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May is Mental Health Awareness month, so I thought it was a perfect time to open up and touch on this issue, because many artists I know, and maybe many of you are battling these issues silently. Maybe you don’t even realize that you are dealing with them.
That’s how it was for me. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until one night I was watching Ted Lasso…
There was this scene where Ted has a moment at a club, while everyone is feeling great, he was happy, and suddenly…
…the sound seems to fade out, his breathing changes. He seems confused, the camera cuts to his hands which are seemingly out of his control, fidgeting, like they are trying to get his attention…
Ted looks down at his hands…
This was the very moment I realized… “Holy crap, this has happened to me. I know this feeling.”
Ted realizes and has to get the hell out of there fast. He quietly ducks out of the club… everything kinda feels like it’s closing in on him.
He’s done it! He’s made his escape and nobody will know the wiser!
But it’s all too much… he falls to his knees.
He’s trying to pull it together, but the feeling has overtaken him. He’s never experienced this before. This was Ted’s first time.
His friend is there to comfort him. He tells her, “I think I’m going crazy.” And she tell him that’s not true. You can watch that full scene on Youtube if you wish.
I’m Ted Lasso.
That scene hit me really hard. Honestly it still does. Whoever wrote it, and the actors themselves have definitely gone through this too. It was a wake up call for me because, I had been dealing with these “moments” quietly for a long time.
I never tried to understand WHY they might be happening at all. Maybe even convinced myself it was just normal stuff people deal with. A “suck it up!” kind of mentality with me. Put a band-aid on it and get back out there!
Thing is, it would make absolutely NO SENSE. This could happen to you even at the very best of times, without a seeming care in the world. And there it is again, that “funny feeling".
I can’t really identify any specific triggers for me, because it could creep in while I’m among people, on a zoom call, or even just by myself while I’m working. It just kinda surfaces.
Everytime feels like the first time.
I can’t really recall the first time this happened to me. I do recall one time it got really bad, I was at San Diego Comicon in 2007, at a posh after-party at a rooftop hotel. I had just been toasted to by a large group of peers and industry folks… this was and should have been a happy moment.
It was a time in my life where I had finally felt successful. Strangers were approaching me to talk to me, drinks in hand. A hollywood agent was talking to me about future ideas and asking me questions, and that’s when the funny feeling washed over me.
The sound kinda faded out, muffled. My hand started to clenched the glass I was holding very tightly. Suddenly I wasn’t paying attention to anything this man was saying. I just nodded like I was listening to him, but internally my brain was screaming… “Dude, you gotta get the hell out of here, right now.”
I excused myself and pretended to go to the restroom, but b-lined back to street and a brisk walk back to my hotel room, made it just in time before my legs gave out, and I curled up in a ball and just waited for the feeling that was overtaking me to pass.
I would try to have fun with it in my imagination, thinking, well maybe deep down my internal self knew these hollywood people all around me didn’t really have my best interest at heart. In a way, maybe it was the flight or flight thing kicking in.
Nobody ever knew or expected what I was really dealing with inside. I became a ninja when it came to hiding this from everyone, I could vanish like the best of them.
How I deal with it now…
I’m not a fan personally of taking pills for things. Just a hunch tells me that you take one pill, that gives you a new problem, and so on and so forth. That’s not to say you should not, please consult with your docs. Everyone is different, and I know people who have been helped tremendously with medication. The human brain itself is a complicated thing, that humans barely scratch the surface on understanding how it really works.
Also, call me crazy, but just masking the deeper symptoms of something doesn’t seem like the healthiest idea to me. Ao I always try to go deeper now to resolve issues, instead of tucking them back away. Sometimes this takes a lot of courage and vulnerabilty for me. But it’s been worth it.
I came to the understanding that all the things we bottle up, put away, or hide from, they are still there deep down. And they will demand to be released. You don’t get to decide when they want out. To truly fix this problem, we all need to do a better job of NOT bottling things up. I take things as they come, sort them, and deal with them one by one.
My random panic attacks became more amplified during the pandemic. In Summer of 2020 I found the idea of “worry coins” online.
I think it was marketed to me as “giving your hands something to do or fidget with while you’re on those long boring zoom calls.” And wouldn’t you know it? These little coins actually work. Quickly became one of my every day carries.
🔥 And that quote is truth: “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”
Now, anytime I feel that “funny feeling” is coming on, I have a worry coin on me or near me to fidget with
I acknowledge the feeling as it comes in.
I kind of meditate on it for a moment while fidgeting with the coin
I tell myself it’s okay to let this go. I thank the universe for bringing this to me to deal with.
Then it’s gone. The feeling passes. Like magic.
Those old, forgotten things that I bottled up or hid away, have come to the surface and been released forever into the ether.
And that feels good.
HOOBOY, I’m sorry if this turned into a heavy topic this week. Let’s lighten up the mood and have this week’s drawing prompt be TED LASSO. If you know the show, feel free to draw any character. If you don’t know it, just draw the man himself.
If you post on instagram or tiktok, tag: #drawordiechallenge 🤘🏻
HOW ARE YOU FEELING?
I sure hope that none of you have to deal with these things. But the truth is, 26% of adults in the USA are diagnosed with a mental health issue. That’s 1 in ever 5 people you meet. And then there’s the other folks like me, who were just quietly dealing with stuff on their own. Please don’t.
Especially for ARTISTS: We need to break these stigmas around these issues. Let’s all talk about them more. Talk to each other. You’re definitely NOT alone. Don’t suffer in silence like I did. As always, if you have nobody else to talk to, you can e-mail or message me any time and I’ll get back to you when I can.
I don’t want to sugarcoat this. I’ve lost good friends to mental health and substance abuse issues. I don’t want to lose anymore.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get immediate help, find crisis centers or just a stranger to talk to through the suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call them anytime:
Stay well everyone! Back to the drawing board for me!
Connect with me elsewhere 👁 @djcoffman on Instagram / TikTok / Twitter
🛠 My Comic Page Templates for Procreate
✏️ My Custom Digital Brushes & Comic Page
▶️ DJ on Youtube (Tutorials & more)
Great advice as always. 👏👏