Ever wonder about the complexes of anxiety through the eyes of an artist? I most certainly have. After struggling from depression when I was in my early 20s, I was left with the residue of it. Even after many years, I’m still susceptible to depression and anxiety. But throughout my experience, I realized that anxiety can be an expression of art.
Whimsy ideas that could lead to anything come just as fast as they flee. There’s no telling how long the notion will linger in your mind, or how it will affect the behavior. And, usually, they’re sparked by pre-existing thoughts, or inspired by raw emotions, bringing life to something that is not of reality.
Just like anxiety, they come and go like waves, growing seeds that are planted by negative thoughts or fears, even desire, and obsessive analysis. In time they fruition, but it’s how they’re used and what they create that’s important– that is where self-healing and discovery occur.
Maatii Dungy has an intimate connection with her anxiety, or as she calls it “weird funk.” She knows her triggers in ways a partner would know her. It’s a special relationship, a bond with her inner darkest shadows. This connection has allowed her to strengthen and grow, building confidence within herself while pursuing creative outlets.
For years, Dungy struggled with migraines and mood swings. At the age of 13, she was suffering from depression and never realized the weight of it or path it would lead her down. It wasn’t until she was 16 while seeing a therapist that she was diagnosed with high-functioning depression.
Since then, she’s learned a lot and has become a stronger woman. Nowadays, she’s the artist of her anxiety and refuses to let it outshine her.
During quarantine, Dungy has had a tight rein on her mental health, helping her move forward a little bit more each day. Music, fashion, art, and baking peanut butter cookies have been key factors in maintaining her health and positivity when she’s alone. And, in the process, she’s rediscovered little pieces of herself that she hadn’t seen in a while.
One detail that Dungy shared was that music has been keeping her sane during the stay at home order. Whether she’s listening to music or making her own on her keyboard, it’s a daily habit. She’s even created a recipe playlist just for baking, consisting of high-energy songs. Fun, upbeat music helps her control her headspace and energy.
Music has even inspired some of her drawings. However, she doesn’t find inspiration in just music; she finds it in herself and things within her environment.
Her favorite, Hibiscus tea, and a lotus flower are incorporated into her drawing. And when she’s restless, she paints shoes and tie-dyes overalls or spends time with her family.
“Being messy, creatively, makes everything feel so much better just by getting your emotions out,” Dungy said. “It really helps.”
It’s been a journey, battling her fears and thoughts that came dressed as anxiety. Yet, the scars, which are reminders of her painful past and destructive thoughts, are now part of a beautiful canvas where art permanently lays:
The tattoos of her grandmother and grandfather’s initials and dates of when they passed away are more than just sentimental reminders of two people that impacted her life. They’re a mnemonic to keep her from losing herself again.
“I got it to remind me why I don’t self-harm anymore because I have so many people that I want to make proud,” Dungy said.
And that’s the thing about depression: it can be a silent killer.
Depression is like a dense, dark forest that you can’t find your way through—made up of fears and stress that overtake logical reasoning, blurring the line between what’s possible and what is not. Irrational conflict spurs inside and entangles the mind with webs so immense that feeling trapped is all that’s left, but that’s not true.
It does get hard but hurting yourself is never the answer.-Maatii Dungy
According to Dungy, quarantine awakened her. She realized that she shouldn’t take anything for granted, especially when friends reach out to see her. Before the virus, she was content with being socially unavailable, but she misses a lot now, like going to concerts and hanging out with friends.
Confinement may have its disadvantages, but it can be a healing experience if it’s accepted. When I asked Dungy what three words she would use, to sum up, the quarantine she said:
Creative. Loving. Discovery.
Family and friends, and things that she enjoys really keep her going. No matter how hard the day might be, or how difficult her “weird funk” may seem, she continues to fight for what she wants in life, one day at a time.
Dungy is currently building a website where she can share her artwork and writing with others. Her past traumas that were ignored as a child have become her determination to pursue her dreams and hopes that she will be able to, one day, pursue art design and fashion.
As artists, we create what we receive in life. Depression is just another form of art that can be molded into whatever you want it to be, we just have to believe and create.
What have you been creating, or doing to lift your spirits during this long isolation?