The Truth within Art and Yourself

November 26, 2018

A brighty colored abstact painting.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I knew since I was young that I would be working in an arts-related industry but never expected to work as an actual fine artist. I never even knew that was a possibility. I thought fine art was only done by white men during the Renaissance and not a modern era profession. It turns out I was embarrassingly wrong.

It was only after that I admitted myself to a day program at a psychiatric hospital that I realized I could save myself by doing what I love and turn it into a profession.

In the second year of my undergrad program I became seriously depressed to the point that I wanted to try taking my life with a cocktail of sangria and various pills. There were no obvious reasons for my depressionI had just come back to school after completing a successful internship that summer and was given a good amount of responsibilities for that year’s productions (all of which I was very excited about). I had nothing to even be anxious about, let alone depressed. I would later be diagnosed with PTSD and body dysmorphia/eating disorder (along with my previous diagnoses of depression, anxiety and OCD).

A brighty colored abstact painting.

“Screaming” by Chelsea Criger

That year I would muddle through a ton of therapist visits, hopping from one to the next, feeling hopeless in a broken system. I went through twenty shitty therapists until I found a therapist who worked well with me and whose reasons for being in the psychiatric industry were not selfish and who did not treat me like a lab rat.

It was right before I met her that I landed myself in the outpatient program of a psychiatric hospital as I could not take feeling like I was trapped in an endless pit of darkness any longer.

Starting the program was more than a culture shock. It felt like a completely different world. I remember seeing the psychiatrist that first day and that his form of treatment was filling me to the brim with four to six different types of pills all at once. I knew I absolutely did not need to be taking six different pills everyday for my condition. So I refused to take any more medication than the one pill I was already on. The trend of that particular psychiatrist seemed to be over-prescribing patients pills and then disappearing. All of the patients I had talked to were on anywhere from six different pills to ten.

The only saving grace of that outpatient program was the art therapy. It was there that I learned how to harness my feelings into paint and paper.

A lot of the work I made there was messy and careless. I hardly consider any of it great. This is what made displaying it on Instagram so freeing. I did not consider my art to be great and so there was absolutely no pressure for it to be so. It just had to be. Color was my mode of expression and each emotion I felt had an assigned color. They still do to this day. Each brushstroke and each line had a different emotional energy to it and I feel that people who viewed my art could feel that as well.

I poured my soul onto canvas after canvas. Painting was a tool for me to work through past traumas. The brilliant thing is that it actually worked. Before discovering art therapy nothing had really previously worked to make sense of what was happening within me.

I did not expect anything to come from showing my art online. Art was just a mode of expression and a hobby.

I was invited to showcase my work at a popup exhibit in Detroit. A curator had stumbled upon my art on Instagram and had liked it enough to consider it gallery-worthy. I had never imagined that the messy inner workings of my brain could be valuable. I am glad that they seem to be.

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Bernard S. Siegel, MD
Bernard S. Siegel, MD
2 years ago

Art and drawings and images reveal what is in our consciousness: the past, present and future. Read Jung. Read my book: “The Art of Healing and Life Paints”, “Life Paints its Own Span” by Susan Bach and “The Secret World of Drawings” by Gregg Furth.

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