I Come Alive When I'm Close To The Madness: Living As An Artist With Depression And Anxiety. / by Antoinette Cauley

I absolutely love to laugh and smile. I love to make people laugh, feel good and remind them how important they are and that they matter. Being a source of positivity comes so naturally to me because I am always myself and always prepared to give those around me all I have even when I feel exhausted. Despite doing my best to be a ray of light to the world as I know it, there is a darker side of me very few get to see in person.

Sometimes the waves of emotion feel too high and too frequent to function properly. It’s like they come crashing down all at once and it feels like you physically can’t go on. Medicine doesn’t help. I tried that but stopped taking it 3 years ago and decided to learn to work through it on my own. The pills just numb you and make you unsure if you even exist at all. That’s no way to live and I was determined to beat it naturally. I know my triggers and that keeps me a little ahead of the game. I also started seeing a counselor about a year ago. She helps me more that anything really. The depression and anxiety seem to just have a mind of their own. They bang and my front door until I open and they refuse to leave until they’ve done some real damage.

The emotional pain always starts in my heart and manifests into physical pain that moves from my chest down my arms and into my fingertips. When I feel it, it’s hard to hold my paintbrush. It makes if physically difficult to do the thing I love most. It’s quite poetic sounding to most. To be honest, I’ve noticed that the picture the world paints of the stereotypical depressed and lonely artist hidden away in their art studio making masterpieces seems to be revered as almost a thing of beauty; “The tortured soul who bares the pain in their heart for the world to see through their art.” People eat that shit up. But the reality is that it’s not beautiful when you are the one living it. It’s not poetic when you are the one forcing yourself to get out of bed, put on a smile and step out into the world to try and make somewhat of a difference.  

When I was fifteen years old, I knew what my purpose in life was. I knew that my destiny was to inspire and motivate those around me and I knew that I was supposed to do it through my art. I was always super advanced artistically for my age. I knew that wasn’t a coincidence and that my purpose was so much bigger than myself. I never thought that as an adult I would inspire as many people as I have. I have fans that stretch from the grey and rainy countryside’s of London to the gritty and fast moving streets of L.A. They all keep up with my comings and goings, they watch for new work and they listen to what I have to say with the utmost attention. I don’t take that lightly. It is an honor to have been put in such an inspiring and motivational position and I do my best to fulfill that roll each and every day.

Between you and I, the only thing that keeps me going at times is knowing how much of a positive influence I have on those watching my journey. The only thing that keeps me pushing is knowing that people are watching me and finding the strength they need through all that I am doing. It doesn’t make dealing with the depression and constant anxiety any easier, it just gives it purpose. It lets me know that my struggles are not in vain. It makes figuring out how to work through it worth it.

So, in my mind, I have no choice but to press forward, put on a smile and give love. After all, that’s what I was made to do- to give love through my art, through my words and through the work that I do with youth in my community. I will always do that because, my purpose is so much bigger than myself or any emotions I may feel. Despite feeling like I can’t push through it at times, I remind myself that I will. I always have and I always will. I have learned throughout the past year how to work through the downs, take time to rest, channel the emotions and create masterpieces full of colorful, vibrant and mesmerizing… pain.  

I am grateful for the highs that allow me to laugh, smile and see life clearly and it its most free and beautiful form.   I am also grateful for the lows that, while difficult to cope with, allow me to enter into the space I need to be to create the works of art that will ultimately be my legacy. I haven’t quite learned how to get rid of the lows all together so for now I am choosing to use them the best I can. The madness in my mind seems to breed life through my brush and so I allow it to deliver. I feel that’s what the world expects of artists anyways… To roam the earth as the tortured soul who bares their broken heart for the world to see through their art.