Over and Over :: by Samantha Kira Harding
If you Want to View Paradise
I’ve already told my Art Saves story. How a cancer scare reminded me of how short life is, how we all need to pause, move slower, and appreciate more. There is so much beauty in the world; I’m reminded of the line from a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory song (the original, of course): If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it…
Hit With it All
In March of this year, I had an accident in my studio and suffered a concussion. With my body already fragile and sensitive to injury, I found myself reeling from the blow, sick for weeks, the effects felt even now, in December. When you see an ER doctor about a concussion, you’re told there can be personality and emotional changes, as well as headaches or migraines lasting anywhere from 6 months to a year-and-a-half.
I was hit with it all.
I developed panic attacks and anxiety after the concussion, things so foreign to me, I had no idea what was going on until a friend, who lives with them, pulled me aside and said, “Samie, are you okay? You were just having a panic attack!”
It can feel like I’m no longer in control of my thoughts, that something or someone else is thinking and speaking for me, and the simplest things can cause a cold sweat and racing heart. I was completely unprepared for dealing with them, and was often swept away in the crushing waves of anxiety, confused and scared. The only thing there for me, when things became difficult, other than the support of friends and family, was my art.
Details of Panic
It changed, again. I started drawing, focusing on the technical details of shading, of drawing eyes and faces and the pouty lips of girls’ faces. I remember one night, my heart racing, those waves threatening to hit the shore, when I simply drew. Pulled out my set of watercolor crayons and focused so intently on drawing and coloring that there wasn’t any room for a panic attack to grow.
When the migraines hit when on vacation at Roben-Marie Smith’s home in Florida, I curled up in a chair in her living room and dove into my journal, drawing and coloring (and watching a favorite film of hers I’d never seen, Pride & Prejudice!) between waves of pain.
Coping with Art Journals
I don’t know how I would have been able to cope without my art and journals. When your mind twists and turns on you, when you don’t know what’s going on, you can find yourself trapped in a dark forest, moonlight the only light to guide your feet. But when art is in your heart, you can soon draw a map to the other side, find your way though, figure out what is going on, what is hiding behind the trees.
Such things can be transformative experiences. I’m not saying they’re easy - in fact, they’re downright scary - but they can, with enough hindsight and attention, show you new truths about yourself.
Thankfully, my anxiety has subsided, the panic attacks occurring less and less. I can look through those pages and at those paintings created to help me cope and see new shades of myself, once-strangers now friends close to my heart. I can’t say I’m happy for all that has happened this year, but I can say I’m stronger for it, and more rooted in my artistic practices, saved, over and over, by art.
Samantha Kira Harding is an artist, writer, and blogger who lives in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more about Samantha Kira, visit her at journalgirl.com.