There’s a saying that goes “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”. I have always loved this quote. When words failed me, I could always express myself through my clothes. When I was a teenager, I felt like a walking contradiction; super-quiet, but always dressed in bright colours. I didn’t own one piece of black clothing, and even my braces had multicoloured bands.
I read another quote recently: “If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music”. A slightly different take on the subject. It got me thinking; thinking about my own struggles and difficulties with communication. In a way, my schizophrenia diagnosis in 2012 came as a relief; now I finally had answers to why I’d struggled socially all my life. I started my first blog in 2016 as a way to express myself – through writing, I could say everything I needed to say, in a controlled and personal manner without interruptions or misunderstandings. I hoped it would clarify things, both for others and for myself – which it certainly has.
However, writing has not been my only therapy (aside from the regular sessions with my psychiatrist). I have also used art as a means to communicate who I am.
When I was younger, I drew manga girls in different outfits. When I was even younger, I drew animals. Now, I draw and paint portraits – to order, when I’m able to cope with it. Schizophrenia doesn’t like to make things easy, and even my artistic side suffered during the worst period of the illness; I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a pencil. This was particularly devastating when I couldn’t rely on my mouth to articulate everything on my mind; I felt like I’d lost myself.
I recently entered a portrait competition. This was a HUGE hurdle to overcome for me, despite being something I’d wanted to do for a while. My ambivalence (a crippling by-product of schizophrenia) means that, even when I have a strong desire to achieve something, my brain goes into overdrive finding all the reasons why I shouldn’t try. In the past, this would be accompanied by aggressively critical voices (the kind only I can hear) and, as a result, nothing would come of my aspirations. I’m not saying it’s much different now – I still have to design my life around my illness – but I’m hoping that, with effort, I can keep pushing the limits at my own pace and not let the darkness win.
As it so happens, I received a diagnosis of depression not long ago. I may have to grapple with my own mind for a while yet, but at least I have my creative outlets.
In any case, it definitely won’t stop me wearing bright colours.