I never considered myself able to draw or paint. In fact, when I was a child, I was given some oil paints and paper so that I could try, but after seeing the results, an aunt told me that I should never consider anything art-related again.
One of my first memories involves crying on a huge stuffed dog named Bruno when I was six years old. I always felt sad, or so it seemed for a long time. It was the only way I knew to describe the deep pain that accompanied me. Many times I would cry for no apparent reason and over the years I simply considered that feeling the norm.
When I was older, I tried to isolate myself. At school, I used to read alone at recess and on the most difficult days I begged my mother to let me stay at home, hidden among the blankets. Neither of us understood what was happening. For her, it seemed like a matter of rebellion and bad attitude. For me, it was the inability to face life, or to face others.
While studying design, the first major crisis came and almost ended my life. People often do not understand, but depression can be a deadly condition. I lost a lot of weight, suffered chronic insomnia for more than a year and a half. I leapt between attacks of panic and claustrophobia, developed gastritis and a hiatus hernia and, finally, stopped differentiating flavours. I was not a person, I was like a shadow that wandered without meaning and without strength. On the way and after much searching I found two wonderful therapists that, to this day, have helped me, not only to accept this condition, but to survive despite it.
We do not know much about mental illness because, historically, it has been kept secret. Depression was even defined as a sin. There was a time when they called it “sloth”.
While I was recovering from my first crisis, I started looking for more information about the subject and I thought I could face any coming crises because I knew what I had. I was wrong. I could never know everything about this illness. Each descent is different, like a fingerprint, which is why it is not always easy to detect at the beginning.
A couple of years ago I was feeling awful. I could eat and sleep, more than other times, so I thought I wasn’t falling back into the deep hole. I wanted to deal with the anguish for myself. One afternoon at work, I decided to take a sharpie and my notebook to draw what I was feeling, I wanted to tell with lines the route of that roller coaster that is living with depression, the sensation of needing a crane to leave the bed and that knot in the throat that only seems to get tighter and tighter.
Drawing was the way I avoided returning to therapy, I thought it wasn’t fair to go back to the psychologist and tell her I was in crisis again. I felt sorry for her; she had worked so hard with me. Finally, I had to go back to her office, go back to the pills and keep trying to deal with every day, with that huge stone on me.
In each query I showed the notebook with my scribbles and after a while, Angela, my psychologist, insinuated that I should make a book. I laughed, ignored her, and hoped that she would not talk about it again. This slump was much more revealing than others. For some reason I could not stop researching, reading, seeing and asking about depression.
Somehow I had decided to stay alive even though I will never be cured. I did not want to remain submerged in hopelessness. I needed a bit of calm and I was stubborn about finding it.
The subject of the book never stopped being on the table and very reluctantly, annoyed, terrified and sad I began to work on that project. During that time I had begun to experiment painting with water and pigments, a great teacher agreed to guide me on the way and for the first time I felt that there was a place in the world for me. We got a gallery to have a small exhibition of my illustrations and paintings, as well as to make a book that just wanted to show the daily scenes of a life with depression.
I was exhausted, surprised, but especially moved by the response of the people who had it in their hands. What I believed was simply a work of self-exorcism, was valuable by others. They found themselves represented, they wanted to leave their shelters to meet someone else who understood what was happening to them, who did not make judgment and who believed that there was ways to face that monster.
Even when it’s not night, everything looks very dark. That is how I define what it is to be depressed and, in this process, I have been finding ways to see in the blackness.
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