This Winter, Unsinkable is honoured to be be partnering with Twentytwenty Arts (Founded by Unsinkable ambassador Megan Kee) for Life on the Line. Life on the Line is a public art project and mental health awareness campaign using art to raise funds for mental health support. Ten Ontario-based artists will be sharing their artwork and stories on Unsinkable every week until January 2021.
This week we have the honour of sharing Seri’s story.
All ten works will be available for sale in signed and numbered limited editions of 50, where 75% of all sales will be donated directly to the Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto’s Family Outreach & Response Program. Canadian Mental Health Association is the largest service-based mental health organization in Canada.
The piece I made for Life on the Line is titled: Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia means the fear of going outside. I’ve always had an intense fear of social situations; crowds lines, talking to strangers and covid has heightened it significantly. When making this piece I was in a state where I was terrified to go outside. Being cooped up inside my apartment did little to help my mental health so I was trapped in a cycle of wanting to go outside but being afraid of getting sick. The process of making this piece was cathartic for me, taking all the stress and frustration of being trapped inside and turning it into art was very healing. I chose bright, overwhelming colours to make the viewer empathize with what I was feeling. There are an abundance of flowers in the piece melting into me. This symbolizes the natural beauty of the world now feeling toxic. I want to go out and smell the flowers like I used to be able to. I miss the joys of walks through nature without a lingering fear behind it. It often feels like if I touch a petal that another has touched, the petal will turn into a gooey venom and consume me. An exaggeration, but that’s the sort of imagery my brain keeps showing me.
My work has always been informed by my mental health, because I deal with mental illness, there was never another choice. I started experiencing symptoms of anxiety during puberty; racing heart, stomach aches, migraines, loss of breath or feeling like I couldn’t move. These symptoms were only diagnosed as anxiety later in my life around my early twenties. Anxiety rears its ugly head in a variety of ways, for me it’s a constant fear of the unknown. Whenever a new situation would arise, I would panic and freeze, because I hated the idea of being unprepared for situations.
During my teenage years, when my anxiety got bad I’d get these shakes and twitches that were absolutely humiliating in class. I can remember each time I had to run out of my classroom because I was in tears and my anxiety attack made it so I couldn’t breath. You know that crying, when you don’t know how to stop and you’re choking on your own saliva? That was me every time I was made fun of or said the wrong thing or failed a project. Anxiety is not something to be shamed, it’s to be understood. I was not less of a person for having anxiety attacks, I wasn’t broken, but I did need help.
Thankfully I was in a financially stable place to get professional help, I know that many do not have the luxury. I finally got the courage to talk to my doctor about my anxiety attacks and she prescribed me medication immediately, but she also told me the medication wouldn’t fix everything. When the pills finally kicked in, it really felt like a weight was lifted from me. I no longer had shakes or sudden loss of breath or crying so hard that I couldn’t sleep at night. It made a huge difference in my life, but the anxiety didn’t disappear. Lurking underneath I could feel it, and the causes of my anxiety weren’t truly being addressed, only the symptoms. If I wanted to get better I had to do one of my least favorite things; asking for help.
My doctor put me in touch with the Center for Interpersonal Relationships, an organization who help people through personalized cognitive therapy.
Ironically, going in that place for the first time made my anxiety skyrocket, but they were very kind and my therapist has been helping me work towards a balanced understanding of my life. I think everyone would get something out of therapy and I’m a big advocate for getting professional help. It’s incredibly helpful for mending relationships and learning more about yourself.