Nami is a freelance illustrator & works for The Koestler Trust, a prison arts charity. She blogs about her experience of depression and how discovering a passion for drawing helped her cope.
Last year, I gave a talk about my life at a meet-up event to an audience of about 80 people.
I was excited to talk about many things, like the time I lived in Japan, the time I was in a band, the time I studied art, the time I worked in India.
But there was one part of my life that I needed to include and that was being diagnosed with severe depression.
"I felt like I had nothing of any worth to give to anyone."
I struggled to find a suitable slide to represent depression and so in the end I decided to leave it blank. As I came onto this part, I could feel myself getting nervous. I stopped to gather myself and the room went silent for a few moments.
The audience immediately picked up on my feelings. One person clapped and everyone else joined in. They encouraged me to continue and I heard someone shout:
“You can do it Nami!”
I started to talk about how I had been struggling. I revealed that I felt hopeless, that I felt alone, that I felt like I didn’t deserve anything and above all that I felt that I was not good enough.
“No one has to live with these thoughts but me”
I would often say to my Mum who would hold onto me on my worse days.
Read about depression
My friends know me as a happy and confident person. They had noticed a change in me and it made a lot more sense once I had told them about my depression. When I shared what I was going through they were really supportive.
"I was emotionally and physically drained."
By this point, I was already receiving treatment. I was prescribed Citalopram and referred for counselling. During counselling, things got worse before they got better. I brought things up in my sessions that I had spent a long time avoiding.
My counsellor helped me work through my anxieties. Suicidal thoughts became more frequent and my dosage was increased to help with this. I thought about ways I could harm myself in detail. I didn't see any point in anything any longer and I just wanted out. I knew that I was having these thoughts because I wanted to end the pain. If I had ended my life, I would not be able to "feel" that relief.
"Whilst I was drawing, I felt very calm. Something inside me had quietened down."
One day I sat down in the garden to make my cousin something as he was visiting from Vancouver and it was a tradition for me to give him something before he leaves. I drew two characters inspired by Japanese street style. While living in Japan, I admired the Harajuku style a lot. I spent about 6 hours working on the illustrations in the garden using a variety of materials. When I looked at the illustrations I felt utterly proud. Whilst I was drawing, I felt very calm. Something inside me had quietened down.
Read about Information and support
I began illustrating more.
I went to Cass Art and bought new materials and even went to Ikea and bought a new desk. My family encouraged me. The illustrations were helping me cope with my anxieties, and my family felt that I could really do something with them. I was having dinner one night with my cousin and his girlfriend and I showed them my work. They suggested I try getting a stall at Spitalfield's Market.
So I sent Spitalfield’s an e-mail and set up a meeting. They liked how I pitched my illustrations and asked me when I would like to open my stall!
I worked really hard to prepare my space. On my first day I sold three illustrations, got one client for a commissioned piece and I met a French blogger who then went onto write about my work.
"I finally feel like I am in the right place."
My treatment is ongoing but turning to art has helped me cope with my depression better. For anyone that is suffering the way I did, I would encourage them to pick up a pen, an instrument or even a paintbrush as a way to become more mindful.
Last year, I began working for a charity that encourages rehabilitation through various art forms. I finally feel like I am in the right place. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” When I make my illustrations, I feel really calm. More importantly, when I look at them, I feel good enough.
When you’re living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information - about a condition, treatment options, or practical issues - is vital. Visit our information pages to find out more.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.