Life of an Artist – Blog #4: Mental Health

Surreal Art

Mental Health

Hello,

Welcome to another weekly Blog aka Artlog aka Alog.
This week I would like to take the time to talk about Mental Health.
Last Sunday was #WorldMentalHealthDay, which I missed because I somehow thought Sunday was Monday in my calendar. So I decided to make it Mental Health week instead.

It’s interesting how we somehow automatically think of mentally sick people when we hear mental health. Although the opposite is true as it says in the name: Mental Health… I guess it just means the health of your mental headspace.

In these times I feel it is insanely hard to stay completely sane in the head with all the stuff that is going on in the world. Don’t worry I won’t get into that here, as we all know the things!

What is important though is to differentiate the health of the world and your own mental health. When it comes to looking after your own mental health it is ok to be a bit selfish. It is ok to ignore what’s happening in the rest of the world and take some time to focus and look after you!

Because if we’re feeling burnt out, exhausted, frustrated, angry, confused or helpless we’re not much good to ourselves or anyone else. It’s like what they advocate in an aeroplane emergency… put your oxygen-mask on first before putting it on others.

Fig 1: “Complex Critters” – Biro on paper

Self-Care

Self-care is a real thing and it can be a hard thing to work into your busy life. But you and everyone else around you will thank you for it in the future. If you look after yourself and take time to do the things that make you light up inside, that will radiate outwards.

And it can be such little things:

  • Taking a bath
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Having a boogie to your favourite songs
  • Doing some stretches (even for 10min while you wait for the kettle to boil)
  • Doodling
  • Pretending you’re 3 years old and smooshing colour around on a page.
  • Ringing that special friend, who has the same humour and can make you laugh
  • Reaching out to someone to talk to about your problems
  • Writing stuff in your journal
  • Watching a film that will make you laugh or cry depending on what you need more. It might be both!

Fig 2: “Multiple Personalities” – Pen on Paper with digital adjustments

Multiple_Personalities-Natalie J Cheetham_Illustration

Acceptance

I believe a massive part of good mental health is the acceptance of who you are! Complete unconditional love towards yourself! We are all so amazingly different and we all have such a diverse range of experiences, skill-sets and realities. We also all have moments of insecurities, mood swings and unbeneficial beliefs about ourselves.

If we choose to accept all of these quirks for exactly how they are and see them as the building blocks that make us the beautiful, unique and special people we are right now, we’ll be able to feel happy within our skin.

It’s a lot more healthy than fighting them, overanalysing everything and forcing change upon yourself. This will just leave you feeling overwhelmed and ashamed of who you are. And that’s silly because you simply are who you are!

I’m not saying to never self-improve, especially beliefs, as they are malleable, programmable and within your reach to change. But that’s the key: focus on the things that are within reach. Things that are within your power to change and do not currently serve you! And take small, gentle steps if you do really want to change yourself.

I personally am just always amazed and super happy to be alive; to have eyes that can see, ears that can hear, tastebuds that can taste. To have all my limbs and thumbs to be able to open doors, write, draw, dance and all the great things. I’m also happy that there are others to share this world with!

"Hue's of Humanity"_Natalie J Cheetham_Surreal  Illustration

Identity

Another cause for mental sickness or mental disturbance seems to be confusion around identity. There are so many changing variables when it comes to identity, such as the shifting of gender roles, cultural misplacement and disconnection from roots and family.

They all play a massive role in feeling lost and unsettled in these turbulent times. The confusion around gender identity seems to be popping up quite a lot in my personal circles at the moment, so I’d like to express my thoughts on that one here.

The thing I’ve come to realise about life is it all seems to come down to action-reaction and finding the equilibrium. The movement of feminism is the reaction to the years of patriarchy. And it needs to happen to be able to find balance.

I strongly believe we all deserve the same chances and opportunities in life! Nonetheless we can’t disregard the 200,000 years of evolution that has taken place to develop the genders in the way that they are.

It’s such a tricky dialogue to have with some, as the subject can be highly sensitive and triggering. Yet by simply blaming one gender and trying to make them feel weaker will not make the other stronger. Or maybe it will but that’s just the same pattern in reverse. I know that many males have very assertive and dominant ways, but it’s not directly their fault.

Fig 3: “Hues of Humanity” – Pen on Paper with digital adjustments

Fig 4: “Feeling Splendid” – Pen on Paper with digital adjustments

Forgiveness

It’s 200,000 years of heritage that has given males certain traits to compete for survival, lead an army of soldiers or fleets of ships into battle, become the protecting and bread-earning men that they were expected to be. Life has not always been fair for them either.

I think it’s easy to get caught-up in the victim role, no matter what your situation is, but we will get a lot further in finding balance if we can find it within ourselves first. Connect with the male or female counterpart of ourselves and have compassion and forgiveness. Only then can we bridge the gap of defensiveness that keeps making the two genders drift apart.

Blaming someone for how they were born is terrible and leads to guilt and shame. The reason this is connected to mental health issues, is because a lot of people born in either gender or who don’t identify with any gender feel lost and without purpose. The reason for this is there are no set roles to follow anymore. We’re in the stages of rewriting it all, which is a great thing but until then we are left with a lot of confusion.

I feel for boys in these tricky times, as they have no healthy role models to look up to in the media, many of them do not have healthy father figures and those who spend their early years in early childhood do not have any guidance by a male figure to set their path for a healthy identity, as most early childhood teachers are females. No wonder there’s a lot of confusion.

And then there’s the issue that so many boys and girls are sent to all boys or all girls schools, where they miss out on crucial lessons of how to treat each other, how to set boundaries around sex and discover and explore sexual identities. Let alone learning how to communicate with one another from an early age whilst growing up. Strange times we live in, but I feel that compassion and forgiveness can go a long way.

Compassion and Empathy

To conclude, I’d like to say that by no means do I except, tolerate or excuse any kind of misogynistic behaviour! Also I’m not saying that women aren’t facing a very tough time at the moment, carving out a new path for themselves, whilst finding and growing into their voices and power.

However I believe that to be able to navigate through these times of change and diversity we all need to show compassion and empathy towards one another for our own mental health. No one deserves to be ashamed for who they are and how they were born. The only way we can work through all of the challenges we face is by rational and open communication. This means working through our own triggers and trying to show an understanding for the other side. Allow for the physical ‘action-reaction’ experiment to unfurl in a controlled and studied environment, so things don’t get out of hand and we actually document and learn from this major evolutionary shift in humanity.

Chin up everyone, everything passes. So please look after yourself first, because if everyone looked after themselves more, we wouldn’t have to look after each other as much. I hope that makes sense. If you see your mental health and well-being as your own responsibility, then you would be happier, so do what makes you feel good, look after that inner-child and forgive and accept yourself and others!

We’re all just humans trying the best we can! (Well most of us anyway)

And we’re doing good!!!

Much Love
from,

Natalie xxx

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