Student Voices: On art and living with bipolar disorder
My name is Marinna Shareef, and I’m a multidisciplinary artist from Trinidad and Tobago. As someone who is manic-depressive, I often use my experiences with mental illness as inspiration for my work. For World Bipolar Day on March 30th, I released a special photo-manipulation series on the bipolar attacks I have. It’s titled “The Attack” series, and consists of four pieces.
Through my work, I try to figure out the patterns that occur from my attacks so that I can learn how to safely get through them. While going through them, I often scribble the feelings I have in a notebook and come back to the concepts later, after a period of healing. To create my digital art, I conceptualize my scribbles into photo edits using my camera and Photoshop. I play around with my original ideas as well as experiment to see how best I can evoke feeling. Doing this allows me to analyze my attacks, and help eradicate the self stigma I feel. Despite being clinically diagnosed and being treated for bipolar disorder, I often feel as if I am the reason for my manic and depressive attacks. When I have hallucinations, I try to either forget they exist, or dismiss them as “bad thoughts.” But as time has shown, ignoring my problems make them so much worse. You feel as if you’re helping your friends around you by hiding what you’re going through, but the truth is, being open and expressive with your thoughts is the first step to getting better. If you’re not comfortable with what you’re going through, you cannot comfortably get help. You need to be on board to give one hundred percent of your effort into leading a balanced life.
I personally still find it hard to be open with my friends and family with what I go through, especially since I live in a place that has such a strong stigma against the mentally ill. With my art, I can figure things out in an organized way, and put it out there rather than use words to tell people how I feel. Being bipolar is something I will have to deal with for my entire life, but it does not have to be a struggle. If you think you need help, ask for help. Your happiness comes first. Figure out your mental illness in your own way, and be confident in who you are. Your mental illness doesn’t define you, it just guides you to find a different way through life. By creating “The Attack” series, I hope that I can encourage others to be more open with their mental issues, and get the help they need.
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