This blog is a window into the life of a mixed media artist who is living with and overcoming multiple anxiety disorders. As a result of mental illness, I was blocked creatively for many years. I became unemployed in December of 2019 when I experienced a nervous breakdown while running the rat race in corporate America during a divorce. Over time and with professional help, the creative block has dissipated. I am so relieved to be free from this block. Design ideas sometimes flow faster than I can document what I want to make of them. I still live with anxiety and depression. Some days are bad, most are manageable, and some are even good.

Living with Mental Illness

If you are someone that you know is in crisis dealing with mental illness, please click the mental health resource tab on my website. I continue to add resources to this tab.

Even as a child I lived with mental illness but never know what it was. I just knew that I was different from others. I felt alien and I never belonged.

My anxiety manifested as stomach cramps, confusion and feelings of fear and panic. My attention deficit impeded learning. I was unable to concentrate with the noises of shuffling papers, the teacher speaking and other sounds on my periphery. I couldn’t comprehend what I was reading, so I would sometimes have to read a sentence or paragraph two or three times to understand the context. I would lose my place while reading to myself or aloud. This was most embarrassing when reading in front of the class.  

My obsessive-compulsive disorder, while only mild in my youth, has worsened over the years. I have tics that I am unaware of for some time while they are happening. When I notice them, it can be embarrassing if I’m in a public or with friends. My tics are finger bumping. I bump my thumb against my pointer and middle finger in different sequences. For every finger bump sequence on one hand, I must repeat on the other. These also occur with my toes, other muscle groups and at worst, even eye blinks. The tics are a manifestation of the anxiety, but also feed the anxiety.  

It wasn’t until 2017 that I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. My oldest sister is profoundly autistic and was quite violent. She could switch from laughing and singing to screaming and throwing chairs against walls if something disturbed her. I was a big kid for my age. I was the only person in my household strong enough to manager her in these situations. There were times when I was battered, bruised, and even bloodied from her outbursts. In certain situations when I hear loud noises, or there is sudden change in environment I can react in fight or flight. I go from zero to one hundred in a split second, and I just have to get out of the situation, or I become agitated or even angry.

As I said, this blog is about overcoming mental illness. I’m not cured, I am just able to manage living with mental illness. My symptoms will manifest again at some point. I just have to make hay while the sun is shining.

A Creative Past

I’ve always been creatively inclined, a maker and fixer of things. I was raised on a farm where we had to make what we needed and fix what was broken. I started pencil drawing in elementary and continued through high school. I could only draw what came from my imagination though, not exactly what I saw.  I dabbled in arts and crafts, and on occasion still enjoyed pencil drawing throughout the 1990’s.

I worked in the corporate world but was unfulfilled by the mundane grind. I took a stained-glass class in around 1999. I picked it up quickly and enjoyed the copper foil method. I took a break from working and made and sold abstract suncatchers, wall clocks and window inserts on consignment in art shops around Nashville. I worked with clients on a few commissions, but I got bored once I felt that I couldn’t take it any further.

I discovered assemblage and mixed media and was smitten. There was something about the deliberate placement of objects within the work that gave me a sense of control in an uncontrollable world. I could use what I’d learned on the farm to make anything out of, well, anything.  I created tabletop and wall clocks from bourbon boxes and other wooden surfaces. This hiatus from corporate work was short lived and I went back to work in the “real” world. This in and out of the corporate world would be recurring for many years as I waffled on what I really wanted to do with my life. I still enjoyed making assemblages when I could make time, but making a living was paramount.

After a while, my desire to create became strong again. I wanted to expand and experiment with other materials. I began hand hammering tin and copper to make wall sculptures and clocks. I enjoyed it for a while, but once again became bored when I had mastered the level with which I was happy.

In 2001 I worked with the Madison Art Center, in Madison Tennessee, where I not only showed and sold my work, but also served on the board of directors and as an assistant to the gallery director. The knowledge and experience that I gained there enhanced my art life immeasurably.

In around 2008, I began working with shadow boxes with assemblage elements. I sold on Etsy but kept several pieces with which I just couldn’t part. I plan to sell these pieces in an online silent auction as a fundraiser for business expenses.

Overcoming Struggles with Mental Illness

Throughout it all, I fought anxiety and depression most every day. It was difficult to work consistently, and I often had to just shut down. There was a year when I slept day and night only getting up to eat and use the facilities. I ended up in hospital in January of 2006. I started intensive therapy including hypnotherapy and just had to learn to tolerate living with my condition.

After experiencing a nervous breakdown and tearing the muscles and tendons in both shoulders in an accident in 2019, I had nowhere to go but up.  It has been a long journey of recovery, self-realization and extreme change that has brought me to where I am now. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to good friends and family for helping me through this horrible chapter in my life. Timothy, my dear friend, you have been my savior. Thank you.

My work is now giving my life purpose again.

I use recycled materials to create art that you will need.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: