Many people who have never dealt with depression personally have a misunderstanding that it is simply ongoing sadness. It’s part of what adds to the stigma of depression because they think “I can snap out of my sadness, why can’t s/he?” But, depression is so much different than feeling sad. It is like a cloak that covers your entire being and alters your world. It is hopelessness and helplessness to do anything to stop it. And so much more. And, yes, it’s hard to understand when you’ve never experienced it.
I have long used art in various forms to express my emotions and thoughts. Sometimes I just need to get them out of me. Sometimes I use the process of art to figure things out for myself, to define it, to get to know it and myself better. It is a huge part of what Art Therapy is about. And you don’t have to be an artist to have art be a form of therapy or personal growth for you. I’ve scribbled with crayons, drawn abstractly with color pencils, made word collages from magazine cut-outs and made mixed media art. The possibilities are endless. I have a board on my Pinterest page called Art Therapy/Play Therapy which has many art therapy activities. If you are interested you can visit it at https://www.pinterest.com/artsychicksw/art-therapyplay-therapy/
Recently I created the above mixed media art journal page. I had been teaching myself to draw faces so that I could include them in my art. This particular face spoke to me, but I wasn’t sure why at the time. I just started by drawing her on the page, then adding vintage papers around her, adding acrylic paint to the background and painting the face (something I still need a great deal of practice at!). I used some stencils and a white gelli roller pen. Then I sat back and spent some time with it. Something was a bit off. But what? I realized that the reason the face spoke to me was because she looks so sad and depressed. It reflected my own feelings of late…not a huge, severe depression….an underlying and a bit more than mild depression and true sadness. And it relates a lot to my dear husband and soul mate. He’s had a chronic and eventually terminal disease for nearly 20 years now. We are told that 20 years is pretty much the outside of life expectancy. I know it’s not hard and fast and no one but God knows exactly when he will die. At first it didn’t impact his life, or ours. But over the past two years he has been so very ill. His body is gradually shutting down and it’s very uncomfortable and painful for him. That doesn’t even begin to describe what he’s going through, but I will leave it at that.
It affects me deeply. I feel his pain. It is truly heart-wrenching to watch him suffer so much. And the doctors won’t do anything to alleviate his pain, but that’s another issue. I cannot imagine life without him, but I am being forced to do so. At times I feel so incredibly sad. But, I also feel the depression underlying that sadness. It’s got a lot to do with the hopelessness and helplessness I feel. So, I decided that what I had expressed in my art was both the sadness and the depression. And the best way to help others understand that was through the words I included. “Sometimes she just didn’t know how to feel happy. So she let herself be sad.” I think they show the difference between the two. Depression isn’t just feeling sad. It is feeling lost in darkness and not knowing how to feel any different. That is a huge part of it for me, anyway.
So, how does this help me? First it helped me to identify what was really going on with me….the sadness and the depression. This helps me to take care of myself better and watch for signs of deepening depression so I can take action if needed. It helped me to get out my feelings. and with the combination of getting them out and the goodness that creating in general does for my soul I’m in a much better place in my head and my heart than I was before.
I would love to hear your thoughts about any of the above, especially if and how you see a difference between sadness and depression. I would also happily answer your questions should you have any.
As always, Peace to your hearts