I decided to re-post this today, on Friday night I spoke out at Bottega about living with bi-polar II. I'm going to speak openly about it so I can support others to know they're not alone.
Carrie HarperThere’s a hummingbird lighting on the wild flowers and grapevines outside my window. More and more I see the beauty of the world instead of the darkness. I think as artists we need some dark to contrast the light, but it’s the light that shines out of us and attracts people to our work. I have been painting, sculpting, cutting, gluing and experimenting since I can remember then in 1992 I was fortunate enough to attend The Alberta College of Art and Design. When I entered art school I thought I wanted to design functional 3-D objects such as housewares and furniture. I imagined a path of study to include traditional art school and then industrial design. The course of life can change direction like a hummingbird, quick and unexpected. As poet David Whyte writes, “anything you can plan is too small for you to live”.
I started out as all art school attendees do in a foundation year and my soul came alive in a way I never dreamed possible. I studied everything from pottery to metal smithing to photography. I was home in the art world and knew then that I was an artist through and through, it had chosen me. Part way through second year I found myself expecting my husband and my first child and ended up majoring in textiles and surface design due to safety issues. The year of my pregnancy I focused on fabric design, paper making and colour theory. I came to love working 2 dimensionally. When my daughter was born I sunk into a severe post partum depression and there began my 16 year battle with undiagnosed bi-polar disorder, a terribly misunderstood condition. All along my career path I have discovered ways of creating no matter the direction life throws me. I always pour myself 100% into anything I’m working on (something that has served me well now that I am a mixed media artist). As much as I tried to make art I couldn’t do it. It was like I needed to have my batteries re-charged but couldn’t find the power cable to plug in. I barely coped with looking after my new little angel baby. When my daughter was 8 months old it was discovered that I had a pregnancy induced thyroid problem and I was put on medication to treat it. Between that and anti-depressants I came out of the “jaws of the black dogs” and began to feel creative again and picked up paint brushes. All I could manage for a long time was watercolours. I am so grateful to that medium because it was simple, portable and I learned so much about the kind of artist I was. Up and down I went over the years, sometimes painting and sometimes just barely surviving. I had several suicide attempts in the very dark times, not something I’m proud of but I share it as an important part of my story. One of my missions, now, is to give Bi-Polar a face and to embrace everything about myself to be the best artist and mother I can be. I was terrified to have another child but when my daughter was 4 I had a beautiful baby boy. Joy of joys I did not fall into another depression!
In 2008 (after watching The Secret) I found the most perfect studio and partner to share it with, well within my price range. At the time I was still experimenting with many art forms but having a proper work space felt like taping my wings back on and spreading them to fly. I see the path behind me lead right into the arms of a love affair with Mixed Media. I am so grateful to artists Suzi Blu, Kelly Rae Roberts, Teesha Moore and many others for paving the way and making Mixed Media a legitimate art form. Through working as a Mixed Media and journal artist I have visualized and expressed the person I want to be. It has given me a clear map for my journey. My life is so interwoven with my art now and I’m happy and fulfilled. I have created a line of journals, computer/cell phone skins and I’m also working on resin pendants, canvas bags amongst other things, all with my art on them.
“Dream big” I say to myself! At first that meant; make a painting and go to a networking evening, then slowly it grew into; talk to galleries, set up a studio and write a blog. Dreaming big has served me well. Recently my doctor told me she believed that my bi-polar is in remission. I live now as imagine an athlete in training might eating simple clean food, sleeping well, surrounding myself with supportive people and doing what I love. My Life journey needs to be simple, clear and innovative if I want to stay well.