Dysphoria and Self-Image: an artist’s depiction of struggle and recovery

My name is Claire Frederick. I’m an incoming senior in Painting at Maine College of Art (MECA) in Portland, ME. I live in the city with my cat, Glitter, who is my therapy kitty. I have clinical and seasonal depression, an anxiety disorder, sleep issues, and am a recovered self harmer and anorexic.

2017-06-05

Claire Frederick

I have always been someone that tries to handle my mental health on my own; even at my lowest lows I have refused outside help. It wasn’t until I was outside the United States (Italy and Greece) in my worst manic depressive and anxious episode that I realized I needed support from professionals and medication. It was more than situational; it was chemical. It took multiple tries to find the pills that worked for me, but I found them.

Presently, I still have my days, but I am the strongest and happiest I have ever been. As an artist with mental illness and queer identity, it is my mission to spread awareness through visual art by both personal and relatable imagery. To me, it is important for people to understand the vast diversity that mental illness takes form, and that most times it’s not “standard.” Even with all of its idiosyncratic identities, there are others out there that feel like you.

Talking to friends, family, strangers, and or professionals can be so beneficial to find peace of mind. Literally. There are people that want to help and support you, as well as, well as ways to find personal positivity and release the negative. For me, finding an outlet and profession in visual art has saved my life. I am also forever grateful for my support system: my family, girlfriend, friends, and professionals. We all have a reason to believe, to keep moving forward; it’s always out there.

Dysphoria Titlecard

“Disphoria” Artist Statement: The use of line in the exploration of the female figure formally investigates the structure and planar shifts of the body. These lines are formulated in an almost topographical way, and are treated with translucent waves of desaturated color. The earthy, yet bruise-like palette alludes to nature in the same way the body becomes geography. By using wet-on-wet techniques, the paint creates its own forms; the pen is then used to take back control, separating the values and hues. Steering away from the composure of traditional portraiture, I repeat, deconstruct, and reinvent the female figure to achieve an emotional and psychological experience, mimicking feelings of dysphoria associated with my mental illness.

 

Tired Girls Club

Tired Girls Club
Watercolor on 300lb paper
2016

 

Ghost- Deconstruction of the Hand.jpg

Ghost:
Deconstruction of the Hand
Watercolor on 300lb paper
2016

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Introducing Our New Editor-in-Chief: Sandra Mercer

Hello everyone!

I’d like to take a moment to introduce our newest team member, Sandra Mercer. She will be serving as the new editor-in-chief for Dear Hope!

Sandra feature

Sandra will now be the head editor managing all the submissions that come into Dear Hope. Please give her a warm welcome! She has been a member of our community for a long time, and recently submitted the article “Questions as Daggers & Questions as Saviors. She also wrote a Coping piece for us last year. Be sure to give them a read.

This is the start of a relaunching period for Dear Hope. Be ready for lots of new content and art in the coming weeks. (If you’ve been thinking of sending us something to publish, now is a great time!)

Always remember that you are not alone.

You are loved.

PF

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

Follow us for more posts, inspiration and art on Facebook, Twitter,Tumblr, and Instagram

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Windshield

Go ahead
and ask for help
Or confuse your pride
with strength again.

Progress is perspective.
And now the flames are close
as you ran
all the way inward.

Preaching about hope,
While letting ice
grow thick on windshields.
Driving through the night
with the defrost set on zero.

You feel welcome in the cold
As if you were born in it
It’s the extremes that you feel
It’s not the small talk conversation

It’s the knowledge and the worth
You fought to have and threw away
Locked the key and dug your grave
In a cemetery unmarked

When it could have been vandalized with art
But you refuse to acknowledge that
Your brain that used to flourish
Is now a maze you can’t figure out

But walls are only meaningful
if you know what’s inside.
And rusted gears will turn
Until there’s nothing left to try.

PF

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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Mental Health & Social Media: Home Alone Downloading While Everyone Else is Uploading

I was lying in bed on a Thursday night recently in my apartment while my five roommates were out at the bar. I had been invited, encouraged even, to go out with them, but I was in a low, and wasn’t in the frame of mind to socialize and make small talk. As the hours went by I found myself scrolling through the same three social media apps, and I could feel the little energy I had being consumed from me even more. I was filling my negative space with the seemingly positive lives of others, comparing myself to those who were having a much better time than I was.

I often like to think of myself as having an acute sense of self awareness. Through running a website about mental health, I am constantly learning about new things to be aware of with my depression and incorporating them to better myself and improve my lifestyle.

But the truth is I still fall for some tricks that my depression plays on me. Tricks that make me question concrete parts of my life, engage in negative coping mechanisms, and make a few poor decisions every once in awhile.

Recently I realized that the way I use social media is one of those poor decisions I make regarding my mental health.

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Now I’m not saying that social media caused my depression that night my friends all went out to the bar. According to a study conducted on Facebook use and depression, there is no direct relation between social media use and depression. But what I can say, without a doubt, is that the way I was using it while depressed made my symptoms worse.

The study supports this, as the way social media is used can affect how we feel. The main argument in the study is that when Facebook is used as a tool for personal surveillance, envious tendencies can occur, ultimately leading to depressive symptoms.

Envy?

I didn’t feel envious, did I? I was just seeing what other people were doing. I was just scrolling through observing funny tweets and pictures from the bar and reading a conversation between the two love birds while I did…

absolutely nothing.

Wait.

Surveillance is defined as time spent on social media seeing what other people are doing and comparing it back to what you are not doing. While I may have not been consciously comparing myself with friends, I think part of me knows that I was wishing I was capable of having as much fun as they were.

I continued to feel worse, questioning why I wasn’t able to keep it together enough to go out with my friends. Because of these new doubts, I started to think that their lives were always like this – exciting and fun-filled, while inversely thinking mine was dull and bland.

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A recent Huffington Post article tells the story of a woman named Sydney who experienced hardships during her freshman year adjusting to college life with her anxiety disorder. She described how she began to struggle to distinguish between “fact and fiction” and constantly compared herself to others when using different forms of social media, including Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

“Instagram and Snapchat make me hyper aware of the activities I wasn’t invited to partake in, and less involved in the activities that are actually in front of me,” Sydney writes. “Comparing myself to others is blatantly unhealthy….it makes me question my place in life.”

When social media platforms are used as surveillance and lead us to compare ourselves with others, we start accepting the lives people are uploading as truth. Individuals who consistently use Facebook are more likely to agree that others have better lives. This mindset can be dangerous for our mental health.

When we publish updates and statuses about ourselves, we tend to post only the positive things that happen in our lives, very rarely do we post the negatives that occur. So when someone is fighting something like depression or anxiety, comparing the times they’re struggling to lives seen on online profiles that appear “perfect” can make someone more afraid to speak up.

Because if everyone else is doing okay, we should be good enough to handle this ourselves, right?

But why do we only post the positive things from their lives? This could be based on the way we are “rewarded” for posting. On Instagram, Twitter, and until recently Facebook, posts are awarded with “likes”. Typically, positive and humorous posts get more “likes” than those that are sad or negative.

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We’ve been conditioned to post the positive parts of our lives. We almost do it subconsciously. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that people’s lives are more complicated than their Facebook feeds suggest, especially for people like me who deal with the feelings of inadequacy that come with depression. All it takes is a depressive episode to leave me helplessly scrolling through feeds and concluding that my life is terrible and I’m not doing enough.

Not only is posting positively encouraged, but we need to post enough so that we feel satisfied that people know we are doing something. Apps like Snapchat plant the idea in our head that we need to share our life and every incredible moment in it to have a form of validation. We take videos of the concert we’re attending, post pictures of the food we eat, and make sure we snapchat every funny thing that happens when we’re out with friends. We need to let other people know we do things. We need the validation.

We need to let other people know we’re alive.

But if you have depression, feeling alive can often be a very difficult thing to do. Depression makes us feel like we already aren’t doing enough. It whispers in our ear that we are a failure, that our loved ones don’t love us, and that our existence is meaningless.

But we do matter.

And we don’t need to prove every day that we are happy (whether we are or not) through social media.

Our mental health is important. And the truth is everyone really isn’t as okay as their Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter suggest. While this may seem obvious, it is important to note that our guard can be substantially lowered when dealing with the effects of a mental health condition. Especially those of us who are already fighting a constant battle like I am with depression. Because that’s what happened to me.

I spent so many nights, already in a depressive state, scrolling aimlessly through social media apps and wondering why I couldn’t hold myself together like everyone else. I still do it sometimes. But now I’m constantly trying to remind myself that this is not the whole picture. Social media is often a positive tool to unite us all, but don’t let its representations of only the best parts of our lives convince you that you don’t fit in the reality it has created on the days you feel at your worst.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

PF


Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

Follow us for more posts, inspiration and art on Facebook, TwitterTumblr, and Instagram

Feature Image Source

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The Happiness Video Project by Zach Cooper: A Preview

Hi, I’m Zach and this is my project.

One day I decided I wanted to film a bunch of people being happy for me. Real, genuine smiles. Everyday you go on social media and see negativity in some sort of way so I kind’ve wanted to break the day to day negativity down with something extremely happy and positive. You also see people claiming life is about spending money and traveling to be happy, but I think you can find happiness right in your backyard.

The idea started with filming a few people but snowballed into filming over 40 different people all smiling and doing something they love to do. My project still needs more people so I’m hoping to finish the project in 2017 but need help, I just moved from Massachusetts to New York City and don’t really know anyone here. Thankfully ‘Dear Hope’ said they could help me by sharing this project, so reach out!

I don’t bite. Come say hi and check out some of my work! I love meeting new people and guarantee we can have some smiles.

Instagram: zachcoop

Portfolio: https://productionzsc.myportfolio.com/projects


Be on the lookout for Zach’s full project early next year back here on Dear Hope.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

PF

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

Follow us for more posts, inspiration and art on Facebook, TwitterTumblr, and Instagram

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Quote of the Day: 10/27/16

A quote I came across today that reminded me of the beliefs we have here at Dear Hope.

“I think people that are driven to make art are coping with things – anxieties or what have you. You feel boiling rage or crushing depression without knowing why, eventually engaging in a lot of coping mechanisms you aren’t aware of. The difference between then and now is just awareness, knowing where it all comes from, what the dangers can be, being able to hopefully exert some control over everything so that I’m not obliviously self destructive or wasting my energy.”

-Greg Puciato of the Dillinger Escape Plan

Source

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Art Showcase: “Tension” – A Beautiful Discomfort by Corey Marsh

I recently spent a night talking with artist Corey Marsh about his art series entitled “Tension”. The work is simultaneously beautiful and discomforting. Later this week I’ll have a full interview posted with him, but for now enjoy these pictures and a look into the process behind them. Here’s what Marsh had to say.

My latest work has been very much focused on the body, with surreal forms composed of contorted and mashed up hands and other body parts. These are an exploration into my mental health and my emotional state of mind.

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“Hand”

I’ve recently gone through this period in my life where everything came crashing down in a tragically terrible manner. I felt these weird, overwhelming feelings that I’m not sure I know how to accurately describe with words. It was this discomfort and tension that seemed to radiate throughout my entire body. Sort of like that feeling of pins and needles when your leg is asleep – or that itch you can’t scratch because for some reason it’s the inside of your leg that itches. But instead of an itch or a pin poking at me, it was this internal feeling of being pulled this way and that way all at once, like my inner organs and flesh were being tied up in massive uncomfortable knots at the pit of my stomach and in the center of my brain.

It was terrible and the worst part was I couldn’t even accurately describe the feeling. I feel like even now, talking about it, I’m not truly capturing it. So I turned to my art to express it.

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“Backache”

These feelings of unease and distress became so much clearer to me through this new series of work. In my photos, I captured my own body in bizarre poses in the lighting studio back at school, usually tugging at my skin on my back or on my face, creating physical and viewable tension. Then, through photoshop, I layered and collaged these images to create surreal forms and masses that through their bizarre nature of walking the line between believable and unreal added to their discomfort.

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“Flesh”

This new work of mine is a new means of exploring my mental health through my own physical body. In it, I portray what can’t be seen, my state of mind, as if it were just another physical appendage that could use tending to. Too often mental health takes a backseat to physical health. In this series, the two become one.

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“Pulling”

Find all the images from the Tension showcase in the slideshow below. To check out more of Corey’s work find his online gallery here. Be sure to keep up with him on Twitter and Instagram as well.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

PF

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

Follow us for more posts, inspiration and art on Facebook, Twitter,Tumblr, and Instagram

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