18 August 2007

tortured artist

self portrait

I mentioned that I have been battling with my work load to avoid that paralyzation that can come with too much work/ stress. Last night was relieved to have caught up a bit and also to know that I am not alone. I brief exchange of emails with Cerri of LittlePinkStudio confirmed that. Now I am wondering if all artist types are secretly tortured even though their artwork may not show it.

Of course there is a stereotype of the misunderstood artist who chronically smokes cigarettes and wears black and laments the fact that people "just don't get it." Sometimes I feel like people don't get my art and that is why I am so thankful of my internet artist friends who really DO get it. And nothing beats heading off to a workshop or retreat filled with other creative people who understand whats going on.

But I guess what I am referring to is more that I feel tortured in my head. Always. Compared to so many, my life is good. I am fortunate. I have a wonderful husband who supports my art and our family so I can be at home with our beautiful gift of a daughter. We own a home, have family and friends close and can make the mortgage pretty much ;) but I constantly feel like something is not quite right. I don't yearn for a huge house full of the best furniture and electronics with a maid and a gardener, I know this.. I guess I yearn to know WHAT I want.

I yearn to have a healthy mind and to understand why I think what I think. Sometimes I wake up and feel overwhelming despair, I just want to cry.. no reason, its just how I feel. Sure there are days that I am fine but there are also days that I feel so angry (like this morning) that I can barely contain the urge to break something or hurt myself. In the past I have thought that suicide was the way to go but thankfully those feelings have been kept at bay for a several years now thanks to understanding doctors and the wonder of pharmaceuticals. This brings me back to that yearning.. to be normal, or what I perceive is normal.. which I guess brings me to the point of this post.. IS there such a thing as normal? Or is that just in my imagination and is my world REALLY filled with other people who struggle internally too?

“It is only too true that a lot of artists are mentally ill- it's a life which, to put it mildly, makes one an outsider. I'm all right when I completely immerse myself in work, but I'll always remain half crazy.”... Vincent Van Gogh


  1. Hi Heather! First of all...is that digital art that you created with your photo? Really amazing! Looks just like a picture frame!

    I think we all face that overstressed... overwhelmed feeling about life..I know I do! It is hard to be a Mom.. Wife.. Friend ..Artist ..Business Woman.. Accountant.. Personal Shopper... Maid..Cook..etc..etc.!! lol I tend to overworry about everything that is not important and really important things I tend to block out! GO figure??? lol I think I might need therapy for that!

    I always enjoy your blog and art... it is an inspiration. I have a huge interest in graphic design... would love to learn more and take a few classes..if I find time! I an always inspired by your work! Just beautiful!

    Keep your pretty head up! Heather :)

  2. Well, normal is relative isn't it? I think the question should be- am I happy? Am I content? Mood swings can be tied to lots of things- diet, exercise, sleep, hormones. Best advice (and this is the RN in me speaking) go have a good workup with your doctor. You may just need to make a little change here and there, and you might feel better!

    Therapy works wonders. I was divorced when I was 30, and went through about 2 years of therapy to work out issues- and I feel better. It gives you amazing insight and perspective!!

    I know about being stressed and overwhelmed. I have 2 small kids, work 2 days a week in a stressful ICU- plus the normal things- chief cook, laundress, cleaning woman, chauffer, bill-payer, etc.! I get to the point where I am ready to leave. The Lexapro (anti-anxiety med) helps. Mostly, I just need a day to regroup- no kids, read, sleep, scrapbook! Find out what your day would be- and go take one!!

    Hang in there. Be KIND to yourself. We are socialized these days to believe we CAN and SHOULD be able to do it all. But, the reality of it is that it's just not possible. Remember that.

    -Lee (LeeBlitheWeber@comcast.net)

  3. Heather,
    I gather where you're coming from on some things.
    My constant comment in my head is, "It would be better if I could ________." Fill in the blank. Most times when I fill in that blank it always seems to mean time away from my family by getting a job.
    Now that I don't lived close to my extended family, I really find it hard to leave the boys for any amount of time. I haven't used a baby sitter here since December, and I know that Brent and I are due some time together. Alone. I love my boys and always look for family things for us to do, but sometimes I think Brent and I need a date. Some times I think I need to look to work outside the home again (everytime I do this Brent says "no". how awesome is he!!) I love that my Husband wants me home with the boys. It's where I want to be (even though they are in the back ground now fighting, I want to be here. LOL)
    I feel crazy insane sometimes. Never to the point of hurting myself or the boys, but to the point I just want to walk away for a bit and regroup, but sometimes I don't get that if I'm home alone with the boys.
    I don't long for the fine EXPENSIVE things in life either. I'm happy with our Thrift store furniture!!
    Now living here with out my long time friends and my family, I do long for those friend ships that have years behind them. I love the gals I've met her and believe I"m building new great friendships, but I miss the friends back home that just KNOW how I think and how my brain ATTEMPTS to work. I miss that. Like on Grey's Anatomy, Meredith and Christina are each other's "person". I sit here and ask now "who is my person?" Yes I have Brent, but sometimes you need that girlfriend. Know what I mean?
    Keep up with your art work. We've strayed off into different media's but I still feel our friendship and bond.
    You're beautiful Heather! Don't ever forget that you're special to me! (hugs)

  4. What is "normal"? I know my normal is different from my sisters normal or my friends normal!
    I also struggle sometimes to be a "happy" person. I try to be upbeat and happy most times but I hate that I have to try...I should just be, right? Anyway after all these years I have decided that is normal for me to be a bit emotional and somewhat somber. I figure it balances out my home since my dh wakes up smiling and happy every darn morning. That's him. Please take gentle care...

  5. You know, there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending the day in your Jammies watching old movies. I think mood swings and creativity go hand in hand. So, take some time out to feed your soul. All the other stuff can wait. Give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing. I love all of your creativity, you definitely have a gift, you have to fill yourself back up, before you can pour it all back out again.

  6. Heather, as you have gathered from our emails, I completely understand, but it's more than that. You just summed up my inner turmoil that I try my very best to keep at bay. Love that you are willing to be be so open and honest.
    Do something you love, and lose yourself in it. It will do wonders for you
    ~Cerri xoxo

  7. Hi Heather - I always enjoy your Blog and I can read what you have written, but I can not write by myself what is in my mind, because, my English skills are limited. Let my try.
    I think, what we are , is normal, for us, not for other people - for good reason.
    You sounds depressive - that feeling I know very well. And maybe you have a reason for this?
    It is not a drama to feel this way - sometimes it is just live, nothing more, but we can changing it.
    It takes some time and to be creatively helps a lot - so you have no reason to be feel sad about you live in general - but feel sad sometimes is normal, for me also. As best I could i have written down my thought and i wish you all the best with all my heart. Go on with your live you will make it

  8. Heather your work is so wonderful and inspiring. You mentioned normal, it reminded me of something my year 9 English teacher said at the very beginning of the year, one of those teachers who makes you think... in response to someone who said that something was normal or not normal, she said "Define normal". I never have forgotten that.
    Keep your chin up and know that there are people who feel similar feelings to you and also people who "get" you and your wonderful work xo

  9. Oh, Heather. Hang in there. I think you are right; everyone is who is really in touch with themselves feels internal struggles. It is part of the human condition, I think. There is so much beauty and joy and in the world...I am so glad that you got help when you felt so much despair. I think we have all been there before. You are not alone!
    P.S. Your art is BEAUTIFUL :)

  10. Heather
    forget normal...you are you and that way for a reason. Now the mood swings, anger etc. should be corrected with proper meds. There are so many out there and finding just the one suited to handle these things for you, may take a few tries...but are very necessary. You have been gifted with such unique artistic abilities. And in order to be the best that you can be, you need to restore your emotional balance. And it can be done. Discuss these things with your Doctors and if you are not feeling like you feel you should, then seek out others. Remember you are your best judge of how "you" should be. If you are feeling fragile (which is always a pre-curser for me), it is time to find someone (else)in the field to make it better by helping you find what you need.While it is true that artistic "types" suffer the most with these types of maladies, no one deserves to feel less than they think they should. Do be gentle with yourself.Give yourself time. I will keep you in thoughts and prayers for strength, so we all can see you back at your best very soon sharing your extraordinary artistic gifts.

    Best Wishes,

  11. babskarr@yahoo.com8/19/07, 7:22 PM

    Yes, Heather, it really is true that the world (at least the world I live in) is filled with people who have the same feelings as you. I am amazed at how many I know personally (and I don't know that many people - I'm sort of the hermit type, guess that's how I deal)and people I "know" only through their blogs, but it seems like a lot. Maybe we are drawn together or give off some aura! What you said about having a great life, family, etc. sounds just like what I said to my therapist...I felt guilty for feeling so bad when so many others have it so much worse..I think that is a common thread..what you said about suicide - ditto...I'm glad we both changed our minds...for me, it helps to know that there are so many people out there who do understand your feelings and are there to support and care..I am glad you can express your feelings and let others know what you are going through...it helps you and it helps those others who are struggling...know that I am sending good thoughts your way...barbara

  12. jeez. i can't possibly offer anything other than one useful thing my mom said to me. when she was right, she was right. gotta take it when you can.
    once a very long time ago, i was ranting and unhappy that my younger brother seemed to have such a different/better life than i did.the short version is that we had the same families and many of the same opportunities available. i thought i was due the same kind of good luck he seemed to have. she suggested that he would never have the same difficulties as i thought that i had or as much to wrestle with internally, since he just was not introspective.
    i guess that is the problem with a personal search for comfort, integrity,values, honesty and understanding as it relates to yourself.
    one of my dear friends convinced me that my life was stressful and hectic. enough so, that i might benefit from some meds. she was of course right and i still have my fits of pique occasionally, but i am generally really genuinely happier. i hope that you take some of the advisory offerings of the other blogging companions to heart. you are a fabulous person to create such cool art and an even more interesting person to speak out so honestly about your internal turmoil. if i know anything about any of this, you are not alone, nor are you under-appreciated. no one is normal and no one can do everything. so kick back and let someone else shoulder some of the load.
    i wish you well, and will continue to appreciate your work.

  13. Heather, I know how you feel. I've been there. I think we've been raised to believe we must decide that we have know who we want to be for the rest of our lives. And once you make the decision, you have to that one thing forever. I struggled with this when costume design/construction wasn't making me happy. I mean, I went to college for it--it's supposed to be my career. I admire those who have chosen their career path early in life and are happy with it.

    We and many artists are Renaissance Souls (there's a book with this title). We have many interests. I think you just have to decide: What makes me happy NOW. There will be never enough time in the day to do everything that is on our to-do list (I struggle with this everyday); so we must prioritize what's more important not just to our family, but to us/me/you.

    I've learned from my PP biz that everyone goes through cycles. I'll email you the link about it. And the hardest part is that we should accept where we are in the cycle (whether in business or life), and not beat up ourselves about it.

    Now I'm rambling. You are not alone in what you a feeling. You are doing amazing art because you have this intense desire inside you to create. That is the sign of a true artist.

  14. I could have written your post myself (((hug))) I think that women today in general wear three times as many hats as our previous generations. It is overwhelming, and I so understand!!

  15. I agree with a lot of what these ladies are saying and I'm still struggling with a little ppd after baby #3... I really like the quote by van gogh...I mean as far as living the life of an artist making us outsiders... But at the same time there are so many of us out here that do understand and can help each other. The most important thing I do is pray every day!

  16. hi heather,

    i thought i must have written your post! who defines normal really? normal for you is not normal for me and vice versa. i made my own normal years ago. now i don't care what people think. if they think i am strange, looney or whatever, they don't have to know me. i have a wonderful husband and daughter and lovely fur babies. i have been on meds for depression for quite a few yrs now. when i am down - which usually lasts for 3 days when i am at my lowest - i constantly tell myself to "ride it through" and remind myself that it will pass. i go to bed because i know i am safe there as suicide / self harm lurks in my thoughts. thankfully i don't have a lot of these episodes. from what i have seen of your work and blog it all looks great. thanks for sharing this on your blog. it helps people like me to think i am not the only one who feels like this. thanks heather,
    kind regards,
    Debra / damselfly58

  17. Oh Heather, you are very brave to post about your feelings this way. But you should take comfort in knowing that many of us feel the same way. The word "tortured" really hit home with me because I sometimes feel that way myself. I think too much, disect and analyze things way too much, feel too much. Sometimes I wish I could just turn my brain off for a while. I wish I had an answer for you, but I am still searching for that myself. However, I do believe if we continue to share these feelings with each other, at least the journey won't be quite as lonely. Hang in there - you are not alone. And if you feel the need to "vent", you know where to find me!

  18. Good writing Girlfriend !!!...as women we tend to do too much which is why I think we all feel the same way.
    All of those feelings...well, I think that's what "normal" is for those of us that will actually talk about it and admit it !!! We can't be happy all the time and there wouldn't be words like "angry" if we weren't meant to experience those feelings.
    You're doing okay...honestly you are !!!!

  19. I just stumbled here and your post is a relief to see. I struggle with being "satisified" and "happy". We all should be right? At least think we are anyway. I'm mom, wife, communtiy activest, school volunteer, artist, baker...blah...blah...blah...I do know that I'm lucky and not chasing a paycheck any more but at least that was something to show. Anyway us creative sorts do have our ups and downs and we're lucky to have friends and ART! so we'll keep rolling along:)

  20. i absolutely love this picture of you. it is so real. so honest. so brave.

  21. I learned about Vincent Van Gogh in the third grade -I had a game MASTERPIECE and it was little paintings - but I dont remember the point of the game really...I just loved all the paintings and reading about the artists.

    Vincent was My Favorite Right From The Start.
    Sunflowers , Starry Nights and Torments.

    Be Well.
    Love, S.

  22. what sticks out to me here is when you say...I yearn to have a healthy mind...I like to think of the question..how do we know when we feel healthy...

    what is "normal" is debatable...one person's normal is not always the same as anothers...
    we do figure "normalcy" in relation to what is around us..such a caveat is that we can be surrounded by a nonrepresentative sample of all the different people.

    I too wonder how much people keep internally...away from others view...and certainly struggles with "negative" emotions and even despair, are much more common than some might think...

    I do believe in biological reasons for depression and also in the possibility that "how one tends to think about their experiences" can influence how they feel...and the idea of cognitive therapy appeals to me...

    but the feeling of being "unhealthy"...or the feeling that "something is not right" ...I think this is a good place to explore from...

    are certain thoughts unhealthy becaue they lead away from understanding and away from the things that generally make us happy... are there factors which predispose people to depressive thoughts and feelings...are there things people can influence to make it less likely...

    I think so, and each person is the one to hold the key..but sometimes needing help from others to figure it out..and sometimes I think maybe there is something that is difficult to influence...something biological that can be understood for "it"...for something separate from the person...something not deserved, neither is environmental things...I just think that judgement whether from others or ourselves, for ourselves...can be so draining..and I am much more interested in "figuring it out"..judgements may factor in on that..but do not necessarily have helpful meaning unless we decide that they do...and then I think to call them understandings or opinions if they differ from others...our own opinion being the most important to feel at ease with and to know that it can change, if we think so...

    and also, depression is not indicative of a particular weakness of character, but just there...and can be something to "ride out"...

    for me, when I feel hurt...unappreciated...invisible..
    lonely for feeling of belonging, of being needed and wanted...these are the feelings that put me at risk...what goes into the feeling has taken me some time to "figure out" and to "make sense of" and then to see how to make it better...well, it is ongoing

    I suppose this can be triggered from something that "normally" does cause (real) hurt(all hurt is real, though;) but also from my own perceptions that might not always be the only way to understand something happening to or around me...well, it is then that if the emotional pain is so intense, I can find myself thinking hopeless thoughts...and if I were to feel this way and to carry it with me and to feel unsafe as though I could hurt myself or another...well, I know that is "unhealthy"

    how important it is to feel safe to be ourselves...to be not feeling pressure to act or be or accomplish for others...to feel that the "love" is somehow conditional ...because...it is true there is so much any person can possibly be doing...so much to think about...

    caring what others thought of me has always been very important to me..and I think I lost focus on giving time and respect to what I thought..and to understanding that my feelings about myself are my true gauge..to know when I am healthy...and listening carefully to what makes me happy..which can change from "day to day" is the best way to avoid feeling tortured...the worst thing for me is to keep something on the inside too long if it is a part of me, I "need" to express...a hurt, a need, a reaction to the world near and far...any and all of these things..the hard part is that what makes me feel good, too is when those thoughts are met by another with caring and reassurance...

    I'm a big proponant of talking as a way to understanding oneself and others... :oP

    and knowing there are people who are interested in listening and in how you are feeling...hopefully, is comforting...

    but I have seen through my observations on the internet that having a reliable supply of good friends who can relate and understand and provide good advice and a listening ear...does not "make it all better"...observing from the outside, one might think...well, look there is the understanding that seems to be what is needed..yet, now and then the suffering "returns"...

    I hope that for many people who would experience this...that there is no solution yet unseen, that there is nothing that if focused on...if understood, if given what ever it is that would remedy it...could not be found....

    peace, I think comes in understanding (including understanding the possibility that I may not know all the why...and logic may not give me an answer)..but anyway...it is understanding for oneself and then feeling that I am in any situation...acting as my own best friend...in thought and action...even if those things can cause their own (temporary, hopefully) pain

    I admire people who are interested and work to figure out the "whys"....I think there are plenty who don't...perhaps they don't have as much to figure out, but also maybe they just "patch it up"....and live unaware of the affects...

    I'm a rambling commenter, and often make a long comment when I am thinking of something that matters to me ..and just found your blog here today from comment you left at the blog of my friend...but nevertheless, I wanted to respond to your post and wish you the answer(s) that you seek...the "what works for you" : ) from one occasionally tortured artist to another

    my hope is to feel deeply, to never lose the ability to empathize, and to be honest in going where my thoughts take me...to be able to do this, but to see hope and possibilities for the world and for myself...and to not feel held captive in "a world" that is not balanced..is not true...is not the world that I want to be part of...or feels like a "world apart", a lonely place.

    I don't think being an artist requires personal suffering...I think it is healthy to feel some pain for ourselves and others...to empathize with the degree of it..but then hopefully to know that there is hope and to know that I am moving in a life that is matching what is important to me and for me...best wishes