The Duality of My Artistic Self

Depicting my own image has been a starting point my work from the beginning. As a child my drawings were always of female faces, although I never consciously realized these were reflections of me. Even then, in my earliest work, the duality of my nature is blatantly apparent.

.  The faces I drew were always divided, half usually in darkness, or different in other ways. I did not know I was Bipolar then, I just had a burning need to express myself artistically. I was not properly diagnosed until I got clean and sober at the age of 35 after a drugging career that lasted over twenty three years.

. I had always known I was different, I described the feeling of being “painted green”in a room full of “normal” folk. It was like having something tattooed on my forehead, a conspicuousness. When I dug into my diagnosis, learning all I could in the hopes of finally coming to grips with my self destructive life’s course, I could see all the familiar signs in the literature. It made SO much sense! Now, armed with my new sobriety and determined to stay the course on my psychiatric medication regimen, I set out to turn my life around-to leave the wasteland of my past far behind.

.  There was a slight glitch in my plan, however. The new meds that I was taking had a very unwelcome effect. They dulled my creative impulses, they slowed my manic phases down to a crawl. Rather than my giddy highs and freewheeling episodes of excess that I had lived for, and that had been killing me, I was now just a level hum. No taught guitar string playing harmonics, I was now m e l l o w…Too mellow. Where were the bright colors, the whirling merry go rounds and my peals of crazy laughter? All of the sudden I was boring and frumpy, and immune to excitement. I actually slept…alot.

.  This is the part of a healthy mental health regimen that causes so many Bipolar individuals to “go off” their meds…but I had lost that option when I decided to stay alive. I had to make this work, I had to stick this out, because the alternative was suicide. Whether thru a drug overdose or tragedy from high risk behavior, I knew that sticking this out meant my very survival. Would I have to be a zombie? Was my wildly creative side lost to me forever? What to do?

.  Fortunately, I had a therapist (counselor ) who listened, and I had the determination to tell her my discomfort. It took the better part of two years, and many different drug combinations , much discomfort and many tears to find a plan that worked, but we did not give up. Finally, I felt comfortable in my own skin, most of the time.

I still have highs and lows, and I am still a rapid cycling Bipolar person with PTSD. I still suffer from chronic insomnia and flashbacks, severe depressive episodes and ideation at times. But I never, ever want to destroy this beautiful gift of life, or to disrespect my Creator. It’s a long road, but the view is great!

Now that all that is said and done, the point I was getting at was that at a point a few years ago, talking to my therapist about my art, and showing him my work I had an epiphany ! BI-polar, TWO-sided! All the faces I drew and painted had told the tale from childhood! As we continued to go through my portfolio, it came rushing home to me. I paint myself as I am, and thru my art I am able to understand and put together all my different facets! I am constantly learning, healing and growing as an artist, and I am

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Self Portrait 4AM(detail)
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Flashback 937(detail)
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“Peckish”(detail)
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“Mania Illuminata” sold
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“Mania illuminata” sold
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“Growth”(detail)
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“100 Must-Have Looks”(detail)
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“A Big Beak”(detail)
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“yearning”(detail)
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“Visionaria”sold

so grateful that I did not give up on myself!

.  If anyone out there is fearful of a mental illness diagnosis, please give yourself a chance to get well. Don’t be afraid to seek help, because I’m here today as an example of the kind of life that is possible if one keeps pushing on! You can feel better!

Above are just a few recent examples of the many sides of my bipolar self I paint…

About Susan T. Martin

I am an Artist, Poet and Author. A Survivor of Violent Sexual Abuse and Rape, I have lived thru Severe Domestic Violence, Twenty Three years of Addiction and Alcoholism, Family Dysfunction, Chronic Pain, Dependence on Opioids, and 2 Venomous Snake Bites...I have Been Stabbed, Shot at, Tied to a Tree and Choked Unconscious. A Quarter Horse Rolled on Me, as did a Lawn Tractor. I also Wrecked a Harley into a Tree! I also have PTSD and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder, and spent my 18th birthday in a Locked Psychiatric Ward. I am so much more than this: I feel like a tiny seed that sprouted in a desert, and now has grown into a Passion Vine. My Art is my Voice, Screaming, Crying, Praying, Loving, Laughing, Healing- all in Riotous Color...