Trapped in the Fog – Broken Spirit
Desperation behind the art
Trigger warning – if you are not in a good mental state do not read.
This is not your average, everyday blogpost speaking about one of my latest commissions or clients that I have been able to serve.
I’m going to be very open and vulnerable today.
Don’t quite know where to start so I will just go ahead and blurt this out.
For two years now I have had the utter blessing to have been booked for two years solid. I had a few weeks here or there before another client’s work or commission came and I was happy to have a little rest in between.
This August all the work dried up. No enquiries, no more bookings. Nothing. I still had my huge editorial (I was supposed to send an email out about that and what it cost me – but my depression spilt over and took control this whole month).
For some stupid reason – when I don’t have work and I am not earning something – I feel like a complete and utter failure of a human being.
Above image by Stefano Pollio
Even as I type these words on my keyboard I am getting a rush of tears fill my eyes.
No work since August.
September – no clients
September, I had my huge Gustav Klimt Editorial which I spent a total of £5,000 for what was supposed to be a collaborative / free or low investment editorial – I will certainly chat more about that later. Despite investing that amount into my business; I was happy to do so because I had planned this for two years.
October – no clients.
November – no clients.
Then I pushed hard to launch my shop and had to invest more to hire designers to manage technical issues on my website.
Feast & famine cycle
Now I know that it is completely normal to have feast or famine cycles when you run a business. But I had forgotten what a failure I felt and how debilitating it makes me feel when I don’t have work. I don’t think I am drastically changing my general everyday actions.
Regardless of all of my actions that were previously bringing continuous sales, everything has gone completely quiet.
You’re a gifted artist. You’re so talented
Every time I hear these words it is as if someone is twisting a knife deep in my gut.
This whole past month I fell, into a deep depression which I have been hiding from the world. I have not told my husband, nor my two teenage sons, nor any of my close friends.
I am and have been in so much pain that I could not possibly open my mouth and start talking because I will just cry instead. I cannot even try to explain how I feel and am grappling to come to terms, understand and get through this dark stage myself.
What’s ridiculous is that I’m in a happy, good marriage, I love my husband (despite having our moods and grumpy phases as we all do), both of my teenage boys are happy, healthy and very well mannered, my husband has a regular job and everything is ok. I’m in a much better position than so many people and I know how grateful I should be.
Yet I feel as though there is a dark cloud that hangs over me and it has been like this for the past month. Sometimes it lifts slightly and I feel more normal. Other times it comes back with a vengeance.
Image via Jake Colling
This happened to me once before about three years ago. On a far, far worse scale.
I wanted my life to end.
It happened about two years into my business. I had worked away for two years – building a collection, honing my art doing a constant stream of editorials, without seeing any results. I was no longer earning a steady monthly salary and all of my savings had vanished with all of the various investments that I had made up to that point. Think….. website, advertising, photography, materials and paper, etc…
I was beginning to focus on all the things that I didn’t have. The lack of clients and the total lack of feeling significant and not being able to contribute to help our finances ( a self imposed pressure) started to get to me.
Day after day I felt like I had failed in life.
Everyday on Instagram the more people would say, “Oh you are so talented,” the more it would twist the knife. If I was so talented then why is nothing actually happening. Why do I have no clients? There is a lot of lip service on Instagram – yet life in reality is much, much harder than it looks.
I remember the resounding feeling of failure.
I felt as though I had no more avenues or choices left in life.
What would I do now?
I remember hiding this from my husband, sons, family and close friends.
I would cry all night and feel numb for much of the day.
I wanted to stay in bed all day.
I couldn’t wait for the day to pass and night to come.
This is still very raw for me and I have had to take breaks whilst typing this.
Vividly I remember such dark thoughts that would enter my mind.
I wanted my life to end. That thought seemed to haunt me, I would hear myself say it again and again.
I wanted the pain to stop – I was exhausted and each day seemed a fight.
Every small task seemed to be a monumental chore. It sucked up all of my energy just to appear normal towards the world while I was fighting this internal battle.
My husband deserved a wife that would love him in a better way that I could.
My sons (as teenagers) didn’t need me at all apart from meals. I convinced myself that a step-mother would take better care of them than I could.
I would never take my own life – ever.
But I DID WANT and prayed that God would give me a heart attack or somehow end my life.
I felt completely and utterly lost.
Image via Stormseeker
What saved me from that awful time? My son bought a stray cat home.
I would sit at night on the sofa in dark while my family were all asleep and just cry to myself.
The cat must have instinctively known, it jumped up onto my lap and stayed there, purring. It provided a profound sense of comfort.
Carefully, I reached out to one or two very close followers and artists that I knew on Instagram and opened up about how depressed and low I was feeling. They mentioned daily exercise and movement to life my spirits.
Then a miracle occurred.
Work started to pour in and I had one booking after another.
They were not all £8,000+ clients, not at all.
However, I took hold of and embraced everything that came my way and was glad of it.
I needed those deadlines and projects to work towards to keep my mind occupied, busy and void of negative thought.
Tried free work to stay busy
This last month, even though I have had no income for quite sometime and have had to continue to pay the bills, I pushed myself to do some free work.
Where am I going with this?
I have realised that this underlying issue of my self-worth, feelings of significance and achievement is directly and intrinsically linked to having work. That issue is there and will always seem to be there.
It is so incredibly ironic though.
When I am really busy working away on paid art commissions and creative projects my mind is actually buzzing with all of the things that I could and SHOULD be doing when I actually have free time.
Create an art licensing collection, start my online shop, create new logo design collections (I have been dying to create more logos for businesses), create educational products for other new stationery designers in the wedding industry. I have bought two art licensing courses, one print shop course because I am very serious about my goals. However, the above said, once I actually have free time, the scarcity gets to me and east away at my mindset.
Why am I speaking out about Depression?
Truth be told I and very anxious about putting all of my feelings out there.
Opening up about wanting my life to end is such a taboo subject.
Yet this is real life. Everything looks so perfect and easy when you are on the outside peering in. There is no straight path to success or any shortcuts that you can take. It is a hard, hard process to go through.
Upon many occasions this past month I have wondered if it is time to call it a day.
That if by February there is no work, I believe I might call it a day and have a year off? May be I will try a J-O-B for a while so that I can have a change of scenery and have some form of routine.
I’m actually not sure where I am headed.
Let’s see what the future holds for me.
For now I’m taking it one day at a time.
If you would like to share your thoughts, as always I am happy to hear from you.