Self Portraits: Anxiety

During a recent period of heightened anxiety levels I decided to try and express what I was experiencing through my sketching. All sketches were done with acrylic paints.

I have never been formally diagnosed with any particular condition but I have experienced anxiety and panic attacks since my teenage years. Just over three years ago the panic attacks started becoming more frequent. I actually hadn’t realised that I was anxious at all or that what I had been experiencing was a panic attack until I started having them every day and went to the doctor about it, convinced it was a purely physiological problem.

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Despair

I had learned to manage the anxiety and panic quite well without any chemical assistance for a few years but when it all started up again seven months ago, I decided enough was enough and looked for a prescription from my doc. Once the meds kicked in, I felt totally levelled out, relaxed and what it must feel like to be “normal”. But, about two months ago, this effect started to wear off and feelings of anxiety and hopelessness took over stronger than ever. These months culminated in having panic attacks every single day last week and three on Friday, just to cap off a particularly shitty week. My doc upped my meds which has helped calm me down but I am looking to alternatives to medication to deal with it.

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Feeling Blue

In the past when I experienced these anxious/depressive episodes I’d pour myself into my writing and end up with pages upon pages of blackness that is incredibly hard to read afterwards when the dark feelings have passed. I stopped turning to writing a while ago, I think I got bored of the repetition, so it was new and strange for me to pick up a paintbrush during this time but I did find it therapeutic.

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Cheer up love, it might never happen

When I started this blog I had wanted it to be a fairly frank depiction of my day to day life and the state of my mental health through sketches. I think I lost that original idea along the way and got caught up with trying to recreate various standard sketching subjects, which I have enjoyed, but I’m glad now to post a blog on something that is very personal to me. I suppose I’ve been trying to keep this side of me hidden so it’s quite liberating to write about it here. Also, it was good to try and sketch from my imagination, conveying my feelings rather than trying to capture images from photos for a change.

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Trapped in my own whirlwind

I found some of the sketches I ended up with are a bit childish to be honest but I think that by doing these sketches it has helped me loosen up my imagination a bit and the more I sketched the more ideas I got. Although, now that the acute anxiety has passed I don’t want to  revisit this theme again, hopefully not for a long, long time.

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What my mind feels like
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Mind is a whirlwind
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15 thoughts on “Self Portraits: Anxiety

  1. Wow Geraldine. What amazing sketches you have done, I don’t think they are childish at all! It must be so hard to convey how you actually feel through art but those sketches def give a great idea and am so glad you find it therapeutic. You really have a lovely way with words and I’ve really enjoyed your post xxx

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    1. Hi James, sorry to hear that you have been through similar experiences, it’s a hard burden to have to live with it and can be a lonely and isolating place to be. Sharing it here really helped though and knowing so many others deal with similar struggles. I hope you are doing well.

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      1. Hi Lifesketched, thanks for your comments, hope your feeling better, they say exercise is the best form of therapy, Myself , i am also taking medication, but find walking, yoga, and meditation more helpful. I do like your latest work, you should do more portraits and people, join a life class its great for improving drawing skills. I also love your seascapes, Dublin Bay is so beautiful.

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      2. Thanks James, yes I’m taking steps now to manage it better, I think the last few months were a wake up call really. Thanks for your encouragement, yeah it would be good to take a class alright, must sign up for one in September!

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  2. Geraldine, your sketches are unreal. So impressive. I was in the national art gallery during the week and your drawings are as impressive as any I saw there. And your way with words on your blog is really amazing. I love reading it even if I was a little sad to read of the turmoil you experience on and off. Thankfully you find it liberating to depict how you feel through your art. Lots of love, Claire xxx

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    1. Hi Claire, thanks so much for your message and all your compliments. I must check out the gallery soon, maybe get some inspiration! Feeling much better and clear headed now, glad that bad patch is behind me now. Definitely helped to write about it here and be honest about it and not try to keep hiding it. Hope you are well, must go for dinner after work someday soon!! Xx

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  3. Hi Lifesketched, your post just captured my attention as I have also suffered from anxiety on and off for years now. Though I am glad now is not as worse as it was in the past. While meds do help, I think regular exercise has helped me a lot and getting back into my hobbies such as painting. Art has been therapeutic. I wish i could express my inner turmoil through my art like you but it’s easier for me to paint of other subjects that interest me rather than my inner self… Hope you are doing better.

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    1. Hi 7th Stranger, thanks for stopping by my blog and for your comments. Yes I don’t get enough exercise but def ready to make some lifestyle changes now. It was strange for me to try and paint the inner turmoil but it was very helpful, I started to get lots of ideas about how to express the anxiety but now that it’s passed I don’t think I want to visit those feelings again. I’m glad to hear exercise and art have helped you through it, it always helps to hear from people who have had similar struggles but are getting through it, thanks!

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  4. Geraldine, those paintings are really strong & give a great insight into the emotional state of what you were experiencing. I also think your written account is incredible. So coherent. You really have a great way with words and your pictures paint it all. Delighted you’re in a good place and working on what’s important to you. Love you, Miriam

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    1. Thanks so much Miriam, yes it was great to write and draw about the anxiety and to put it out there instead of trying to keep it hidden, a good release really. Have had no repeat episodes of that since anyway TG, think I’m finally learning how to manage it 🙂 xx

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