Today’s guest blogger is Amber Skye Forbes, who is both a writer and a dancer. How’s that for talent? She is an amazing woman, who has taken on a very difficult question for this guest blog. I’m very honored that she agreed to do this. Please, check out her blog and get to know her.
The question: Do you think art in any form is a healing and coping method for mental illness?
Without further ado, here is Amber Skye Forbes:
Mental illness is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with. It can be terrible too. I have bipolar Type I, and the depression was the hardest thing for me to treat. Mania only takes a mood stabilizer, but that pill doesn’t always want to treat depression. But I am stabilized now and feeling better than ever. Of course, during this time, I wasn’t doing as much art as I should have been. Depression affects your confidence, so it’s not that I couldn’t, it’s that I didn’t believe that I could produce anything that I would like. It wasn’t until my therapy really began to work that I started to accept that I was depressed. This acceptance alone allowed me to slowly step back into the life I had before depression began to eat away at it.
The current novel I am working on came out of my depression. I struggled with suicidal ideation, so I wanted to create a teen character, as I write young adult, who felt the exact same way. But I wanted there to be a twist of fantasy in it. While I read and love contemporary, it is boring for me to write; however, I wanted to write a story about a suicidal teen. One night, when insomnia had me in its clutches, my mind started ruminating on this suicidal teen concept. I really wanted to write this story for teens struggling with suicidal ideation. They’re so young and they often can’t separate their illnesses from themselves so they don’t realize their depression makes them suicidal. The concept also became therapeutic for me because here I was reaching out to this character, this fictional being, and telling him that good times are possible, even when struggling with the darkest places in your mind.
Eventually I came up with the concept of a suicidal teen being saved by a puppeteer and doll maker. Then I began outlining, using my depressive feelings to my advantage, as well as my therapist’s advice to keep things balanced so my character didn’t become something whiny but someone with an enormous amount of strength to make the decision to leave suicidal ideation behind in favor of tagging along with this eccentric puppeteer/doll maker. Outlining in itself was therapeutic, and the story itself began to give me hope. It strengthened me to keep fighting.
Then slowly I began to seep back into my other art forms: photography and painting. Since I’m stellar with blending techniques, I painted the background for When Stars Die, then put my piece on the background and photographed it for the cover. All while I was still depressed. But I felt accomplished and happy. By this point, I had no choice but to get better. After all, how could I not? I just landed a publishing contract, and that pushed me more than ever to find the right meds that would save me.
During all this, I stuck with ballet too. I never let ballet go because it always made me feel like me, even if for a short time.
Art is the healthiest coping method there is. I never used dangerous means to cope with my depression like a lot of people with mental illness do. I self-harmed, yes, but I haven’t done so in five months, even while was depressed. I never smoked, I never drank alcohol, or did any illicit drugs. I use art because it is natural and doesn’t dampen my ability to feel my own life and feelings. More people need to try art. There is an artist inside all of us, be it singer, photographer, writer, dancer, painter, and so on–we just have to give ourselves a chance to find that artist.