Living with Mental Illness

Red Gerbera Schism 1.1

I was once asked, “What’s it like having a mental illness?” This question was asked by a very good friend of mine. This friend never experienced mental illness. He asked with sincere curiosity. He had never known anyone with mental illness (that he knew of besides me). The question was asked because he didn’t understand. He didn’t understand why I sometimes struggled. Why I struggled with what he thought was nothing to struggle about. Like getting out of bed.

There are days that I really have to push myself to get out of bed. I have to give myself a pep-talk, think about good things that could happen that day, and really convince myself that staying in bed forever is not going to help my shit mood that I’m in. Some days, getting out of bed is my biggest accomplishment.

Then there are the other days. Days where my mind is racing. I feel like I can take on the world. Sleep is not something I need anymore, I have tons of energy and I’m excited to do… EVERYTHING!!! Those days, I really have to question every decision I make simply to try to avoid possibly doing something I would end up regretting once I was more clear-headed.

And then there is the random thoughts of worthlessness and suicide that just pop into my head. I literally can have nothing, nothing bad happen. Nothing that made me upset, triggered, anxious, or even excited, elated, or happy. Just an average non-eventful day where I feel contentment. And then driving down the freeway on my way home from work, randomly I think: “I should drive my car off the side of the road and kill myself.” No particular reason why. It’s like somewhere inside me is a part that wants to die. Insidious thoughts of suicide have haunted me for as long as I can remember, even as a child.

But how could I explain this to someone who has never experienced this? How could I communicate the difficulties I face simply from being me? That I’m in constant war with myself. That I want to live but I’m also so exhausted from being hyper-vigilant of my moods and thoughts. Continuously reminding myself that no, I don’t actually want to die, I’m very happy with my life, I just have suicidal ideation.

I thought long and hard on how best to explain what it is like living with a mental illness and this is the analogy I came up with:

Every person in the world is in their own small boat. We are all sailing across the sea of life. There is no visible end or destination, we just sail along until death claims us. As we are sailing, there are storms on this sea, waves that crash into our boat, and all we have is a small bucket to use to toss the water out. These waves and water filling the boat are the struggles, challenges, and perhaps even trauma that we all experience in life, storms are situations that affect multiple people at once. And our small little bucket that we are using to try to keep our boat afloat represents our wellness tools, supports, and coping skills in life. The quality of the boat represents are resources. If you grew up in poverty, your boat may be made from rotten wood, while an upper class white male may have a boat made from lightweight carbon fiber.

So everyone is on their small single man boat, doing their best to sail in the ocean of life, with waves crashing down on us as life throws trials and tribulations our way. For those with mental illness, our boats have holes. It may be several tiny holes, one giant crack in the hull, or one small hole that doesn’t seem all that bad but it is a hole nonetheless. So while everyone else is scrambling to toss the water out of their boats from the waves, those with mental illness are trying to fix our boat while still dealing with the crashing waves. We may be lucky and be able to patch up all the holes and/or get a bigger bucket by getting help through therapy, medication, peer support, etc. Or society may fail us and our holes could get bigger, causing our boat to sink leaving us to swim until we get the help we need. Once we are swimming, we need the help of others. We need support to bring us out of the water, rest our exhausted body and mind, and build another boat for ourselves.

Keep in mind that the waves and storms could cause anyone to develop holes in their boats. Mental illness knows no boundaries. Mental illness can affect anyone! Any social class, race, religion, age, gender, culture, financial status, or sexual orientation. Sure some of us may have better boats, better resources, bigger buckets but it is possible for anyone of us to develop mental illness. And if we do, we are dealing not just with the constant crashing waves of life but also a boat with holes.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Did the analogy make sense? Did I totally miss the mark and you don’t agree? How would you describe having mental illness if you were asked?

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Tweet Tweet Tweet

IMG_20170606_102354So for those of you who have noticed, I have a Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook page. And I must confess that I don’t really enjoy social media. Hell, I didn’t really expect to like bloging but surprise, I’m enjoying myself! Maybe its simply cause I am the one doing all the talking… Lol.

Regardless, the hatred that I’ve held for most Social Media avenues didn’t necessarily stem from my overall dislike of electronics and technology. It was more the obsession people had about it. The drama that would insue if a friend request was denied or god forbid, someone deleted you as a friend! The amount of trash talk and gossip about celebrities is absolutely toxic and irrelevant, does it really concern you who is fucking who in Hollywood? And best yet, the cesspool of cruelty, hatred, and ignorance of some individuals that goes viral is unbelievable! These are my issues with social media.

However, I’ve come to look at the positives of social media and hope to use it in that regard. One serious benefit for me is to keep tabs on friends and family, and no, I am not a stalker. I simply no longer live close to family and old friends and it is hard to find time to call them since our schedules don’t usually lineup conveniently and almost impossible to plan visits with our limited free time. So Facebook is my way of checking up on them and making sure that no tragedy has befallen them. Another positive of social media is spreading positivity, spreading love, joy, hope, forgiveness, and understanding.

Celebrities have opportunities to reach thousands of people via social media in which they could promote a good cause, fundraiser, or social issue. I truly appreciate all people who use social media in such a way and hope that one day I will be able to join them in shedding light on important issues. Until then, I hope my paintings bring you simple pleasure, inspire hope, and give you joy!

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Moo Moo Moods

Watercolor Petal Painting Trail 4Uh, I’m in just one of those moods. Have to laugh at myself cause I was just complaining about a book character the other today because he was always, “Whhhhaaa me! My life is sooo hard! (complaint, complaint, etc.)” And now I happen to be in “one of those moods”. Lame.

It’s annoying too because it’s also hard for me to identify why I’m in a shit mood. Of course there is the usual, everyone has bad days and good days, but having bipolar disorder I always question if it’s my mental illness. I question a lot of things because of my mental illness…

Example, when I decided that I was going to paint and try to make a career out of it, the first thing I asked myself: “Omg, I’m a manic right now?” No, my thinking at that moment wasn’t about what inspired me, what led me to want to paint. No, my first thought was questioning my sanity.

So when I’m in a mood like this I have to ask myself, “Did something occur today that would cause my foul mood? Am I just experiencing a case of the blahs that everyone experiences from time to time? Or am I having a mood swing?” which then leads to into more questions. “Did I not get enough sleep last night? Have I changed anything in my routine that may have cause a full-blown swing? I took my pills yesterday, right? Am I over thinking this? What can I do to get back to my normal content self?” And on and on. Totally exhausting to be perfectly honest!

Regardless, it’s the last question that is most important: “What can I do for myself to make myself feel better?” It ultimately doesn’t really matter what is causing the shit mood, it is how I deal with it and I know that. So I’m going to go use one of my wellness tools and either paint or read to bring my mood back up a bit.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

What Does it Mean?!

Glitter Trial 2My artwork is colorful, random, glittery, loud, sparkly, quirky, and all around playful, very much like myself. With my favorite artists being Lisa Frank, Betsey Johnson, Amy Brown, and Josephine Wall, I’m hoping my art is just as fun as theirs. But what does it mean? Why am I spending all this time painting, throwing colors around, tearing petals off flowers, getting glitter literally everywhere?

I have several reasons, I’ll explore one of them for now…

First off, reality check: the world is a shitty place; life is not a bouquet of flowers, as I’m sure you know. There is so, so, so much suffering on this planet; there wouldn’t ever be enough time or space available to write down all the things that break my heart. From animal abuse, infanticide, shoot shootings, rape, starvation, human trafficking, homicide, global warming, war, torture, pollution, extinction, there is just so much ugly and bad here. All these things cross my mind frequently but thankfully not constantly, I don’t think I could survive that. But with all these bad and ugly things, there is just as much hope, love, and beauty.

I truly believe that everything has balance. As much love and joy a child brings to their parents, they also bring an equal amount of stress and heartache. With me having bipolar disorder, my ups and downs will always be equal to each other, just on the opposite spectrum. And with the world, there is an equal amount of good to the bad.

Ultimately, I want to bring more good and beauty to the world with my paintings. It is a small contribution in the scheme of things but I hope it inspires others to also create something with love, even if it lasts only for 1 second, that second matters. Perhaps one day all these little lights will add up and the good in this world will outweigh the bad…

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

The Dream…

Watercolor Petal Painting Trial 3So if you have been following along, totally okay if you haven’t, I’ve mentioned “the dream” a few times… And no, I’m not talking about a dream as in a goal, like “I dream of becoming a Hollywood star”, no I’m talking about the weird BS that your brain puts together. Yeah, that weird crap that Freud claimed was your subconscious telling you very important secret things about yourself and your “true” feelings.

Well, yeah, my strange, hidden self has informed me that I am a painter. And no, not like “I paint as a hobby in my spare time.” Nope my dreams have been about me being a professional artist, being able to pay bills and have a career with paint and my imagination. The reason why this like makes no sense to me and why I’m totally weirded out by it is that up until now, I haven’t painted since like forever, probably sometime in middle school.

Regardless, these dreams have been persistent for the last few months. I wake up in the middle of the night from a dream about a different painting technique or concept and cannot go back to sleep for the life of me. Instead I lay there and play the dream over in my head. I think about different ways I can execute the idea, various mediums I could use, how particular elements can be changed to evolve it. Kinda annoying really… I literally feel compelled to get up and paint in the middle of the night. Mind you, I have a day job that starts at 7am so painting at 3am isn’t the best idea since I work with the public and I get cranky without enough sleep.

I have noticed that I sleep better when I have painted during the day so obviously the only thing to do is to paint and see where it takes me! At the very least, I will be back to sleeping during the night. 🙂

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

The Artsy Kid

I’ve always been an artsy kid, always considered myself to be very creative and imaginative. I remember my art teachers wanting me to spend my lunch breaks in their rooms to continue making more art. I would be given an idea and I would run with it, taking a simple assignment and making it into something original and unique. We were told to draw a city skyline, everyone drew houses and skyscrapers; I had globes, triangular and hovering buildings: a city on an alien planet.

Throughout junior high and high school I drew a lot, mostly my favorite comic book characters (Jean Grey/Phoenix, Sailor Moon, Rogue, Lady Death). I knew I wasn’t the best and so I tried my hand at designing beautiful and unique dresses but I refused to learn to sew (sewing machines are terrifying!). So I slowly gave up my dreams of being a comic book artist and realized that if I believed the sewing machine was gonna eat me, I probably wouldn’t make it as a fashion designer either. Giving up on these, I threw myself into being a teenager, working part-time, studying, hanging out with friends, partying, and dating. The only artistic outlet I used then was in my ceramics class and again, I had creative, original, and unique ideas that I was able to execute well.

Fast forward to college and I was doing nothing artistic! I took no art classes in college and I mostly stuck to books and video games in my free-time when I wasn’t studying. Looking back, I’m surprised I survived without doing arts and crafts, I find them so essential now that without a creative outlet I feel… empty? Yes, empty would be the best word to describe it. It is like a form of depression like I’m missing a part of myself.

Thankfully since graduating college, I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to art again, specifically crafts. I began making cards for coworkers for every holiday, big and small and eventually increased to making the cards for family members as well. I taught myself to sew (by hand, I’m still afraid of the sewing machine) and have made Christmas stockings and little hand-sewn creations. I learned needle felting and have stabbed myself so many times making little critters! Also, I have been trying to teach myself crochet but I swear yarn doesn’t like me, I just end up playing with it with my cats. But give me play-doh and I will make you a zoo of animals! Give me materials and a theme and I can make something different and uniquely Nikki.

Regardless of my history with my arts and crafts, painting has not been something I have done a lot of. And yet, I plan on becoming an accomplished painter.

So how did all this painting madness begin? With a dream…

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.