R U OK?

Today is to recognise that mental health affects everyone and it doesn’t discriminate. Remember that it’s a serious issue that can lead to drastic measures, but by asking someone a simple question like “are you okay?” you can help someone in need.

My life as a young adult was in a constant battle with the many burdens of my mind. It was a constant spiral of sorrow, remorse, ecstasy and an unremarkable amount of self-loathing. The only thing that got me away was a bottle and more. Having succumbed to depression, I consistently turned to substances that got me shit faced four days of the week and hated myself for the other three.

I started a blog, The Mind & The Milky Way, which became a series of poems & stories that reflected the monotony of modern life. It was to express the juxtaposition of it all; the promised life of a man (and woman) and the reality of. Each written piece was like a band-aid that made things feel a little better… but after publishing each post a ball of anxiety would flurry over me. I tried my best to move along, giving myself a break between each post to manage the anxiety. It seemed that I found a place where I can be true to myself. Everyone thought of me as the happiest man they’d ever meet. But beneath all the intoxicated surface, was a man who was intoxicating himself because he couldn’t give two shits anymore.

During 2016’s New Year’s Eve, anxiety got the best of me. So, I sat home with a bottle of wine, numbing my thoughts in peace. I only went outside to watch the fireworks and came back home to stare at a blank sheet of paper. I touched my pen to the paper and started drawing. This was the new beginning.

I drew something every day, and not long after, I did the same with the guitar. My heart started to feel warmer, and soon I was smiling. It was unforced and pure. The overall effect it had on me and my mentality was rejuvenating. There are relapses, sure. I self-criticised myself to oblivion, telling myself that I was an incompetent prick like; “Why is your art so shit. Look at this art piece on Instagram. Why can’t you be like that? You are so shit.”

As the days went by, I continued to spiral from feeling self-accomplished to self-doubt. But as my skills developed so did my perception of the things around me, like art. At some point it just hit me, and I realised I was thinking different. My thoughts were no longer questions but aspirations; “This art piece… is amazing… I’m going to make something this good one day”.

I started admiring the process. I saw things in a positive light to aspire rather than compare. I started feeling okay. I am what I am, and that is okay. I can only make something out of what I have currently, and that is okay. If I want to achieve something greater, I have to work for it. If today I’m shit, tomorrow I could be better. If someone exceeds me, remember that they might have worked three times longer and harder than I have currently. But always remember that progress is still something to look forward to. So smile.

It’s cliche and is as obvious as Trump is an idiot, but experiencing this ‘revelation’ first hand is what gets me up every day. I get up and look forward to be creative. For some strange reason, art had triggered a more positive mentality. A better state of mind.

This year, 2020, has been a piece of shit for everyone. But it did give more time to reflect. To be honest, the COVID-19 pandemic has given me so much inspiration; it has been a cruel reminder that no individual has control over what happens in this universe. It’s both depressing and refreshing. Juxtaposed in nature, this crisis is a destructive virus yet also a medicinal healer for the world. We are merely humans, animals and living organisms in a single fucking Milky Way. We control only one individual in a whole eco-system. No single person can cause a change, but as a community, great waves are formed.

Mental health has deteriorated exponentially during the pandemic, and so I am motivated to help those in a way that holds true to me, through art. I know that everyone is different, but I have experienced the positive effect of practising art first-hand and want to provide the opportunity for others to do so.

If you managed to read through this whole passage, I would like to thank you for staying with me. Having gone through, and dealing with, depression and various mental issues, I am passionate about helping others with their mental health. I hope this can shine a light as to why I’m doing what I’m doing and how we can work together as individuals, artists and art enthusiasts to form a community to promote and support better mental health.

Please visit @mindthemilkyway and our website: www.mindthemilkyway.com

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Much love,

@jatney