grandma in South Africa or Canada or Iran, all hurt the same-as evidenced by the non discrimination mood disorders have on all peoples and our ability to universally understand original texts. And because that hurt is so universal, there is no reason for you to have to write about your own family struggles just because that’s the kind of hurt you know-that hurt can also be applied to any of the above people with the same genuineness because we all feel the way. Art is art because it includes; if it excludes everybody then one needs to work on their craft. But no one doesn’t have the proper life experience to make art.
I rambled on. But in writing it I articulated some ideas that I hadn’t even been sure of. Good things can really come out of life even in trying times-not as a result of mood disorders or hardships, but as a result of perseverance. It hurt when I couldn’t produce art, but to regain it reminds me that even if mood disorders can’t be erased, they can be a very small part rather than a consuming one.