Thursday, August 1, 2013

Art School Disaster

I took an art class at a local art school.

After four sessions I had to quit.  I had to be able to tell myself that I was free, and could, if I wish, never return to class.  I had to be able to say, that although the sessions continued for all my classmates, for me it was over.  To say this to myself then gave me peace of mind.

Four classes was all it took, a two hour session of independent studio art on Monday and Friday, to lead me to total disintegration.  My husband and I had hoped that I would adapt to class, that I would adjust, that I would habituate myself.........................but instead, in the end, things almost wound up with a hospitalization.  Or something worse.  The end of it all.

I didn't really see it coming.  On the day of my fifth class I had trouble dressing in the morning.  This is a bad sign that my thinking is off.  For example I changed my clothing several times and took an hour figuring out which necklace to wear.  An hour changing necklaces is extremely pointless and more importantly, mentally exhausting.  It was a clue to bad things that I was well aware of.  Usually dressing is very easy. 

I decided not to go to class because I couldn't concentrate after all the clothing changes, and I needed to concentrate in order to draw.  I learned that if I'm not totally focused on my drawing my hearing becomes attuned to the conversations around me.  And when I listen to the other students, well, their normalicy makes me feel like a freak.  I get overly sensitive about my life and how I live it.  It is hard to listen to the happiness in other people's voices.  It is hard to listen to the places they travel to, to the ease in which they maneuver through society.  Education, jobs, cities, my Lord, how people with healthy minds are on the go.  Let me show you what I am dealing with.  The lady standing next to me one day painted a bunch of carrots, the next class she began radishes.  Her purpose, I hear her explain, was to go from vegetable to vegetable.  The teacher's loved her.  they spent a lot of time discussing the shading of these vegetables.  Colors too.  Lots of little stand-back observe huddles.  Meanwhile my drawing had a lady wearing Marc Jacob's couture, squatting,  lifting up her dress, and a stream of piss coming out of her.  Dripping and puddle clear to see.  In another part of the drawing a lady with odd growths on her spine holds a large gun to an angel's forehead.  Beneath the gun toting  Tilda Swinton (I used the actress's face), her skirt parts to reveal a box.  Inside the box is a demon blowing what looks like a french horn, his tail wrapped around a peg coming out of one ear of a decapitated head.  This head is dripping blood, echoing a little puddle of dribbled red just like the little puddle of dribbled yellow piss.  Oh yeah, I'm a natural for echoing shape and concept.   It just comes to me.  Look, I said to the teacher once, how the bird head and beak growing out of the angel feathers on her back exactly mimics her naked breast!

So I couldn't go to class because I knew that because of all the clothing changes my concentration was blown.  And little by little the guilt crept in.  The idea that because I missed class I was a failure.  I wanted to go to class but my malfunctioning head wouldn't permit it.  There is so much that I am not permitted.  What should a failing person do?  I thought maybe swallow all my tranquilizer pills.  Go to sleep and die.

I didn't really want to overdose, but my mind kept telling me that yes, I should overdose.  So I then thought I should walk down to the pharmacy where I get my medication and give all my tranquilizers to them, let them have the pills, and ask if going cold turkey on the stuff that probably I'm addicted to will cause seizures or something and land me in the hospital.  If they told me that taking back these pills was dangerous, that I couldn't possibly go cold turkey then I would just take my pills back and walk home.  If anyone asked me if I was suicidal the correct answer is NO.  If anyone asked me that I feared an overdose the correct answer is NO.  If anyone asked me why I was trying to give my pills back to the pharmacist the correct answer is because they have a street value and I didn't want anyone else getting them.  My only inquiry was what would happen if I simply stopped taking these pills, because I just don't want the pills.  No more answer than that, I just don't want the pills.

I did not go to the pharmacist.  I called my husband at work.  I told him I was thinking about taking an overdose of pills.  He has nice bosses, they let him leave immediately.  Inexplicably he stopped at the grocery store.  He bought chocolate ice cream and raspberries.  It was hard for me to understand this behavior.  Shouldn't he go where the danger is brewing immediately?  To my side?  But apparently he did not believe that he alone could talk me out of suicidal behavior, that somehow eating chocolate ice cream and raspberries would be a greater inducement to live than anything he could possibly offer.

At first it helped having him to talk to.  After I stopped feeling suicidal I sank into profound depression.  It scared me that maybe the next day I would wake being even more depressed.  I didn't know if there was a bottom to this depression, it came over me so fast and sudden like a switch being flipped.  So before my husband fell asleep I said that I've had my cry for help and it was heard.  Tomorrow I will be on my own and I must make a terrible decision, do it or not.  Really if they take all my pills away from me, or lock me up it isn't any good because there is a highway bridge nearby where two people have jumped to their deaths.  The second one took three hours to die.  But after a jump from such a height, death is certain.  If any person's behavior pushes me too far, if they manipulate me too much, I know how to easily leave this planet.  so, so many in the mental health fields have manipulated me in the past.  But I'm all grown up now.  I know the system, the choices, the outcomes.

But soon after thinking horrid thoughts about the next day (by now my husband was snoring next to me) I had a new thought.  The painting I'm working on isn't finished.  I CAN'T DIE LEAVING A PAINTING UNFINISHED.  NO MATTER THE GREIF, THE DEPRESSION, WHAT I THINK ABOUT MYSELF, I MUST WORK IT THROUGH AND ENDURE TO FINISH THE PAINTING. I MUST LIVE FOR THE PAINTING.  THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.

So I went to sleep knowing that I wanted to live for one thing and one thing only.  But it must be life.  At least until the painting is finished.  It is estimated to be a seven month painting.  I'm probably in the fifth month.  I did wonder if my attitude would be better when the seventh month rolled around.  I tend to stagger paintings, so there is always one in the pipeline.  That drawing I just described is a plan for a painting.

The next morning I woke before my husband had left for work and I assured him that I would live through the day, and explained about the painting.  It makes me feel terribly sad that I can't live for the love and need of another human being.  My husband needs me terribly, and loves me greatly.  I'm his best friend.  Only I know all his secrets.  On a good day I can see how this works.  This thing of having your life interconnected with other people.  That feels really good.  But on a bad day, there is just the unfinished painting to live for the sake of.  I must be a monster.  Or at least terribly flawed.  I've had about twenty years of therapy.  Superficially I'm quite normal and connected to my family and the human race.  But I'm afraid that this is all just very good cover.  There are layers to me.  Like my husband has described, I seem like anyone else, I can make very very nice conversation, except underneath, I'm twisted.

So getting back to art school, what is traumatic about art school?

I don't like people looking at my work as I make it.  I'm too vulnerable when I draw.   Everything is coming from a very deep place.  It has to be made in private.  Even the teachers saying nice things (what could they say?  Only your arm holding the gun is too short.  Nothing about the woman pissing except that her arms were correct and her shoes looked good), nice things are intrusive and freak me out.  I know I'm drawing weird things.  I've got eyes.  One side of me the lady is painting vegetables, the other lady is painting from photographs of her grandchildren, and the other lady is painting a cat in flowers.  Do I have a neon sign over my head saying this is the disturbed freak in the room?

My private term for what exactly I am, my art style, my attitude toward life, everything summed up is DEADLY SERIOUS IDIOT.  I tried explaining it to my husband and he came up with Cervantes character of the old knight riding a nag attacking with a joust wind mills.  I guess he too was a DEADLY SERIOUS IDIOT.  I'm not a primitive painter, I'm not a visionary painter, I am not an outsider art painter, I'm a DEADLY SERIOUS IDIOT.

So, no more suicidal thoughts since I gave my self the permission never to return to class.  Or maybe the suicidal thought died when I realized that I must live to finish the painting.  Whatever the turnabout, each day I healed a little and the depression completely lifted - it only took three days.

Now I'm back to normal.

Been normal for several weeks.

Whatever normal is.


  1. Hi! I haven't read through a lot of your blog, but I loved seeing your painting Tea Time and the plans for Wedding Party. Thank you for that and for your writing. The way you talk about yourself and schizophrenia makes a lot of sense to me. I also always like seeing great art and when people show how their process works. I don't paint, so it is especially cool.

    I'm manic-depressive, I like mania a lot, and am currently NOT - and part of why I don't feel confident writing in public, is that I don't see (hear) people writing and thinking more the way I think about those sorts of things. Even if its not the same, it's the same region of human experience.

    So thank you, and BTW the art school - the students in it - sounds kind of a non-starter to me. I did like art school and being in classes and stuff, but mostly talking to students who didn't paint vegetables and stuff.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing. I used to think i was the only person who drew or wrote the way i did. My drawings often focus on mutilation I'd notice and they disturb a lot of ppl. But I am so glad to see other weird artwork, your paintings,are so unique and beautiful, thank you. :-)

  3. Hey, I just read your story and what you wrote about how art saves lives and I was totally touched by it. I'm deeply interested in the way people express a little piece of their mind in a piece of art. Keep doing what brings happiness to you. Cheers from Venezuela.


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