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Depression and Art: Swimming My Way Out

Sofie Levin

“You’re being overly dramatic. This phase you’re in will go away soon enough”.

I’m sure a lot of teens and even adults have heard this and thought that what they were told was true. Knowing myself, I knew that this feeling I had been having for six months wasn’t just “a phase.” No matter what I said or did, my mother and even my closest friends denied that I had been dealing with depression. From the end of elementary school to the beginning of middle school, I was verbally bullied and alienated, with my thoughts only growing worse.

You would think that I would had reached out to therapists and doctors to help me out, but I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my own issues. I thought it would be unfair to them to have something else to worry about. So instead, I stayed silent, bottling up my feelings until the lid wouldn’t screw on anymore. I was swimming deeper into the depths of the ocean that would eventually immerse me with its vast, dark and lonely waters.

Despite the suffocating and dense ocean I was fighting against, I managed to find one outlet: art. Art was the only area that helped me cope with my internal emotions and stress. As the waters grew denser, I relied on my art more and more. Not wanting to call attention to myself, I was very shy about showing my art to anyone. I was concerned that people would judge me even more for my dark imagery. Most of my artworks were bloody and had dark themes (eg. a dog what was rotting to the bones through a puddle of blood.) which reflected what I was struggling with internally. I didn’t want to be labeled as the weird kid, so I never let anyone see my artwork.

My high school has a strong art program. Although I was still shy about my art, I knew that I would have to eventually have show my art to the class during group critiques. Anxiety started to kick in, and that coupled with depression was a very toxic combination which hindered my ability to function properly outside of the art room.

Ink drawing, Sofie Levin
Sketchbook, Sofie Levin
Art Supplies, Sofie Levin

In the beginning of sophomore year,  I finally reached out to doctors who prescribed me with medication to help with my severe anxiety and mood swings. What motivated me to do this was the abandonment of two close friends who grew tired of my mood swings, and who couldn’t understand why I pushed them away when I needed them the most.

Afterwards, I knew I couldn’t live much longer this way and I eventually connected with my doctors, who contacted my mother about the situation. I entrusted myself with adult figures such as my co-workers, some teachers and family friends, who gave me insight in coping with my internal emotions. With time, I was able to to manage my emotions.

Without my art, I don’t think I would’ve been able to ask for the help I needed.

However, art has opened new opportunities; I’ve been able to create new friendships through art at a summer pre-college art program. I was able to carve long lasting friendships inside my high school art class, I’ve  opened up to them and help them through their art process.

Today, being more comfortable with who I am, I now am not afraid to show my art to other people. My art has molded me into the person I am now and it will continue to as I move forward.

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