Hi my name is Evan, I am a hairdresser. And I have depression.
I use to think depression was a terrible thing. In society we want to be perfect, so the idea of having some mental illness is not something you just walk up to someone and talk about.
Think about it: only in the last few decades have people come out about eat disorders or fought back about the predominance of skeletal models on the runway, yet we don't talk as individuals about our problems without the fear of being looked at as insane.
Robin Williams. Alexander McQueen. Kurt Cobain. Vincent Van Gogh. Marilyn Monroe. All with reported mental illness. In January 2016 Benoît Violier, a three-star (unheard of) Michelin chef whose establishment was rated the best in the world, committed suicide while suffering from mental illness.
I feel like it's time to get the conversation going.
It manifested in the salon. I wanted to be as good as the seasoned stylists I observed and I would get really down when I made mistakes. I’m a total perfectionist; I want things to turn out perfect. I beat myself up a lot.
Does this sound familiar? You are not alone.
Many struggle with life; it's society and media that would make you think otherwise, that everyone is perfect and doesn’t struggle. Instagram lets us filter our lives to only the happy moments. Life is more complex these days. And the pressure for perfection is not letting up. Just try to google social media + mental illness and not get scared.
My owner made a suggestion about seeing someone but I shrugged it off. Eventually I did go see someone. When I first heard the real truth about my depression I was pretty floored. I decided to try medicine and look into other ways to help my body.
Here’s three things that have helped me improve my depression.
1. Creating a Support System:
My wife and close friends know about my illness. It’s easy to just want to become introverted and throw a pity party. Letting others who care about you know how you feel helps lift some of the weight off your shoulders.
2. Get Moving:
Studies show even small bursts of exercise can act as effective as an antidepressant. Exercise creates endorphins which improve health, so there’s no downside to going out and shaking it.
3. Eat Healthy:
It’s important to not skip meals and try to avoid fatty foods. By increasing your vitamin b and chromium intake this will help boost your mood. Deficiencies in vitamin b can cause depression so it’s good to keep a handle on it. Chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep.
As artists we are constantly playing off negative and positive space to create our masterpieces. A highlight looks brightest next to a darker level of hair. You can't have one without the other. I would argue even a platinum has an infinitely diverse spectrum of light to dark even in the lightest colors. What I'm getting at is that we need balance in our lives; the stable and the crazy. The social media and being unplugged. The happy and the sad. It's what makes us tick, what makes us great.
I say this again to tell you again that you aren't alone. A couple months ago I found at a thrift store called ‘A first rate madness: uncovering the links between leadership and mental illness’. What I learned from this book is that a lot of successful people struggled with mental illness; Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr: all suffered from depression. I'm sure the illness was hard to bear but I also feel that having such a illness developed a huge amount of empathy for others and their weaknesses. The book claims that the illness actually made them stronger and I agree.
'Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperment' is also a great read. Sometimes it is nice to simply know we are not alone. This book explores the relationship between creation and depression in history's greatest artists, musicians, writers, and leaders. Learning about these leaders has helped me to a little less hard on myself for the burden I bear.
We could all use a little less burden. In January, three-star Michelin chef Beniot Violier committed suicide. His death and the death of Bernard Loiseau in 2003 along with many others has brought mental health into the forefront of the high pressure world of cuisine.
Owning up to depression won't erase mistakes but it does help to be more realistic about the future. I know others struggle and I would wager a lot of artists deal with one thing or another. You may feel broken but I say you have strengths you haven't yet discovered.
The imagery featured about depression comes from 20-year-old Christian Hopkins, who uses photography as a means of coping with his depression. He hopes his images help people who also suffer from mental illness.