Throughout middle school, My mom and I had begun to notice myself picking up anxious tendencies. Mom had struggled with anxiety her whole life, beginning primarily in her teenage years, so naturally she kept a close eye on me. However, throughout my freshman year of high school we both began to notice my anxiety became significantly worse from what we assumed was the workload of my classes as well as some OCD tendencies that were developing. I would frequently have episodes as soon as I returned home for the day and would sometimes leave class in order to compose myself. It was obviously not an intense situation compared to what many other people with anxiety disorders go through, but it had been the worst my anxiety had ever gotten at that point in my life.
However, after one particularly hard week for myself, I had come home and hidden myself in my room for what I had probably planned on being a night of Netflix and eating ice cream out of the container. I usually took to distracting myself with food and television and forgetting about my other problems until the next morning as my way of coping.
At about 11 that night however, I had gotten bored and began to dig through my closet, looking for nothing in particular and everything — as if I was being forced to clean my room and instead took a break to fiddle with everything I had found. After a bit of searching, I noticed these canvases leaned against my wall. They were both blank and dusty with plastic wrap still on. So, naturally, I decided to paint them. I ran downstairs to get my brushes and to the basement to gather paints; my grandmother had worked at Michael’s for a long time and essentially filled her apartment with art supplies. When she died, my mother moved all of her things (including 100 trillion acrylic paints and blank canvases) to our basement. I painted an astronaut.
I was on a painting high. I painted the door frame of my bedroom (outer space themed again) all that night. As I painted, I began to ease my mind and think through what I had been worrying about during the day. The Netflix and ice cream had distracted me, but my body was still tense with stress from the episode and the painting took it completely away for the night. It felt therapeutic and truly helped me work through the episode.
As my anxiety continued this way, my painting became more frequent in order to clear my mind and regain a bit of the clarity I had lost during the episode that sparked the painting. My walls are now covered in murals of the night sky and flowers, and as of yesterday, I have officially used all 100 trillion paints from my grandmother.
As a disclaimer, however, I would like to say that calming methods such as painting or taking walks should not be skewed as “solutions” or “cures” to anxiety or anxiety-related disorders. To say that minuscule activities can change anyone’s permanent mental health would be unwise and insulting, considering mental health is a very serious issue. However, there will always be remote ways of relief and coping methods that can help, but of course, they vary from person to person. Mine is painting. What’s yours?