I’m a photographer. I’m not an artist. Photography helps me to both connect and disconnect from the world as I see fit. Sometimes it is too much for me and I need to disconnect from the moment and experience the world through a view finder where I have control over reality. Other times I use the camera as a box that allows me to visit strange new worlds and connect with people I would never normally meet. It’s a wonderful but one that causes me an absurd amount of anxiety and subsequently depression.
“This lens? No, this lens? This much contrast? Black and white? Bold colour? Soft colour? Do I need a new camera? How did they do it?” I feel like I’ve lost the joy in being a photographer for myself because my autistic brain needs everything to be perfect and right while my ADHD brain is only able to focus on one image at a time and each new image is like an entire new season of some TV show you have to stop and binge right there and then.
This results in me getting depressed whenever someone writes an article about how photography saved them from depression. “I just went out with a camera and now I’m not depression. Fresh air. Walks. Sorted.” I do that! I did it yesterday, and two days ago, and last week, and two weeks ago and last month and last year and last decade too! Why aren’t I cured? Could it be that depression is incredibly complex and what works for one doesn’t work for another?
I know, I know. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s food for your depression and you have no idea what the other persons lived experience is. Try telling my brain that.
Before Christmas I joined a small group of disabled people to make some art. I’m not an artist. I’m a photographer. Wait, I know some are but I don’t identify that way. Even so I thought this could be interesting.
The idea was to be inspired by the art in the museum under the theme of “invisible disability” and make some art based on that. I doubted myself as I’m not an artist but what happened was I was inspired. I had ideas and drew (no pun intended) upon artist I knew to form an actual idea. Not only an idea but something I could do. How about that? I’m an artist after all.
I spent this week arting. I put some music on and sat down with a blank iPad and pencil to art. Is it any good? No. Is it maybe art? Yes maybe sort of? It’s at least a visual representation of an experience by an invisibly disabled person. I like that.
Most importantly I had fun. I properly disconnected from the world and stopped alt-tabbing over to twitter. I got lost in my art and loved it. Of course if I keep going I’ll become pretentious and perfectionist. Nothing will ever be good enough. Everything I do will be rubbish. But for now I’m enjoying making art. I’m nearly finished on my first art and I’m inspired to do more.
This all goes back to a piece I wrote about finding what works for you. (Amazingly I wrote almost a year ago. January thoughts?) Your brain wants food for depression and will compare you to others so it can brand you a failure. What you have to do is ignore that and keep trying new things to find what works for you. You are unique. You’re a lovely little snowflake that hates summer because it’s hot and you melt. Don’t take any nonsense from your brain. Go play with art or music or sport or whatever. Go play.
- What are arts and creative therapies? | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems
- The Benefits of Art Therapy for Mental Health | Priory Group
- MA Art Therapy | Mental Health and Learning Disability Courses | University of Chester
- Art Therapy for People on the Autism Spectrum – Disabled Living
- Art from an emerging artist on the autistic spectrum – Disability Arts Online
- NHS article on art therapy
- Latest coronavirus advice from the National Autistic Society (UK)