Saturday, September 29, 2012

Depression

I've been reading today. Looking for information to learn how to understand my own condition. It's like a whole new world opened up for me while reading into deep details about cells, tiny nerves, the connections in the brain and how our bodies create substances on it's own as a direct result of everything we go through. Not just humans, all living things share this complex system of how our nerves and brain react to our environment.

I'd love to explain everything I've learned today, but I'm not a brain scientist and I'm not sure if I've even understood a tiny fraction of how this thing works. One thing though: Serotonin... This neurotransmitter that controls our well-being and happiness. Along with a huge amount of other substances in our bodies it controls our feelings. How we behave, think and feel.

It's so abstract and still very clear. I don't even know what I want to say with this post, but I have to get it out somehow. Learning about the science behind the disease that I'm suffering from makes it so much easier to accept and deal with. The knowledge that all these scary, odd and sad feelings come from the chemistry in my brain helps me to get rid of the shame and guilt. It helps me to know there are ways to cure my brain, to help it function in a way to make me healthy again. Also that it's not my fault, it's not anyones fault. We are all created this way.

I've talked about mental health before, and now more than ever do I feel the need to talk about it. Get rid of the mysterious and shady fog that surrounds the topic. The stigma of it needs to go away. Depression can happen to anyone and there are as many causes for it as there are people suffering from it. It doesn't matter if it's caused by traumatic events, stress, a breakup or by nothing explainable at all. Learning that it's the same tiny nerves, cells and neurotransmitters that control this has taught me that depression is a real disease and it can be dealt with. It can't be shaken off or ignored. It needs to be seen, heard, felt and in the end, cured...

The photo in this post is the view from the hospital bed I've been in for the past week. No, I won't hide it, or lie about it or feel ashamed. I refuse to take part in a society where certain medical conditions are seen as something to be hidden away or ashamed of. I've spent a week at a psychiatric ward because of my depression and anxiety. This taught me more about humanity in a single week than years of school ever did. I want people to know, to see and to understand the suffering. I want to understand it myself. Knowledge and understanding is the best way to deal with anything. Psychiatry is the science of the soul. It's beautiful in a way.

Spark

It's been a crazy week. The whole irony of calling it crazy is kind of funny in itself. I don't know what details to tell and which to keep to myself, but let's just say a lot of things have happened and I've experienced, seen and heard more strange things this week than I thought was possible.

Last night I painted this portrait out of my imagination. It's of a girl I met during very unexpected circumstances and I knew I had to get my mental image of her out into art. It's a very dark image, not because the girl I had in mind left that impression on me, but I wanted to show the dark mood of the entire situation. The girl herself was actually more like a spark of light in the whole situation, hence the title. It's a very very personal and symbolic painting to me, and I might go more into detail at some point. Right now I just need to rest and let this past week sort of sink into my mind and settle there before I tell the world about my experiences.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Understanding

Ok, so lets give this whole honest sharing thing another try. I have good things to share today.

The truth is that I've been feeling utterly awful lately. Depression has sneaked it's way back into my life and with it comes anxiety attacks and the general feeling that life is a horrible struggle, even when it's not. Life has actually been very good for a very long time now. I have a job I love, a boyfriend I love and I live in a big, nice apartment that I've decorated myself. Everything is safe, stable and rather comfortable. Still this mental state doesn't really care about that. The doom and gloom comes into my life like an uninvited guest that is really difficult to get rid of. It's not really anyones fault.

The good thing is that I've been through this several times before. Well yeah, it's kind of sad that I've gone through several depressions and periods of intense anxiety in my 24-year old life, but still, this makes me sort of an expert on how to recognize the signs when my brain and body tells me enough is enough. I know how I function now, and that knowledge makes me safer, more able to accept and take care of myself. There is no quick fix or certain cure, but I have a map now. I just have to walk along the dotted path towards a healthier state of mind.

A step along the way is to adjust my life and my living situation to make things easier to deal with. Work is a big part of this. I love working, but getting to work and to sit in an office when my brain is full of anxiety and unexplainable sadness isn't easy. As a result I've had to stay home, sick. Sick with sadness. This doesn't really help though, because I don't get happier from walking around at home knowing that my work still needs to get done when I get back. And I love what I do at work, so that's not what the problem is. Luckily, this was solved today.

Today my friend and co-worker gathered up all my image files and delivered them to my apartment where I was walking around like a sad zombie with unwashed hair and my "give-up-on-life-pants". So now I'm able to work from home! I've thought about this before but I haven't really thought it would be possible. A large part of game development relies on communication and collaboration. Still, my assignments right now can easily be done from home and today I sat comfortably with my unwashed hair and worked without a problem in the world. In my own safe home I can work and whenever my brain wanders I can simply lie down for a while. Take a shower or a walk. When I get back I keep going and I don't have any time limits. I might not work by a normal office hour schedule, but I've gotten more work done today than I thought was possible, without even feeling slightly stressed. When you take away the strict frames of a traditional work-day I suddenly feel so calm. Being creative and productive gets so much easier and today has been a really good day. I've actually caught up for the time I lost when I stayed home yesterday. When I'm calm I work quickly!

I really want to thank my employers and my co-workers for trusting me and being so understanding. I doubt every work-place would be able to be flexible enough to handle this situation. I feel so much love and pride for Coffee Stain Studios, even though I'm currently not present at the actual "studio". My hope now is to be able to continue like this, start the long way back to full health and to be able to both work amongst my friends at the office and from my home depending on what my health allows. We'll see how it goes and what ends up being a permanent solution. Today gave me a lot of my hope back.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Personal



I haven't been writing anything in a while. There are several explanations for this and I'll try to go through them all.

1. This blog is open for anyone anywhere to read, including my relatives, my co-workers, friends, enemies (don't know if I have any of those) and even potential customers for freelance work or other people interested in me as a professional artist. This causes a problem because I have to weigh every word carefully and not write anything I might later regret or that might make me lose out on potential career opportunities. It feels really weird because this blog has never been anonymous and I haven't exactly thought much about this before, since I started it when I was still in school. I don't want to have to think about it either because it's always been a personal blog, so I write personal things. That includes everything from my art and my work in general to my very personal experiences of life, such as my battle with my own mental health. This blog has never been meant to work as a resume or proof of my competence. It's an outlet for personal reflections on my own life.

2. That brings me to number two. I've always had ups and downs like everyone has, but I've also wanted to be open about what I'm going through. Not every little detail, but the general idea. I don't like the idea that mental health problems should be something to be ashamed of or to hide away. I should be able to write about it here just like I might write that I have diabetes or a broken leg. I understand it's not that easy, and with my honesty comes the dark side-effect that potential employers might back off thinking "this person seems utterly unstable and unreliable!" which is pretty... bad. That's just a fact, and it's kind of sad. I just hope that it comes across who I am and that whoever reads about my life can do so without judging too quickly.

3. So, why haven't I been writing at all? Simply because life has been very difficult lately. It's personal stuff and I love to write about it to get it out. I want to share and I really think sharing helps both me and people who might be in a similar situation. It might also help people who know me to understand me better and clear up confusion about things. Still, lately I feel like I have to hide this side of my life to avoid over sharing. Having this blog is all about sharing, and it makes me sad that I suddenly feel scared to write as openly as I have before. I've just come to realize that the world can be a very unforgiving, harsh place where this whole "survival of the fittest" really is the truth. Especially on the internet. Maybe something can change my mind about this. I don't know. I honestly have no idea what to write here anymore if I don't have art to share, which I don't because of my health. It's all a bit sad really.