I am a pro at concealing the sad. A lot of people who struggle with mental health live life trying to hide the symptoms and many succeed, myself included. Choosing to discuss my experience with depression and anxiety leaves the impression that these thoughts are out in the open while I am experiencing them, a very false assumption.
At first documenting my journey here was enough. I was on a high of empowerment, I was unaffected by the stigma associated with mental illness and I was proud of myself for sharing it but this honeymoon phase has come to an end.
So I told the internet that I am depressed but that’s really the extent of it. As my life became increasingly focused with school I had little time to reflect on my mental health. My peers had all met the Aubs who was stoked about mental health awareness and whose art incorporated those themes. As time went on and depressing moments arose, I slowly began pocketing those emotions again. Being overly aware of what it looks like to be happy or sad makes concealing depression easier to do.
I was inspired by the symptoms of Hidden Depression in creating a series of pieces that would reflect my personal experiences with it.
Too Many Thoughts, February 2019.
Concealing depression is made for those who are conditioned to deal with their inner demons in a way that’s not visible. These people are capable of storing a ton of shitty thoughts in their fragile heads. Depression is not a “mood” and those who do not realize that are easily fooled. Living with depression has taught me how to alter my apparent mood in order to conceal my inner thoughts. Hidden depression can look reeeal happy or outgoing, a word my peers would use to describe me. In reality the energy it takes to project myself in this way is exhausting. This sculpture represents all the thoughts and apparent moods concealed within a fragile mind.
Triggers, March 2019.
Another symptom of hidden depression is avoiding triggers entirely. I found out what my triggers were last year and this year I have been avoiding them. Safe but not affective for personal growth. People who mask their depression always have an exit strategy. We have all had to put on a “happy face” in situations we didn’t want to be in. This happy mask wears down the longer you spend with the person who’s wearing it. Someone with hidden depression knows when to leave the party or what events to avoid to reduce the chances of others seeing them without their happy mask.
This piece represents my triggers. If I could bottle the scents of certain people, I would. Instead I chose common scents to help demonstrate another concept, those who live with masked depression interpret the world differently than those who don’t. Depression invokes a complex way of looking at life. Whether it be internal conversations regarding mortality or searching for life’s biggest answers. Depression comes with pessimism. Choosing to store negative memories rather than positive ones. Feeling hopeless instead of hopeful. I asked my peers to try placing each scent with a memory, was it a positive one?
Sensory Overload, March 2019.
The symptom that inspired this series was the one I learned I couldn’t control this year, abandonment. Anyone with depression knows how much of a burden it is. Can you blame people for leaving when you show them the darkest parts of yourself? The fear of abandonment creates the need for secrecy. A trait that contradicts another symptom of depression, the need for love and acceptance. The struggle to not burden the people I love while constantly crying for help, then retracting it is basically a hobby of mine. While trying to conceal depressing emotions, in fear of being neglected, other feelings start leaking over the edges. I have been telling people that I feel things more deeply than normal for a while now, turns out that’s a pretty large aspect of hidden depression. This is the combination that always creates the explosion. This piece represents when all of these symptoms cross paths.
In Bloom, March 2019.
After the lowest lows there’s really only one direction to go. A symptom of hidden depression overshadowed by the rest is the unique creativity and expressive qualities people with mental health struggles possess. Having a deep depth of emotions can lead to profound concepts and creations. Some of the most inspiring artists and world leaders suffer from hidden mental struggles. Being on a constant pursuit to fulfill an empty place inside, that may never be filled, fuels perfectionism and over achieving tendencies. Always overcompensating for feelings of inadequacy within. This may come in forms of striving to achieve the absolute most out of a career, or a never ending competition within to be better at their lives purpose whether it be changing the world or creating works of art. People who live with depression invisible to the naked eye express themselves in incredible ways. I know that living on the dark side has taught me how to create my own light and I guess that’s why I created this project with a buttload of lightbulbs.
My Own Light, Oil on Canvas, April-May 2019.