Self Portrait of my 20s, street installation 2016 / by padhia hutton


Started out in life with gigantic colorful dreams. Each day, the concrete suit of my body got heavier inside the quicksand that had slowly replaced my atmosphere. Became paralyzed. The angle of the sun was wrong, the light was too sharp. Colors all turned to faded tinges of horror. Diagnosed with depression. Given a shiny colorful pill that would wind up some kind of motor to make my hollow existence want to move again. Make the colors come back out and make me want to play with my dog or some shit. Never really worked like in the commercials, but it sure did numb me enough not to notice how much better I got at lying to myself. Asked time and time again if maybe new neurological pathways had formed and maybe I could heal? Maybe I could show up in my life, the version of myself that existed in heart. One day?  Told it wasn’t about being cured. It was about coping. That’s just a pretty word for suffering. became more and more suicidal, disconnected from my body my dreams, what it means to be human, what it is to feel. Lived in a stagnant thick murky soup of pain. Built a life as an inferior being with a dirty secret. More and more pills they piled on. Slept and slept. Even when awake I slept. Missed so many years. Over a decade.  Held prisoner by shame. Told to accept I had a handicap: a mental illness. From that perspective, there is only one path,  pills and more pills. I escaped that hell, but that’s another story.

From the other side of that giant crevasse of darkness, I have a message for you: Depression is not a mental illness. It’s an operating system. One that can be dismantled and rebuilt to support your soul, instead of cause continual emotional collapse. An operating system that is installed starting very early on in life and worms its way like a virus into every aspect of your psyche. It is formed by distinct identifiable factors  which all translate to one common denominator: complex psychological trauma. Complex, meaning many layers and not so straightforward and perceivable from the surface. Trauma, meaning anything that overwhelms us emotionally to the point where we split and part of us stays frozen in suffering while part of us marches on pretending we are fine. Depression is a thin transparency of the past that overlays the present reality, that you are reacting to emotionally. It informs everything- how you feel about yourself, all of your beliefs, and how you see your place in the the world. It is the intersection of old pain and what the soul wants to experience in this lifetime. In that light, we all fall somewhere on that spectrum to varying degrees. It is part of the human experience. We are all affected by the past, that is what connects us. When you separate out a population and label them, you can never overcome the stigma- people just learn which feelings are not acceptable to show. If you want to reduce stigma, don’t separate out the population to begin with, instead focus on what connects us.
From this point of view that it is an operating system, suddenly some very faint lights come on in really dark places within. A faint roadmap appears. You begin to realize you have things to work on, places within that can heal and questions to ask yourself, and the journey of your life becomes seeking the answers. The journey becomes healing and seeking freedom.  That is what hope feels like. Tiny twinkles in suffocating darkness. That is what having something to live for feels like.