I’d been trying to figure out what my personal year long project would be since the beginning of December.
Last year, I wanted to do a digital journal page a day. But after two weeks of spending 2-3 hours on each one, that practice quickly fell away. I just couldn’t commit that kind of time every day to a personal project. And I’m terrible at year-long projects…I just am. But 2013 was a special kind of crazy, and it showed me that I needed to do two things when deciding on this year’s commitment: 1. It can’t take long at all; and 2. I needed to voice my inner thoughts before I exploded.
Then I remembered the little red sketchbook I’d bought a few months ago that was replaced by a mixed-media journal & the new collection of gouache I had, and what better way to learn than to practice? And what more perfect color could I chose than red? Red is the color of soul, of passion, desire, and raw emotion.
Thus, my new project for 2014 is The Red Storybook. My plan is to write a tiny story & illustrate it each day (saving the coloring for another day, if I don’t have enough time). Right now, they’re a bit autobiographical, but I hope to branch out as the year progresses, all while practicing my illustration and gouache skills.
The rest of this post is a bit heavier, just an FYI.
I won’t be too sad to see 2013 go.
Oh, the first half was amazing. My first trip to CHA, amazing projects with other artists, a new studio space, new friendships, my first co-authored book. When July hit, I was on top of the world, my year shaping up to be my most amazing yet. So many accomplishments, dreams come true, all those years of hard work beginning to pay off. Happy was the air I walked on.
But July was when we began to see the cracks in the veneer we’d painted for ourselves, all coiled up and let loose one night with such bone-rattling force, I’d feel it for weeks. It would reverberate across my vacation in September, gain momentum in October, split November in two, and by December, I wouldn’t recognize my life — or myself.
A lot of people who write blogs and live such public lives wonder where the line is, and have drawn their own. Mine is across the sand between my experiences and my family. I don’t write about them, or really talk about them online. So I’m going to tell things from my point of view, and hope that’s enough.
While we’ve suspected it for about two or three years, now, it wasn’t until this summer that the idea that my brother is bipolar was really cemented in our minds. All the simmering under the surface after his teenage struggles with addiction and the law suddenly exploded, and I felt like I was walking on eggshells. Just picture lots of yelling and swearing and horrible things said.
And I’m not the type of woman to keep quiet, either. I told a scant few people. And after being ignored — I’d like to think the person walked out of my life — I figured, in the bizarre headspace I was in after that first night in July, that I was making a big deal out of nothing, that I was too much, that I should just keep my mouth shut. It’s what’s kept me from reaching out and telling others, and had me questioning myself daily. I had to ask myself, what is the line, then, if a friend can ignore you after that?
October saw me begin to unravel. My mind was scattered, I wasn’t sleeping, and I spent a lot of time crying. If you haven’t experienced it, someone living through bipolar via self-medication and the wrong medication, it isn’t pretty. It’s a daily game of up and down, full of anger and love, until you feel the same. Everything started getting harder, and I spent more and more time at the studio.
By November, I started hiding in my room. Any time someone would yell, I’d get a stomach ache. Last month, I started having panic attacks and running away to cafes. As you may know, stress is terrible for fibromyalgia, and I began feeling sick and fatigued all the time, and haven't been able to shake the increase in pain and exhaustion. I tried to decorate for Christmas and make things happy, but I realized, a bit too late, that I had slid into a depression. By Christmas itself, I wasn’t getting dressed, spent most of the day in bed, and hadn’t been to the studio in weeks.
I looked for other places to live, but not doing anything when you work for yourself doesn’t give you much of a savings, and none of my local friends had a place for me to stay. Even getting my nose pierced was a result — a need to act out, be rebellious, during one of my escapes.
It’s only after long talks with friends that I came up with my year-long project. That I decided to get dressed every day even if I wasn’t going out. That I picked up a paintbrush and put down some paint, even if for only a couple of hours a day. My brother has the right medications after a terrible night in the beginning of December and is leveling out. While I’m not as stressed, I’m afraid to relax completely.
This isn’t the whole story, of course. But I’m trying. So keep on me about posting my storybook every day or two, but don’t be surprised if it takes me awhile to answer comments (they’re all moderated, so only I see them). If you’re a friend, feel free to steal me away for a few hours. I’m hoping to start going back into the studio next week, and get started on new paintings & ideas.
I don’t know why today was the day to share. Maybe I just wanted to let it all go and start 2014 fresh. New. Clean slate and all that. Time to re-write my story, or just write it.