At the lowest point in my battle with depression, and contemplating ending my pain, I discovered this thing called digital art. Thankfully I quickly realized that an outlet was needed to continue this battle. This week I want to write about how I believe digital art can be good for mental health.
“But Jackie, I cannot draw”.
Well, here is a little secret, I could not draw either, or so I thought. A few years ago, while flipping through the apps on my iPad looking for a game to occupy my mind. I stumbled upon an app I had downloaded several months earlier. Those with an iPad or any tablet will understand this plight. You download an app and open it for a few minutes thinking this would be fun. Life happens and you never go back to the app again. Aptly named, this app is called ProCreate.
So what is ProCreate?
Written by a small group of Australians, ProCreate is an app available only for the iPad that can be used to create many different styles of art. The possibilities are actually quite endless. Like Adobe’s suite of products, ProCreate allows digital artists to create from literally anywhere. Moreover, there is no need to carry around a canvas, paint brushes, and paint any longer. Costing only $9.99, this app has been life-saving and life-changing for me.
How Does Digital Art Help to Improve My Mental Health?
Nowadays, if I am feeling down, I can pick up my iPad wherever I am and draw. The real beauty of this media is there are no mistakes — no criticism. There are no snide remarks spoken behind my back about a particular tic I may be experiencing at the time. And with my iPad in hand and ProCreate opened, I can transport myself mentally to a place where the pain is subdued. Whatever I can imagine, I can draw. And whatever the end result, the drawing is my own. It is my own interpretation of the fantasy which I have dreamed up.
The betterment of someone’s mental health is a marathon — it is not a sprint. There are no quick fixes for depression just as there are no magical bandaids to fix poor mental health either. For me, when I am drawing on my iPad, my mind is temporarily cleared of the memories and pain associated with my childhood bullies and also that one traumatic event as a 10-year-old boy.
Creativity Leads to Overall Happiness
There have been a number of studies showing the benefits of creativity on happiness. Robert Epstein, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today in 1996, had this to say about creativity.
I hope this does not step on too many toes but here we go. Our children are being taught not to be creative. WOW! Jackie, that is bold! Well, at least in my opinion, this is true. Think about it. We send our children off to school for 9 months in an effort to cram as much knowledge into them in only 12 years. For the most part, our children graduate from high school well educated on topics such as mathematics, history, and the sciences — there is no denying that our teachers do an amazing job with very few resources. But in the end, children come out of school with book smarts however some appear to lack a real sense of creativity to expand upon what they have learned.
How Can We Fix This?
Simply, we need to allow our children time to daydream. We need to afford them the opportunity to explore. They can of course still learn the basic disciplines like math, history, science, and language. However, we must instill into the children that there is more to be had.
My wife and I live on a barrier island several miles off the coast of North Carolina. Affectionally known as the Outer Banks, this narrow strip of sand stretches almost the entire length of North Carolina and in some places is only a few feet wide. Trust me, there are people who have lived their entire lives and they are some hardy folk. Though the summer hurricanes get all the media attention, no one is truly a local until they have lived through several winter nor’easters.
In our village of Corolla (pronounced KOR-RAW-LA), we have a charter school where creativity is blooming. Yes, the children are taught the basic disciplines however they are also exposed to so much more. Check out the link above and donate to our school. We love having our own school on the island.
But What If I Am Not Creative?
I hear you screaming through the screen.
“But Jackie, I am not creative either”.
Though some may have hidden or suppressed their creativity, each and every person has the ability to be creative. And that creative ability is a direct reflection of our extraordinary Creator. God made each of us unique however we were also uniquely created to be creative. He created us in His image.
Sure we have millions of artists and millions upon millions of bakers, builders, doctors, lawyers, etc all doing similar tasks. However, and don’t ever forget, there is only one you. You were uniquely designed. He made you remarkable and wonderful.
Stick with me for a few more minutes. Grab a pencil and a scraped piece of paper. Close your eyes and think of a place or time when you were the happiest. With your eyes still closed, picture yourself back in the place or time. Open your eyes and draw what you saw. Keep in mind you do not have to share this with anyone. You can just file it away in a folder. But do not crumple it up and toss it into the trash. Keep it somewhere and then expand on it. And so what if your people are stick figures, this is your memory, your thoughts, your daydream. Make it your own.
So here is the point I am trying to make. For me, when I am drawing, my thoughts are cleared. My mind is freed of all the baggage from my youth. And the voices in my head — and do not lie as I know you have them too — are all in accordance with each other. You have to find what works best for you because remember, God uniquely created each of us to do great things.
I leave you with one final comment. The key is to find something that takes your mind off of the pain. However, be sure that you are not just replacing the pain with something worse. Your life has meaning. Replacing the pain with something which can be harmful is not the answer. What I am trying to say is, stay away from the habit-forming vices as those will ultimately cause your more harm. Whether it is drinking, drugs, or pornography, it does not matter, all vices lead to destruction.
God bless and thank you for following along in my marathon to better mental health.
If you made it this far, please consider commenting below, subscribing, and also sharing on your social media sites. Most importantly, I ask for your prayers. I write this weekly blog as an outlet in my fight against depression. However, my hope is that something I write here may help others who may be struggling. If you would like to help with my battle against depression, check out my online Etsy store and affiliate links. Most proceeds are donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by dialing 988. You may also text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.