A Yearly Emotional Review

Alycia Rainaud — December 31st, 2020

Earlier in this crazy year that has been 2020, I was hosting an online lecture for Zuibishe. Not only was it amazing to connect and share with people around the world once again, but it also triggered something buried deeper than I expected. At the end of the lecture, I remember someone asking something along those lines « Your art is a lot related to mental health and you always show so much positivity towards such topics, but it almost feels like you’re not struggling with anything or it is an impression? ».

Believe me, this hit harder than expected. It took me by surprise as I’m so involved in helping others feel better, give them a safe space to breathe while trying to be an advocate for emotional intelligence, and yet, I never dare to share the full story. I guess I believed that spreading good and caring vibes around you would be enough to make people feel supported and understood. Funny how only one question can make you feel different about everything you’ve built so far, because I’m feeling so wrong right now.

The roads you take towards healing are endless and so different, but what a mistake I made thinking I’d help others while being so bottled up about what I’m going through. Slowly but surely, I became less and less vocal about my struggles and it took 2020 for me to find out about it.

Not gonna lie, noticing such behavior was curious at first, mostly because I’ve always been so open about my mental health condition as a teenager and a young adult. I never felt bad sharing facts and traumas I went through, or explain what it means to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety, chronic depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because in fact, raising emotional sensitivity takes vulnerability from both parties.

There are a story-teller and a receiver. They both share and learn from each other. They take turns. But as you may reckon, being aware of things and concepts doesn’t automatically make a good practicer out of you, and I’m sure no stranger to that feeling. 

As we're wrapping up another year, I feel like I owe honesty. Not only do I owe to be honest to myself, but also towards my family, my friends, and all of the people who decided to support my creative journey because they find something in it that resonates within them. I owe you the raw reality of how things have been lately and for an extended period. I owe you all the things I'll never be able to admit when you ask if I'm ok because, to be honest, I'd rather focus on making you feel cared for, loved, and heard than taking care of my broken shell.

But I understand now that none of this will be possible if I don’t do the same. Relationships and emotions need to flow in a perpetual balance and I’m willing to try this out as I’m already getting anxious about every word I write and how I fear to admit I apprehend your reaction. So please, bear with me here while I express myself in a way I might refer as « selfish ». 

In-between moving from France to Canada and trying to figuring out how to manage a life with a pandemic going on (just like everyone else), it seemed that I still had plenty of time to play my regular mind games. They’ve been unchanged for over 15 years and I turned 25 this year. It’s pretty hard to admit I still feel and experience the same things over and over again.

It’s always about overthinking, over-analyzing, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, generalized anxiety, depression, control, traumas… and all of those words I know way too well. I’ve been in and out of therapy for basically my whole life, so naturally, with more time to spare due to our beloved pandemic, I figured I should try and focus on myself. I started a new CBT journey (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) with the same diagnosis of course.

I should mention that I have this love/hate relationship with therapy because of how important and useful it is versus how it makes me analyze things even more. I love doing all of these talks, mental exercises, and meditation to try and change a pattern of thought, but at the same time, I just get obsessed over it. It feels like I need to carefully do and apply all of these things to my life otherwise it feels like I’m not changing as quick as I wanted to, like I’m not trying hard enough to get out of that painful comfort zone I’ve built for myself, and it sounds like a failure.

So I get obsessed about feeling great, doing the right things, and basically performing happiness at this stage. They say it’s something common to experience when you’re anxious, you try to control everything and lose the point of what « Change » really implies.

You can’t let go because you’re too tied up to your past and put too much effort in anticipating the future. Therefore you fight and lose the battle because the answer you’re looking for has always been grounded in the present. There's no way you can’t allow yourself to rest here for a moment. And it hurts.

No matter how much I’ve read about psychology, how many times I’ve been to therapy or how self-aware I am, I still feel like a failure. Not every single day, not every single hour, but most of the time I do. No amount of love and support can change that and it’s so hard to admit, especially, when so many people are caring for you and supporting you through your journey. Most answers are buried within ourselves. And my truth is, you don't find them by digging but by letting go. 

The crisis or anxiety attacks as I call them, have been quite intense, same with those dark thoughts, to an extent where I’ve been barely unusually able to hide them from others. They come in a spiral-shaped pattern and the triggering point can be anything. My tears, incoherent speech, tetany, and more usually build up into a feeling of guilt and shame, while the crisis can last for several hours and therefore delay all the work I’ve planned for the day.

Having to deal with my work as an artist and my "mental-work" as an individual has been really rough this year. I mean, I’ve been doing this for almost 5 years now, and I actually realized I kinda always ignored myself in the process. I know my troubles so well that sometimes it’s just way easier to push them aside. Since the beginning, I’ve felt like my work was not only a tool for self-expression but also a way of avoiding confrontation with myself in a sense.

I’ve been trying to postpone my healing process by getting buried under work, posts, client’s projects, personal projects, and merch. We all need that one thing to focus on to avoid asking ourselves the right questions and do the right thing isn't it?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m not grateful for all of the things my creative journey gave me. I’m definitely blown away and utterly grateful. I might even say that it’s probably the epitome of how much happiness I can handle and it brings a tear to my eye every single time. But deep down, I know that if I seek for internal peace, I need to get my shit together and take as much time as I need to work on my mental health. That’s precisely what I tried to do this year, and let me tell you, it was a rollercoaster. 

On one hand, I can safely say that Covid made this easier in a way, because —as ashamed as I am to admit it— I didn’t get as much client work as I used to/wanted to.

So I instantly had more time to dedicate to my mental health. But on the other hand, I got really anxious about not being able to pay my bills, not being worthy enough or people losing interest in my work. Because yes, I hate to say it but I do give a shit about what people think about me. Also and most of all, I started comparing myself to other creatives on what I'd define as a "toxic level". I’m sure you can understand the feeling because it felt so wrong for me. This is something I experience every day because of the constant pressure we, artists, put on our shoulders to constantly outdo ourselves, mostly because a lot of us suffer from impostor syndrome, myself included. Although regularly experiencing such feeling doesn't make you used or immune to it.

But usually, there are times where I know I am worthy of everything I do, and I can even reckon to be proud of myself and my progress as a professional. However this time it hit differently. I felt like I was losing control over things and this is usually something that freaks me out. But despite being aware of the situation, sometimes it’s just easier to beat yourself up for all the things you’re not, because change takes so much courage, and at times I don’t want to be that person.

Naturally, experiencing these emotions made me feel super locked up in myself, to a point where I frequently questioned quitting art one day, but the next one I usually remember all of the things I went through and decide I’m not giving up yet. Not like this. Not until it’s my own decision rather than my anxiety talking. It’s both a blessing and a curse because the determination of pursuing a goal and an experience is rewarding but at the same time, you’re not able to let go when you feel like you need to. It’s always about finding that balance. It’s a life goal I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to reach, but I’m willing to try, even on days when I feel like living isn’t enough anymore. 

This year perhaps taught me that, change is visible and can be found in the small things. When you surprise yourself by letting your guard down or when you reply to a situation with a new sentence you never thought you’d say. When you catch yourself saying something nice about yourself. When your panic attack lasts for a little less. When you’re ready to admit those things and write an article about them. 

Now maybe, you’re here reading my words, relating to some of those things, or trying to wrap your head around what the fuck is going on with me. Either way, I just want to thank you for taking the time to share a moment with me. To the people who have been supporting my work for days, months, years: you mean so much to me. I’m so broken yet so full of love for you and all of the things you made possible. I’d never be here writing these words if we didn’t happen to share daily moments of abstract contemplation together. I can’t imagine a life without this anymore, even if some days are harder than others.

To my fellow artist's friends: thank you for teaching me so much throughout my creative journey, for being so good and caring, for making me laugh, for inspiring me. Thank you for changing my perspective on so many things and educate me on new topics every day. I’m so proud of you, of our community, and what we’re building together.

To my relatives: I’m sorry I haven’t been vocal enough about my suffering. I know we want what’s best for each other, and I don’t want to hide feelings from you in fear of being a bother to you. I’m so thankful for all the moments we got to share with each other, for the tears, for the laughter, for the vulnerability, for the connections. You’re so precious to me and I’ll never cease to care for you and your happiness. I can’t wait to hold you.

I wish I could write a thousand more in-depth words before they all turn to nonsense and dust. So most of all, I’m so grateful for all of you. 2020 has been all and nothing at the same time, but even if at times things seem to fall apart so badly, they’ll always get back into an undetermined place. We’re meant to be endlessly connected. 


PS: I know this is a long one, and I haven't been able to address all of the things I'd like to share. Honestly I just wanted to try and write something for myself, about myself, without having to overthink about whether what I said is too much or not. It's usually easier to write about pain, but I'll be more than happy to write on some of specific topics I mentioned here if you'd like to. I hope you can find some comfort and answers in this article.I can't believe it took me one week to write this and I'm definitely to ready to give it another read but anyway, let's go 2021, bring it on.