February + March 2017

So, long story short, I tried quitting smoking at the beginning of February. I got hypomanic and thought the nicotine patches were triggering hypomania in me somehow but Edward said he thought I was getting hypomanic already and that that’s what caused the urgency I felt to quit smoking. So then quitting didn’t work because I got super depressed. I remained super depressed until about mid-March when my doctor finally found an SSRI that worked to lift me out of my depression. One of the only good things about being bipolar, in my opinion, is that SSRIs work much quicker on us than people with just depression. It was really humbling because I’d felt confident that I was mostly done with the bipolar episodes and I have no idea what brought on the hypomania/depression rollercoaster again. Nothing happened in my life or with my meds that would explain why I suddenly got hypomanic. Luckily I didn’t do anything self-destructive while I was hypomanic or depressed – I just got a lot done, creatively and otherwise, while I was hypomanic then didn’t get much done while I was depressed because that is the nature of my depression.

Some bad things that went on in February and March: My mother came to visit Birmingham and having her here was awful. I meant to get a lot of reading and writing done and didn’t really accomplish much of either. I have like 9 books in a stack to read right now. I am hoping I can do better with getting a lot of reading done in April. I didn’t write much in this space but did overhaul it a little bit – tweaking the layout, removing posts I didn’t feel proud of, etc. The only downside to that is that when I put some posts back up it messed up the dates on them, but it isn’t a big deal. I’ve been meaning to write the Sophomore Year part of my mental health story for about two months but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve been struggling a lot with motivation but am trying to do better/more. Another bad thing is that I was physically ill for over a month, I lost more than 12 lbs from just being nauseous and having no appetite, and after many stupid doctor appointments I learned that I had an infection. Then the antibiotics meant to treat the infection made me ill. But I have been feeling better since I got done with the antibiotics so hopefully the infection is gone. The worst part of February and March though was definitely the depression, I was crying almost everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, for everything and nothing all at once and all I could see was darkness.

Some good things that happened in February and March: I started my “Magical Objects” series and did an interview for a website that features artists and their work. I got a new tattoo on Valentine’s Day that has really been helping with my anxiety (I think I have eight or nine tattoos now, I’ve lost count, and some are so big and some are so small that counting seems a little silly anyway). Edward remembered that he had this fabulous stone, crystal and fossil collection at his mother’s house from his childhood so we got it and brought it to our home and I’ve been photographing it for said “Magical Objects” series. I love stones and crystals so this was very exciting for me. He said his childhood self would have been thrilled to know how excited his future wife would be about his rock collection. I started “365,” which is a challenge to take at least one photo everyday that a lot of photographers do. I’m now on day 23, I think. I’ve fallen behind a few times because depression/lack of motivation, but I am still doing it. Edward and I planted a little vegetable/herb garden on our little balcony, which I love looking at, with cherry tomatoes, broccoli, kale, butter lettuce, lavender, rosemary, fernleaf dill, a lot of basil and one other herb plant I can’t remember the name of. I discovered a new favorite bar called The Marble Ring which is 1920s themed (I had been watching Z: The Beginning of Everything on Amazon Prime and got super into the 1920s for awhile). Edward and I went swing dancing for the first time and it was really fun, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince him to go again… I watched season 3 of Grace & Frankie on Netflix, all the way through twice in a row, which was great because it got me out of my own head for a few days. I didn’t need any klonopin those days because I was so absorbed in Grace & Frankie land. And I finally started going to meetups! I’ve been meaning to since moving to Birmingham to try and make some friends but finally found the motivation to do it. Swing dancing was a meetup and it was so much fun. If I can’t get Edward to go back with me I might just go alone next time. I actually went to a meditation meetup because I’ve been trying to start meditating but it turned out “social meditation” meant mediating silently while staring at someone else who was meditating, not socializing, so I decided it wasn’t a good way to meet people and left early. Then I went to a meetup for people who use WordPress but it was more for the more tech-savvy WordPress.org users than people like me who use WordPress.com, so I left that one early too. But still, I got out of the house and tried to meet people!

I think being married to Edward is the only thing that hasn’t disappointed me in life in one way or another so far. I love being married to him so much. He’s the kindest, most supportive husband I could ask for. I was feeling overwhelmed today, like my life was a little bit out of control, because I am a little behind on work for my art history class, I have some photography jobs coming up that I’m nervous about and I have been slacking off on the housework because of depression then lack of motivation. I also just hate housework but I need to get over that because Edward is really busy with school and I’m the one who has the time to do it. I think I am just used to living such a simple, very low pressure existence that now that I have more things to do, I just need to readjust to the stress that brings.

See some photographs I took of some of these adventures below, along with some others from February & March.

A few paragraphs from a letter I wrote to a friend last week

I haven’t been able to do my therapy homework. I’m supposed to write down all of the mean things I tell myself when I’m “in it” then write truer/kinder responses to the mean voices. And they’re so mean. I would never speak the way I do to myself in these times to another person. And even though I recognize that, it’s hard to get my demons to shut up and every time I look at the list I wrote I just start to get overwhelmed with insecurity again and can’t think of responses to the cruel sentences. Edward even offered to write his own responses to my mean things, so I have a second kind voice to listen to, but I feel like I need to write my responses before he writes his and I can’t get past myself enough to write them. They’re my demons and I need to be the first line of defense in silencing them because Edward isn’t always around and I need to do this for myself first, if that makes sense. I haven’t really shown or told many people yet but I got a new tattoo when the deeper darkness started coming back in February. Edward had been writing “It’s okay.” on my arm in sharpie when I needed it and it had been helping me so one day he wrote it in his neatest possible future-doctor handwriting and I went to a tattoo shop for the first time in a long time and had it made permanent. It didn’t heal properly though, some of the letters are faded already, which makes me incredibly sad for reasons I can’t quite articulate, so I need to go back and get it touched up now that it seems to be done healing. I hate to admit it but the tattoo doesn’t help as much as the non-permanent words did. I like having Edward’s handwriting on my arm though because in some morbid way if something happened to him I’d forever have him with me, telling me it’s okay and it’s going to be okay – almost a way to remember he was real and he loved me.

I’ve been struggling with these questions lately:

  1. What does it mean to be a “real” artist?
  2. What is my purpose as an artist, if I consider myself a real artist?
  3. What direction should I take in my work? What are the next steps?
  4. What if no one ever actually cares about what I make or write?

Today was a rough day. I woke up anxious, took some Klonopin throughout the day to no avail and got increasingly anxious, verging on an existential crisis, until just recently when Edward got home and we drove around and had a good talk.

It’s hard sometimes to understand each other because our lives – though connected through love, partnership, marriage, affection, etc – are very different. He has a clear (not to say it isn’t incredibly hard, but clear) path ahead of him to reach his goal of being a doctor. I, as someone who wants to be an artist, do not have a clear path – at least none that I can see right now.

I told him about the above questions I have been asking myself and my fears that nobody will ever care about what I make/do/write. Then we started talking about why I make art. And the truth is, I write and make art because I need to. And I think that’s one of the ways someone can be as an artist. I think that need, and the fact that I do make art, makes me a real artist. So that question has been answered well enough by my standards for now.

Then we started talking about when I am happiest making art. I am happiest making art when I’m inspired to create something and I create it. I am happiest making art when I feel like I am making something beautiful or real or that will (goddess willing) speak to or move others. I am happiest making art when it’s an idea that comes to me organically, when I’m not forcing myself. I am happiest making art when there is an element of play to it, when I’m experimenting, when I am not taking myself too seriously. I am always happiest when I am not taking myself too seriously.

We talked about my fears that nobody will ever really care about what I create. And we had to ask the question: even if nobody ever cares, is it still worth doing? And the answer was yes. Because it fills me, feeds me, brings me joy, makes me come alive and because I need to make things. I can’t explain where this need to create comes from, I just know that I have it.

I got very vulnerable with him and told him how I wanted him to be proud of me, to be proud of my work and to be proud to call me his wife. He told me he’s most proud of me when I am doing what makes me come alive, when I am passionate about what I am doing, and won’t be any prouder or less proud of me if my work is or is not ever appreciated by others. He just wants me to be the happiest Kait I can be. This is among the many reasons I love him and am incredibly grateful to be married to him.

So I still don’t know what the next step to take in my work is and I still don’t know exactly what my purpose is as an artist (and maybe that’s a question I’ll never be able to answer, maybe the answer will always be evolving). What I do know is that I need to learn more about art, both the current world of art and its history, and about the lives and struggles of other artists. I need to follow the inspiration when it comes and I need to stop holding myself to such impossible standards – it’s insane, not to mention very egotistical, to think everything I try to make is going to be good or get a response.

The new question is this: how can I find my tribe of fellow artists? Ideally they would be in Birmingham, because I have almost no friends here still and am overall very isolated in my new city even though I have been here since July, but how does one go about finding their tribe or even other artists? I’d settle for a digital tribe of other artists at this point, I’m so desperate to find people who understand these needs and fears of mine because they share them. If you have any ideas or thoughts on this last question I’ve raised here, please share them with me, I’d really appreciate it.