Nobody who has not experienced clinical depression can understand what it is like. I have friends who have a mood disorder, and we have an understanding in a way that is impossible with those who have never known what it is like to grieve and rage and despair for no reason at all. In some ways it distances one version of myself from another: when I am feeling ok, I battle to imagine what it feels like when I in the middle of the storm.
Because I have depression – the real thing, that drains the colour from life, and that dunks you in an exquisite hell from which there is no escape – I am the worst person to offer comfort to others who are going through it. This is because I know there is no respite and nothing to be done except grit your teeth and wait for the worst to pass. There are no words that can be said to fix depression. It is what it is, and that is all.
Writing about depression is impossible, not if you want somebody who doesn’t understand it to gain some sort of empathy. It requires an ability to distance yourself from your feelings, to analyse them and express them in terms that others can understand. In contrast, painting the experience offers a much more visceral representation than writing ever could. If this looks like an angry, scratchy work, that’s how I felt when I created it. I have built up a large store of anger and resentment this year, and it has nowhere to go except inward. (Trying to tell people how you feel never helps, because nobody ever listens, and you end up more frustrated than ever.)
Painting is the least destructive outlet I have.