Perhaps you know that I used to do a couple of zines. I don't make zines anymore, but I am still friends with several of the people who wrote for my zine, or have zines of their own, or both. Nyx is one of those people.
After a brief hiatus from the world of zining – she wrote a couple novels! - Nyx is back with her first personal zine. I love a good personal zine. They're like little diaries, but the pages are usually made with a lot more love. The pages of Don't Call Me Cupcake are like the pages of a black and white scrapbook. Most of the entries are handwritten, but the focal point of the zine – a discussion of Nyx's mental medical experiences – is typed in order to fit quite a bit of information in a small setting.
Nyx has been diagnosed as bipolar. It has been a struggle for her to accept this diagnosis and find the best possible treatment. While I have not been diagnoses as bipolar, I have known many people who carry around this label and have either dismissed it or made it a part of their identity. I have, however, been diagnoses with major depressive disorder and SAD (the one where you literally get sad when you don't get enough sunshine). I know a little about having to experiment with medications before finding the right one, and the desire to get off the medications as soon as possible.
Now, if you're interested in reading Nyx's story you really should write to her and request a copy of her zine (Nyx * Po Box 786 * Bendigo Central, VIC 3552 * Australia). She loves receiving mail and accepts trades in payment – as you may have noticed, she's in Australia so American money isn't going to really work for her, but you can also check out her etsy shop (etsy.com/au/shop/inkyblots)
It's been a year since I got off my meds – well, a little more than a year because I went off them before I was given the okay. It's been about a year since I stopped receiving my weekly talk therapy. Lately, not a week goes by where I don't wonder if I should start again. I wake up and there's no spark. I don't look forward to anything. I just want to sleep for weeks but my body won't let me. Thing is, I don't know how talking is out with a therapist is going to change anything. I went through at least eight different therapists (they were all students doing their internships) during my years of counseling and only the last was an actual doctor. And only he seemed to have any feedback for me that wasn't some drivel that he had obviously just read in the textbook, and he has since moved on to work at a psychiatric hospital.
I talk to Jeremy all the time about what happened and how I feel about it (outraged and disappointed, mostly). What I want is to forget and move on. Okay, maybe not forget because then I will have lost anything that I could have possibly learned from this situation: don't put your guard down, don't trust anyone, don't share too much with your family (or people you hope will one day be family) because they will use your confidences against you as weapons, don't buy extravagant gifts for others hoping to prove that you are important to them... I just want to close that door and its a big one and I don't know how.
Nyx hints that she may understand these problems. She's originally from Wisconsin, and has no desire to go back to the States. And, to tell you the truth, I'm a little bit jealous that I can't just pack my shit and go (somewhere, anywhere but here). But there are complicated reasons to why I can't leave Maryland for the next couple of years, and the not so complicated reason of I don't think I can afford to live anywhere else.
One thing that seems to have worked for both me and Nyx is art therapy. And we both kind of stumbled on it after a long battle with cognitive therapy just not working for us. My first five (or so)therapists were all about “put in the work, try changing your own behavior” which really wasn't helping while I was living in a house where I was being abused and neglected. When I rediscovered my inner artist I was so... I wouldn't qualify it as happy (I was heavily medicated at the time – on three different anti-depressants, two of which were sleep aids), but at least I had something that gave me a sense of accomplishment.
I created a couple new pieces after my success at the Art in the Round event in November, but the creative zing doesn't inhabit me like it did back when I was medicated and drunk. I make art and some of it is good, but I don't know what to do with it. I don't have any hanging on the walls in the apartment. It's all just stacked up against the wall by my dresser. Should I hang it even though no one comes to my apartment? Should I just amass this huge collection of my own art and have someone find it after my death? (cuz really, whoever finds it is not going to think they found the next Van Gogh, and it will probably all end up in the trash). What do I think is going to happen to these pieces ten, twenty years down the road? And how much of the art that I made in the last two years and gave away has already been trashed? Not that I want to be known for my art, but I created this stuff and it's a little heartbreaking to think that it will lose its appeal (or perhaps it never had any appeal to some of the people I gave it to). Should I continue to give it away and hope for the best? Or should I only sell it to people who are willing to pay something for it to prove that they DO actually want it?
There's only so much art that I can make for myself. And now it's become this 'why am I making this?' thought looping through my head that takes away a lot of the appeal of making a new piece. So I can also see how art therapy isn't going to work for everyone and why counselors don't recommend it more often. Still, it makes me wonder how helpful a therapist can be when you've told them a dozen times that you're a writer (creative) and cognitive behavior therapy isn't working that they don't suggest art therapy.
Oh! You like to write! You make zines and create stories! Have you ever painted or done any art?
Why, yes. Art was one of my favorite goddamned things until middle school! How astute of you!
I mean, seriously therapists, are you listening to us at all?
I'm not suggesting that if you are struggling with depression or mental illness that you throw all your current treatment out the window. No, please stick with it. However, if you feel like your medications and talk therapy aren't working for you, maybe the answer isn't MORE pills, but a different method of expressing yourself. If your world seems ugly, maybe you need to sit down and make something beautiful. Or maybe you just need to splash some black paint all over something and then make that beautiful. If modifying your behavior in a world of people who don't seem interested in modifying their own isn't working for you, perhaps you need to get your ass to the craft store and buy a couple cheap bottles of acrylic paint, or some sketch pencils, or whatever catches your eye.
And perhaps I should take my own advice. Because when you open my paint case, all you see is blue. I need some new colors.