Thursday, May 30, 2013

Choose What Hell Looks Like

So far this is my most complex painting.  I'm certain that I couldn't have done it without lowering my medication.  It is named "Tea Time".  It took three months to make.  If you click on the image you can see it better, larger.

There have been some difficulties in being on a lower dose of antipsychotic medication.  But knowing that I'm capable of doing pieces like this one, make me want to persevere.  Art is an incentive.  Enhanced creativity is an incentive.  I like to work.  Work gives me self esteem.

I'm so disabled, there's nothing else I can do but art.

 I recently read an article that flat out stated that medication for schizophrenics alters their creativity in such a way that the classic art by institutionalized schizophrenics is no longer capable of being made by contemporary schizophrenics.  What the institutionalized schizophrenics made was so unique, and so obsessive, and so detailed (all traits of Tea Time I believe) that little today made by medicated schizophrenics can compare.  I will tell you how medication, for me, impaired creativity

1.I was once satisfied with simpler compositions with far more empty or dead space.
2. dumming down of intellect (my husband says I'm much more perceptive and aware on less medication)
3. reduced powers of visualization (on less medication I can hold images much better in my imagination, work on them mentally over time ranging many months, and more images "pop" magically into being)
4.and most importantly, I can now work 4 to 5 hours a day while on high dose of meds I could only work a two hour window.  I've doubled my ability to concentrate on less meds.

I know of no medicated schizophrenic that can do an oil painting of the complexity and quality of Tea Time.  Oil painting is not drawing.  It takes more time, more patience, and you must have, if you are schizophrenic, an abundant time of patience, physical stability, and obsessiveness.

Obsessiveness is a quality that keeps you coming back to the one painting day after day, no matter how you feel emotionally, you work and work in fine detail, layer after layer of color until the canvass is saturated with pigment.  In order to do a painting such as Tea Time and be mentally ill, with an illness so disabling as schizophrenia, you have to sacrifice a lot.  Truely, your one aim in life has to be an artist.  Your one goal day after day is to paint.  Paint as much as is physically and psychologically possible until you are drained.  I don't ask that life be fun.  I don't ask that life be happy.  I don't ask that life be pain free.  And most certainly, I know, I don't try to fit in any shape or form into mainstream society.

The best times are content times.  Very little excitement, very little variation, a lot of isolation, - in fact I have wondered if I have not come full circle to the times when I was locked on a psychiatric ward for two years.   My world has narrowed down to my paintings.  What matters in life?  Only that the paintings get worked on day after day for as long as I'm capable.  Mostly I'm housebound.  I'm happy that usually I'm well enough to read books.  I think that from lack of physical exercise my blood circulation has altered.  Frequently my feet are uncomfortably cold.  This is a new physical phenomena.  The amount of time I spend in bed awake is about 6 to 8 hours a day. My side of the mattress has a huge dent in it.   Occasionally the only time I am capable of leaving the bed is to pee and eat.  Sometimes I must gather all my resolve simply to dress or undress.

Mad?  Yes.  But the only other alternative is medicated.  And on more antipsychotic medication I am also made depressed and suicidal.  A SIDE EFFECT OF A THERAPUTIC DOSE OF ANTIPSYCHOTIC MEDICATION IS SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND DEPRESSION IN MY CASE.  My husband backs me up on this.  It is not only my observation, it is his too.

Yes, on half theraputic dose I sometimes feel crazy.  I tell my husband I feel crazy a lot.  Not sad, not depressed, just that everything can barely be endured.  My husband tells me I'm not acting crazy, and I'm not talking crazy, so he doesn't know what I mean.  I guess I mean that I know that I'm greatly reduced to saying little, doing little, being little and while I know that life for most is big, for me it is small and narrow.   But I know the alternative is simply more medication and poorer quality artwork.  My medication nurse kept on promising that on more and more Geodone I would feel less and less depressed.  She said the medication had a natural antidepressant quality.  THAT IS NOT MY BIOLOGY.  FOR ME, THAT IS A BOLD FACED LIE.  GIVING ME MORE AND MORE MEDICATION MADE MY LIFE HELLISH. crying all the time.  saying I wished I was dead all the time.  Now I feel crazy but I don't cry and I don't feel worthless and sad and I rarely cry or wish I was dead.

So now I'm whittled down to the natural hell of schizophrenia.  The choice is only one hell or the other.  But in the hell I chose, I get to make lovely paintings like "Tea Time".

My husband recently told me that during his time as a mental health professional he watched a motivational video about a man who was schizophrenic and owned his own business.  The man stressed that the success of this life was only possible because of medication.  My husband said that uncomfortably, the man being glorified by the video about rehabilitation, looked half dead.  I asked my husband, was he overweight?  Yes, very, my husband said.  But that wasn't what was so disturbing to him.  It was just that he seemed to lack emotion, vitality, personality, - spirit.  I said that probably he fit neatly into the statistic that schizophrenics die 25 years earlier then the rest of the population.  After all, on medication, seventy pounds ago, I was once told by a doctor that I would die early of a weight related disease.

I'm alive in spirit, I'm in psychic pain often, and I'm doing great artwork.

And its really cool that I can fit into a size small dress.


  1. I find the way you make your choosing of recovery your own very inspiring. Right now I am reading a biography about Frida Kahlo and I see a lot of similarities. Keep on painting! While I do need to take medication (without it, I am the way that you were on it), I've noticed that I was more motivated to write poetry before, which is a definite, definite drawback.

  2. That is really beautiful. Well done!

  3. Tea Time is a fascinating painting. I would love to see more of your work, even if it is less elaborate. I consider this to be heroic work. You have skills and obviously vision - plz share more!

  4. Your artwork is BEAUTIFUL! Thank you for sharing your world on this website. I love abstract art and a lot of people do. My immediate goal now is to start painting and drawing to help with my own schizoaffective disorder. I agree that off medication I also am much more visually aware. Mania makes everything brighter and more profound sometimes, but right now I'm working on finding a way to compensate my lack of visualization or overcompensate, and come up with a new artistic style of my own. Since everyone is unique. I've had schizoaffective since I was 16 and I'm 24, so I'm ready to start painting. I have a few abstracts but nothing too complex or as I'd like to. You seem to have developed the proper patience and skill as an artist that I'm beginning to build. Art has been my first love since childhood. I'm happy for you that you are making art and living out the beauty of your creative soul!


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