Live Through This

livethroughthisThere’s so much, I don’t even know where to begin. In my work, I’ve really loved the non-linear aspects. Designing narratives and scenarios which, combined, create a greater understanding of the experience. I think I’ll go about the same here. Non-linear. Not based on chronology. Rather all posts, together, convey the whole.

For starters, I think there are multiple types of depression. I wouldn’t be surprised if what we understand today as the ‘sliding scale’ are actually different types of illnesses altogether.

To clarify, I have/ had the severe version and as it would turn out what’s called ‘treatment-resistant’ depression. That means after a number of medication treatments, there is still no relief. It is possible, if not likely, I have Bipolar type II but the jury is still out on that. Meanwhile, I am being treated as such.  Confirmed by doctor, the diagnosis is Bipolar II.  It was originally ‘severe depression’.

The difficult thing about medication is that it’s simply not an exact science at this time. What works for someone, doesn’t work for someone else. And so the trial and error continues, often with horrible, intolerable side effects, as I encountered.

So for the record, when I speak of my depression and of depression in general here, I mean in its most severe form because that’s what I know. The kind where you cannot function on a daily basis.

Moreover, when I speak of my ‘doctor’, this person is both my psychiatrist and therapist.

In these years, I’ve read that depression can feel like a black veil that overcomes one, distancing them from everything around. So, it wasn’t surprising when my doctor looked at my drawings and mentioned this.

But I chose to use black ink and some related shades because I knew it would be easier to get back to drawing. Color adds complexity and, of course, nearly endless options. Way too much to think about straight away.

I hadn’t drawn, freestyle, in maybe 10-12 years before this. Almost immediately, on my leave, I began drawing again. It was like a reflex and I went through several phases of  intense drawing. Just before I went into hospital, I could do nothing else.

The drawings started out in pure line form. As in school, often lots of abstraction. Sometimes figurative, sometimes organic, sometimes a mixture. All the drawings were automatic, derived from automatism, as it’s always been my preferred method of painting and drawing. Just start and see what to pull out or push back and carry on.

Back to the black. I never really considered the black veil thing. For me it felt like being behind a plexiglass wall, several inches thick. The kind you see in movies when the prisoner meets a visitor. I could see the outside world but could not partake. Everyone and everything was out of reach. Never mind reaching out. I couldn’t even speak to my closest family members in Los Angeles. Only barely and minimally so.

I stopped working on the 18th of December, 2013. For the next 18 months, I would speak only with my partner, Joel, via messaging and my therapist once a week. I simply couldn’t speak with others. Add the complexity of not speaking any German, not knowing anyone in Berlin even after “living here” for 3 years and being over exhausted, there was no way. More on this later.

The drawing above was very early on, probably around March or April 2014.

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