I woke up this morning in a weird mood and I couldn’t figure out why. Life is great right now, like really ridiculous great right now, but still, I could not for the life of me shake this weird feeling. Outside, the birds were chirping and the sun was shining but all I wanted was to crawl back into my bed burrito. I haven’t felt this way in a while, this sense of emptiness that causes me to shut down and feel all alone in a crowded room, but it’s something that used to feel so commonplace in my life and the rearing of its head is definitely not welcome, nor is it easy to figure out. I sat on the edge of my bed and tried to figure out where these feelings were coming from and was instantly brought back to the darkest time in my life; a time I didn’t think I would survive, let alone birth a character you’re all familiar with now, Yerman.
In early 2012 my world was destroyed. My grandfather was struck with cancer that ultimately took his life, I surrounded myself with excessive partying and friends that didn’t care about me and I ultimately stopped recognizing myself in the mirror. I had become a shell of who I once was and at one point locked myself in my house for two weeks, creating a cocoon of isolation that I could protect myself in from the outside world. During this time I experienced feelings of self-imposed isolation, anger toward the world and honestly not thinking I would make it out of this alive. At one point, after a week and a half of not leaving my house, I started hanging dryer sheets on open windows as a sort of cleansing protocol. It wasn’t until a friend came over and pointed them out that I realized just how odd it was. Not realizing how much damage I was doing to my psyche and not fully coming to terms with my grandfather’s death, I resorted to drawing characters that reflected my mood.
I started drawing self portraits (see above) of what I thought I looked like or isolated monsters with somber faces and putting them on instagram and twitter to help myself cope with the outside world before coming out of my lonely nest of a house. During this time, I started using the #depressedmonsters hashtag and talking openly about depression with others who had these feelings. For me, social media became a way for me to speak openly and honestly about a problem that isn’t always quite so easy to talk about with friends or family because most don’t understand depression or worse, they try to compare theirs to yours and that’s not fair; just because you went through a sad time doesn’t mean you understand another’s sadness. I found that I just need to talk about what I was going through free from judgement and let it all out, it helped me to cope with my reality without knowing it. Also during this time I started really coming into my own art style and experimenting with new mediums I hadn’t touched before which allowed me to really express myself in new ways. I remember one day I was aimlessly going through storage boxes and found an old painting I found at a thrift store. I took the picture out and behind the picture was gold leaf paper. I spent the day throwing paint at it and drawing a character on it. By the end of the day I realized it had extremities about myself calling myself names and the glass had broken in the franticness. That glass breaking was my breaking point, that’s when I mentally decided I need to change something because I was on a path of destruction. I still have that painting today and it still reminds me just how bad that time period was.
After the glass incident, I started leaving my house again. Nothing crazy, I’d mostly drive to the local coffee shop, Grouchy Johns, and put headphones on and pretend to myself I was assimilating even though I was basically blending into a crowd. The self portraits I was drawing started turning more gruesome and self deprecating, they were reflecting the monster I thought I was becoming. The more I tried to get back to normal, the more I realized nothing was changing and the worse I was missing my grandfather. I continued to surround myself with crowds of people and started to move to different locations, slowly I began to open up more and more. One day I woke up and sat at my drafting table and started drawing another self portrait as it had become and indicator of how I was feeling for the day and this little guy came sprawling out.
I sat back and stared at this little guy and realized he was everything I felt inside from his somber look to his fuzzy exterior, he was me. This is the day that Yerman was born and every day since has been a natural progression of feeling better and better. He truly saved me from myself.
Depression is a huge problem in this country and there’s no clear cut answer as to how to fix it. For some, it’s a mental health issue, for others it’s caused by death, life events or any number of triggers. There’s no easy way to deal with it and it’s life consuming, oftentimes isolating one from living a normal life. If you or someone you know is going through this, please speak to someone or find a healthy outlet to deal with these emotions because they’re not going to go away. I realized through all of this that my journey would be one that spans years as I didn’t deal with my grandfather’s death until a year later and I’m still having a hard time. If you need someone to talk to, Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. They’re specially trained individuals who can help you come to terms with what’s making you sad. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a hotline, please DM me on twitter at @vegasryan, I’m not a professional but I know how it feels to be sad.
Written as a part of Suicide Awareness Day 2014