Anxiety, Artist Dolls And What I’m up to these days!






Trying to establish oneself as an artist seems to be particularly difficult and I don’t know if it’s because I’m not living in London and immersing myself fully in the art scene there. As I think I may have mentioned before, I’m dealing with quite severe anxiety so for me…even thinking about living in a busy city brings me out in a cold sweat and thumping heart palpitations!

I thought I would share my experience with panic attacks with those out there who either don’t understand it or who are also suffering with it but don’t know how to push forward. There is no easy answer to panic attacks but plenty of understanding and a will to get better can help.

I don’t know what triggered my first panic attack. I was attending an art college which was only an hour away from home but I still decided to move out of my parents so I could experience the university life. I was miserable as sin there, not for the first year but when I started my second year I started living with people I didn’t know all that well and also the general unwelcoming nature of the city made me quite upset. I started going home to my parents more and travelling up on the train instead. Work in uni was picking up at this point so perhaps I was a bit worried about that, I honestly don’t know. But It was on one of these train journeys up to university that I experienced my first panic attack. First the heart palpitations then the belief that I couldn’t actually breath. I started feeling dizzy and sweating and actually wanted to be sick. I just wanted to lie down and disappear but was painfully aware of all the other train commuters who I automatically assumed were watching me and must of thought I was some sort of freak! I persevered with the train journeys twice after that thinking it was simply a “one off”. The second journey was much the same as the first. The third time I tried going on a train was because I had to hand in an essay as part of out contextual studies module. I had barely left the train station when I started having another panic attack. One of the stops on the way was only about 20 minutes from where I lived, for some reason we stopped there for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t decide whether I could make the whole journey or not, my eyelids felt so heavy and I really just wanted to give up and pass out. I started getting more and more worked up because I realised that If I couldn’t complete this journey then that meant that there was something seriously wrong. I jumped off the train at this train station absolutely balling my eyes out, phoning my mother to come pick me up. My memory is quite fuzzy after this, I didn’t go back to uni after that, it was the end of the summer term and so the end of my 2nd year. It was a massive relief to be back home and away from uni. As I became more relaxed the less I left the house, I had no desire to leave the house or to see friends or even socialise with my family. No one suspected anything was going on, even I didn’t realise the extent of it. I wasn’t leaving my bedroom at all of a day and I mean, it was a pretty small bedroom! My mother came barging into my room one day accusing me of being lazy and self absorbed, that I didn’t have a clue what was happening outside with everyone else and why I wasn’t helping out more. I couldn’t blame her, I would have probably assumed I was lazy too. It got worse from here, I grew severely depressed. The weather was gorgeous outside but I had to inclination to go out or if I did, I found myself panicking because of the heat. There was no breeze and I would feel as if I couldn’t breath! During this time I hadn’t left the house for two months, everything bled into each other. I broke down one night and told my mum how I felt, It was quite late at night but I didn’t want to be in my bedroom at all any more. Perhaps this sounds silly but It was nearing the time when I go to bed but I couldn’t face going back in there at all! My mother said she knew something was up with me but I think even she was taken aback at how on edge I was. I moved into the spare bedroom that night, it was bigger and had more air circulating through it. I felt calmer. It would be another month though before I actually went to get help with my panic attacks. My mother had put her foot down and insisted it was time to go to the doctors. I think I begged her not to take me, that I would get better. This was only because I didn’t want to leave the house. I dint want to have to go in a car and I certainly didn’t want to go out in public. My mother phoned the doctor up beforehand and they said that they had a quiet room that I could wait in while the doctor finished up with his other patients. I couldn’t wait with other people, that was completely out of the question. Never be afraid to go and see your GP. For some reason I thought that my doctor would judge me or completely disregard how I felt. But he listened, talked me through and explained exactly what was going on. He was kind, patient and addressed other issues which could have been factoring in how I was feeling. The fact I was underweight being one of them. I was too uncomfortable eating in front of people therefore never ate very much of what was on my plate. My doctor talked me through the medication he thought might be a good idea, always asking my opinion on whether I was happy with that. If you aren’t getting the best out of your GP never be afraid to get a second opinion. In cases like this, it is your feelings that count.

I tried a few medications, the first was to help with the depression but also to help me sleep at night however, It knocked me out for days and I found I couldn’t do anything while taking it. The second, and one which I have stuck with is sertraline. Its a very gentle medication which doesn’t make you feel as if its having too much of an influence on your behaviour. I also started taking beta blockers to help with the palpitations. With the medication I also started seeing an amazing counsellor who has helped me come a hell of a long way. Both she and my doctor encouraged me to get into a routine of sorts with eating and exercising. This helped tremendously.

It all didn’t automatically get better, you notice a shift in the beginning where you start to be able to do small things, but then after a couple of months I got frustrated that I wasn’t making more progress. Not really for myself but because you could tell that people thought that just because you were on medication and seeing a therapist that you should be able to to all the things you used to. University was the hardest thing I had to do. I was entering my 3rd and last year of my degree, I had a major project and a dissertation to complete. I started back later than everyone else, I simply wasn’t ready to start back the same time as them. I spoke to my course leaders who were as sympathetic as I suppose they could be while still remaining professional and trying to encourage me to take a year out. Perhaps this would have been the right thing to do but at that point I was extremely sensitive about there being something wrong with me and I truly do believe that it would have made me even more miserable if i had to start all over again with a year group of people I didn’t know. My mother would drive me up to uni for a couple of hours a week. The most difficult part was the dissertation that I had to write. I was missing out on “one on one” tutorials with my supervisor and loosing valuable insight into what I was writing. My dissertation was called “Illustration Without Boundaries”, I wanted to challenge how illustration is perceived because it isn’t solely about picture books or editorial anymore. It has come so far and has wandered off in so many directions. Part of this ended up setting me back a fair bit with my anxiety. I wanted to get illustrators and fine artist opinion on this. This resulted in me doing a simple but MASSIVE mistake! I chose all the illustrators and artists on their work and how I felt it helped to illustrate my point. My mistake is that when I sent out the emails, I grouped the addresses. Every artist could see who else had received this letter from me. I hadn’t thought anything of it because these artists were not random. I consciously chose each one. However, after the 3rd email reply informing me that they did not care for the way in which I sent the email, I was banging my head against a desk. I apologised profusely for any offence I had caused but of course the damage had already been done and they didn’t want to help me. I grew very self -conscious from this and cried my eyes out for days because I couldn’t bare these artists, people whose work I loved just thought i was a waste of space. I get it though now, and while I think some could have been nicer about it and recognised it for the mistake it was I understand that you have to be more thoughtful and professional about these things and I should have been.

I did graduate from uni, with a 2:2 rather than the 2:1 I was on track for but I was glad to have finished the course. I still suffer with anxiety and am still on medication and seeing a counsellor. I’ll give you an example of how I am still struggling. On Tuesday I went to visit my boyfriend, I really wanted to go see the art college graduate exhibition that was being held in the town where we live. Since I’m no good at travelling on public transport we walked. This is the first time that I have been out for a walk in public in about 3 years! I really wanted to see this exhibition though. We took the long way around which ended up being about an hours walk. I was clutching my boyfriends hand the whole time thinking that people were staring at me or that I was going to be sick and there was nowhere to hide. Thats what I do before I go out anywhere these days, I have to make sure theres somewhere that I can disappear so I can have some quite. I was really proud of myself for doing that walk, it may sound like nothing to some but it was a big deal to me. You may find that you never lose some of these fears that you have picked up with your anxiety, but you do learn to accommodate them and then they just become apart of you and they slowly become no big deal. I am still persevering with getting my art noticed and trying to build up a strong collection of work. In a way I’m glad this has happened as its made me more aware and sensitive to others going through something similar.

This is just my experience with mental health and it should be noted that everyone is different. As i stated above, I’m still going to carry on with my art. For me, there is no other option as I love what i do. If anyone has any questions regarding what I have written above please do not hesitate to email me. Take care x








I had a spare blank one of these sets so I decided to mess about with my inks and get messy! I’m actually very pleased with these, I like the fluidity of them and the texture of the brush and ink.

What I’m Up To These Day’s

I took part in the PaperGirl Leeds Open Call which was a call for artwork which will be exhibited in the near future in Leeds. After the exhibition, all art work will be rolled up and distributed to the lucky people of Leeds. I can’t wait for this. Check out more at PaperGirl.

I have entered three drawings into the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013. Very nervous about this! I think my main hope is that it will still be chosen to be exhibited even if it doesn’t win anything!

I’m also working on an artist book to submit to the Sheffield International Artist Book Prize. I’ve done artist books before and its something I’m quite comfortable with however, producing work for competitions is always daunting! Wish me luck!


2 Comments to “Anxiety, Artist Dolls And What I’m up to these days!”

  1. You’re not alone, though my symptoms are different I suffer too… Perhaps the curse of being an artist? X

    • I was wondering about that myself. I’d read somewhere when I first began to get panic attacks that its very common with artists who don’t have a suitable creative outlet. Or who are having difficulty processing their ideas, it was something like that anyway. Hope you’re working your way through it ok and thanks so much for commenting. Even though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, It is nice to know that I’m not the only one. x

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