Thursday, October 9, 2008

so, so aware

I found out yesterday that this is National Mental Illness Awareness Week. I love anything that brings attention to the very tangible reality of mental illness, as our society leaves behind the destructive stigmas and prejudices of mental illness and those who are subjected to it.

I am often baffled at how it is more acceptable to take a pill or seek professional treatment for a headache, but crippling shame and fear keep people from seeking relief from conditions that cause symptoms just as real and even as deadly as cancer. How so often the only way to get the treatment you need is to let your life spiral so out of control that it becomes "suicide prevention" or "chemical dependency recovery". What if diabetes was ignored until limbs started falling off?

Mental illness has woven itself throughout my life, effecting me personally and ravaging some of the people who are closest to me. I truly believe that it has become a plague on our generation, and that its methods of "divide and conquer" have the fingerprints of the dark enemy that is out to destroy us.

I've been reading a fabulous book called Touched With Fire, which points out the connection between mental illness and the arts, and discusses fascinating moral and ethical questions connected to treating these people who have added color and dimension to our world through the expression of their suffering. It is an interesting question, whether an artist would be so driven to produce art, would he reach so deeply into his soul if he did not NEED to? Would the world be as interesting if those minds were whole?

I have a lot to say about this, being an artist and being married to an artist, both of us using our talents to create a visual expression of the turmoil we experience as a means of survival. It reminds me of the whole story of our broken, fallen world, versus a world restored to the design of our great Creator. What causes us to create is our need to be who we truly are... a creation reflective of God. I feel closest to him, most like him when I am immersed in his creation and when I am creating, because I am wired to experience a connection to him in that way. In the same way, some people feel closest to God when they are immersed in intellect or service. We are fallen and separated from full communion with our God, so anything that reminds us of what we should be, what we will be, makes us feel more whole.

Through my husband's artwork I have seen depression articulated in a way that is very unique. It shows the stillness, the lure and the beauty that calls out to you and draws you into the abyss. Yes, there is an ugly side, but that is only revealed once you are trapped in its grips. It's the slow, methodical whisper of the darkness that promises comfort.

His work reveals the trap and the torture. My belief is that it will also show the escape, once he finds it. It is my job as his wife to hold on to the knowledge I have of how the story ends, and to trust in the Creator who our souls ache to emulate while this testimony is formed. And rather than standing still, or even laying down and giving up, it is also my job as an artist to narrate the journey to the best of my ability. Because my soul aches to heal like the great Healer, and to tell a story like the great Author. What true comfort that we are allowed to do so much more than merely survive the trials of this world...


karen said...

This is a beautifully expressed post ... I am putting it in my favorites. So wise in your faith and understanding of the brokenness of our world, the energy of sin having permeated all of creation, and to keep your heart's eye on what is to come. Just a beautifully worded post. Thank you for sharing.

Jenni said...

I love this post! This is how I see art and literature--as an expression of our souls' yearning for God. Our creative efforts are often a way of drawing us closer to the Creator and, in by doing so, bringing us closer to being whole beings. My brother is an artist, too. His faith is somewhat tenuous right now, but I see in his art a longing for God. I've also seen his art change dramatically through his personal struggles and triumphs. I can enjoy his art much more today than I once could and I think the difference is the amount of light he has allowed into his life.