Mental Health Lessons Only A Pandemic Can Teach

It has been another productive week in Borg Queen Land. I've finished both concept illustrations for the first set in my film "A Bionic Holiday Ballad," and I'm quite pleased with how they turned out. Developing a visual style is always exciting for me. For this film I've decided to go with a post apocalyptic Victorian aesthetic and I'm now leaning a little more to a post apocalyptic style with a few nods to Victorian design especially when it comes to the costumes and interiors of the upper class people. The lower classes with have less structure to their clothing and more layering of salvaged fabrics and items.

The cemetery illustration shows Fletcher and his wife Cora who are perhaps the only two people in the entire story that could be considered middle class. They are representative of the ever shrinking middle class here in North America. They symbolize the optimism of the middle class ideal. Fletcher is the adopted nephew of the protagonist Elanor Sharpe. His character is a parallel to Ebenezar Scrooge's nephew Fred. In my adaptation of the story Elanor has a somewhat strained relationship with Fletcher.

While writing this relationship between Elanor and Fletcher, I've drawn upon my own experiences in my strained familial relationships as of late. I have not been the most open and approachable person over the past few years and I've shut a lot of people out. When I really examine why I've become so solitary it's because I'm afraid to get close to anyone because I don't want to go through the pain of losing them. The last several years have been a painful string of losses and traumas within most of my close relationships and eventually reached a point where I just couldn't take anymore, so I hid myself from everyone and everything.

The isolation wasn't entirely a bad thing, in fact it was pretty necessary. It gave me some time to just focus on taking care of myself and rebuilding. It was also kind of a blessing in disguise because my own self imposed quarantine prepared me for the coronavirus pandemic. I had already been self isolating for a couple years and because I was in the rebuilding myself phase when the pandemic hit, I had a really great mental health support system already in place.

If you know me at all, you know that mental health issues are a topic near and dear to me. Living through this pandemic has reinforced my belief that taking care of my mental health is a priority. It's also drawn attention to the horrendously inadequate healthcare system we have in place for public mental health. Throughout the last several months I've seen people spiral downward into serious mental health crisis because they didn't have a good support system in place or they were unable to access their support system because of the pandemic.

For a lot of people an active social life plays a huge role in supporting their mental health whether they realize it or not. When you remove the ability to gather together or attend cultural events, it's akin to taking someone's antidepressant medication away. You will experience withdrawls and turn to other-perhaps less healthy-things to cope. I think we've all seen it happen and perhaps some of us are even experiencing it first hand.

When I hit rock bottom in 2018 I have a cornucopia of coping mechanisms. Some of them were healthy, like doing art and some of them, not so healthy, like doing art for 18 hours without eating, drinking, bathing or acknowledging the outside world. The point is that I learned that so many of our behaviors that we've adopted to cope in times of crisis aren't inherently toxic. It's more about the dosage than anything else. 

Maintaining mental wellness is largely about balancing our physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. In "A Bionic Holiday Ballad" our protagonist Elanor Sharpe is someone who has neglected their emotional, social and spiritual needs for a very long time. When they are visited by the 3 spirits it becomes a journey of self exploration into the root of why they've shut themselves off emotionally and socially. They are confronted with their past and have to come to terms with their losses before they can move forward and open themselves up again. In the story it happens all in one night, but in reality it can take a few years. It's been an arduous journey for me, but I'm starting to become whole and more balanced again.

I chose the opening scene of the film to be set in a cemetery because this story is ultimately about how to find inner peace and moments of joy while still allowing yourself to acknowledge and grieve your losses. The lights and little hints of color are the visual representation of finding those moments of joy in the darkness.

These illustrations will be available as fine art prints for free to all of my Creative Partner tier subscribers. Consider subscribing to help support the creation of my work and take advantage of the exclusive rewards. Also, I'll be sharing some more specific personal stories that inspired some of the scenes in my secret blog that all subscribers will have access to.

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