I hope you don’t mind me addressing you on a first name basis, Neil.
Your commencement speech to the 2013 School of Visual Arts graduation ceremony is entertaining with so much wisdom and advice not just on art but life in general. The graduates were laughing so was I. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
You may call me, Perpetua.
There is part in the speech that I find fascinating, compelling and disturbing. Allow me to quote you:
“When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too. “
You may call me, Perpetua.
Before I continue, please pardon me for intruding. As an esteemed artist, I think highly of you.
You see, Neil, I am thinking of the cat that exploded. Translating that in my mind it goes: Dead Cat – make good art. Death – make good art, Anxiety Recording – make good art, Suicide – make good art.
I am in a very tough situation. There is a funeral going on in my brain. My nephew’s friend committed suicide. This bothers me. A lot. They grew up together, studied at the same school and graduated. My nephew just turned 25. She must be the same age. Young. Too young to die. This is so close to home.
What I want is to make good art out of the recording from her heartfelt experience of illness on anxiety. I tried writing it in a poetic way, but, I don’t have an ounce of artistic mind. The purpose is to use this as a tool to educate people.
This is the transcript of her recording five months ago.
On My Anxiety
I am cut to the core by a beast I can’t control. Not cut as in my wrists, as in my legs because, you know, that beautiful woman next to me in the Psych ward does it there.
The beautiful woman in the coffee shop a 5-minute walk away, which is 5 minutes too long of a walk when you’re depressed, ornaments her arms, her legs with deep and close bloody gashes. Gashes that I want to bandage with love and heal, but “I have too many problems, I think, I don’t know how to help you.”
Nonetheless, I am cut.
Cut by the words of people who don’t understand what it is to live with a demon inside your mind, your chest, your shaking hands, and your body that is wretched and dried out from all your tears and is so nervous that you have to pray you are always near a bathroom because even your insides don’t work properly.
But, of course, you don’t really pray. Not by this point at least. By now you know if there was a God you would be better, that none of this would have ever happened.
If you don’t see the stigma against mental illness then you probably don’t have it or you’ve never used the internet or stepped outside.
You’ve never had to write a heartfelt resignation letter to end a job only to be eliminated from the workplace silently without any acknowledgment of your soul-bearing words.
You’ve never had your own family tell you to suck it up or not dwell on things so much.
Do you think I WANT to FUCKING DWELL on the things I dwell on?!
Dwell on the fact that I would rather have suffocated myself to death than have attended my Grandma’s 75th birthday because there were gonna be too many people there.
Dwell on the fact that I’ve had to stop seeing all my friend because I’m so anxious.
Dwell on the fact that I can’t see my in-laws without feeling nauseated by my anxiety.
I cannot SUCK IT UP!
Not just that, I can’t do anything except unexpectedly write poetry at 3 am and this has only happened through a careful balance of Lithium, Clonazepam, Abilify, Olanzapine, and Zopiclone.
If those sound scary it’s because they are.
It’s scary to have your brain need to be invaded. To experience the world drugged. To experience the world drugged and still want to throw up at the thought of having to attend a social function.
Andrew Solomon writes on depression and says: “If you said to me, you have to have acute anxiety for the next month; I would rather slit my wrist than go through with it.”
If you’re looking for a way out there may not be one.
Suicide is so seductive. I almost gave up. Almost walked through that exit.
But I’m still here.
Here because of support. Here because of that place. Because of the psych ward that they only seem to ever let you know about when you’re at the point of actually killing yourself.
The ward is full of some of the nicest people you could ever meet but they’ve been so hurt by the world they can no longer function.
We are there because we feel too much. Hurt too much. We are sponges for negativity, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and more.
It’s taking drugs, love, support, and money to recreate myself.
To pull myself away from that place where your sob to your husband, plead with him to let you die because your anxiety is so bad, so bad you can’t take a breath without feeling the tight know of pain in your chest, the French brain in your stomach, the shaking of your insides, the hot tears streaming down your face.
Not everyone pulls away from that. Some of us are gone forever.
Unfortunately, Neil, she did not make it.
With my nephew’s farewell note to her, I played with it to read like poetry.
Like a quake in an ocean
A Tsunami of emotion
Waves upon waves of memories
Come flooding back.
I had a feeling that last conversation
and parting hug would be a while until the next.
I never imagined it would be our last
of this life until ‘The Next’.
Well my Friend, rest peacefully.
We can catch up once we meet.
How can I make good art on this? Can this be written in a poetic form? Or should I just leave it as is? What do you think? At any rate, your comments would be much appreciated.
With warm regards and respectfully yours, Perpetua.