Creating art from my own experiences of mental ill health

Hi there everyone. I'm Sow Ay, an anxious twenty-something living in Clermont-Ferrand, in the beautiful centre of France. I'm in love with music and try my best to make a living out of my passion as a freelance illustrator. I make designs for bands, t-shirts, exhibitions and I play music and draw on my blog in my free time.

This is my story.

I've been living with anxiety and mental illness for as long as I can remember. My self-esteem is super low. I often bite my fingers until they bleed, love music way more than I love myself and I hide behind the characters I create.

At 18, I was refused in art schools. One school even told me to give up drawing. I thought I wasn’t good enough for school. Not enough for anything. I was only 18 and already felt like I had failed my life. I'd always been living with anxiety but I think that's when the depression joined the party.

At that time, being mentally ill was a joke to me. It was for weak people. It was in their heads. I couldn't understand how someone could think about ending their life.

Over the years, I had some little jobs. Then I got one in a newspaper as a graphic designer. I was proud to work in the very world that had refused me some years ago! But I was still messed up and was now struggling with insomnia too. I tried to go to work and overwork on personal projects to avoid the over-thinking thing. But it didn't work.

My feelings were so strong that I eventually ended up talking about it with my doctor. In my head, I was thinking “I'm so weak, I hate myself”.

I was given sleeping pills but they didn't work and I just kept working the best I could to make a living off of my art. I'm still doing my best today.

But it wasn't long until I burnt out. I knew I couldn't go on, but I still worked and worked and worked because I was scared to fail. I had a full-time job, I was making a comic book, handling my shop and website, playing in a band, drawing for the internet and my friends.

They were all things I enjoyed. But, maybe altogether it was a bit too much. Or, way too much.

One day I half collapsed during a concert. It was a huge panic attack. It kept me in bed crying for days. I kept crying in bed and ended up wondering what was the point of living. It was worse than anything I've experienced before. I suddenly understood how it felt to want to disappear.

I told my mum I had a depression. I told my friends because I couldn't stop making stories in my head about how they would react. Then I went back to my doctor. I was given more meds but, unfortunately, they didn't work.

I went back to work for a summer that was just: bed, work, bed, work. I don't know how I kept functioning at work during that summer but I did, and my coworkers didn't notice anything was wrong. After the summer, my job came to an end. My mental health continued to deteriorate and, in December, I had my biggest panic attack. It had got even worse. By this point, my doctor proposed I take a few months of leave from work and I went to see a psychiatrist.

This was a little over a year ago. During that time I kept drawing my thoughts and sharing them online. This apparently helped many people and I ended up on websites like The Huffington Post and 9gag.

I still have bad days, even now. Yesterday, I couldn’t find the strength to leave my bed. I still have really low self-esteem. I still bite my nails until they bleed. I'm scared to relapse. I'm scared of so many things. But, I'm not alone now. I have my counsellor, my friends, my family and the internet.

To see more beautiful, mental health inspired artwork, you can follow Sow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Share this story with a friend

Find a therapist dealing with Anxiety

All therapists are verified professionals.

Real Stories

More stories

Related Articles

More articles