Before I went to university, I was suicidal for about a year. I found comfort in music, writing, and painting, but I slept a lot. It was a kind of paralized sleep; I just could not move. I was depressed, skipped college, drank too much alcohol, and whenever I left the house I’d suffer panic attacks. I felt isolated, disgusting, tortured, and absolutely didn’t know why I was alive. Only Britpop artists singing about misunderstanding resonated with my feelings at the time.
In my last column, I wrote about how I went to university without receiving help for the troubles I faced; bullying, eating disorders, and depression. I will never know why I wasn’t sectioned. Maybe my parents were too proud to admit that one of their children had a problem. I’m not saying it was their fault, but they certainly did not help me get the professional guidance I needed at the time.
As the haze of the first few months at university went by, I did all the things I thought I’d do; drink vodka, stay up late, eat too much pasta, skip lectures. I think my worst moment was being spiked with ketamine tea. I couldn’t sleep for days and saw witches and purple horses. It might sound amusing, but it was truly terrifying, and having been in a bad place mentally, it only exasperated things.
Through experiences like these I learned that when we are self destructive, we seek out negative environments. Thinking badly of ourselves and acting in ways to meet not only our own, but other’s expectations, becomes habitual. Once we fall into that trap, becoming free isn’t as easy as stopping. We have to choose a different way of life, change our social circles, get professional help. Sadly, by the time we realize what we need, or have the decision made for us, it can already be too late.
During my three years in art school, I ceased operations due to drug use, exam failures, overdoses, suicides, extreme paranoia, and psychosis. But however my mental health was, it didn’t keep me from painting. I was kicked out of the university studio at 8PM most days, so I started painting at home. My creative energy could not be contained and, to this day, I sometimes paint in the middle of the night, straight from my dreams to the studio. And while I’ve only dabbled in drugs like LSD, in 2002 I was in the hedonistic stage of dance music, ultra violet paint, and was obsessed with the magic eye. I allowed my paintings to provide hallucinations, vertigo, and to really send me to another visionary realm. By the end of university, I was mentally and physically exhausted and moved to London for a while, where obviously my problems followed.
Accompanying this piece you’ll see the artistic evidence of this time period.
Gina Love is a British artist and Pink Things contributor writing about mental health and art.