Art Show Anxiety – Past Wins, Future Failures? Am I Good Enough?

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Ok, so this past year I placed and won an award in a pretty prestigious art competition. One of those fancy ones where you have to pay hundreds of dollars to even go to the art show and sale, and the auction bids can get pretty crazy. It was for charity though, so I didn’t mind the high price stuff related to it. This was definitely the most “high-brow” art show I have been a part of.

Now they have announced that the first year’s show was such a success that they are doing the competition for 2020 too. I plan to enter and am excited about it, but also really nervous and filled with self doubt. I keep feeling like if I don’t place at all next year or at least place as high as I did this year that I will somehow be failing.

I tell myself this is ridiculous. There are so many talented artists out there and if I don’t place again it won’t mean that I am less talented, it will only mean that they preferred someone else’s take on the contest subject matter. Also, I want other artists to feel the happiness I felt when I found out I had been selected as a winner. I don’t want to be selfish.

I know deep down this is probably about my perfectionistic streak and low self-esteem. Part of me feels like it was just a lucky fluke to be recognized by the “elite” art world at all. I wish I could not put this unnecessary pressure on myself. I know it isn’t healthy or helpful. Any suggestions for how to let go of the fear of failure?

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Mixed State or Hell?

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The past few days have not been the greatest. I’ve been both super anxious and fairly depressed. I guess it is probably what most people would call a mixed state in the bipolar community. I feel on edge all the time. My brain is constantly telling me something is wrong and that I need to fix it, but I don’t know what it is. The depression is telling me that I am worthless, no one really likes me anyway, and everything I do is pointless.

The depression is making me feel never good enough. It is times like these that no matter what I achieved, I would probably still feel a failure. If I suddenly won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry or had my art showcased at the Louvre, I would still find fault with it and myself in this particular mood. It is a hellish feeling.

This depression is interlaced with anxiety that pushes me to want to achieve, achieve, achieve right now, but in this state I am so all over the place that it is hard to concentrate on anything for long. Not to mention that the depression makes me feel like it is all futile anyhow, even as my whirling mind is telling me that I’m not trying hard enough.

All of this is heightening my chronic pain. I hurt so bad deep in my muscles, I feel like I have been tortured on the medieval rack.

Spiral of Anxiety and Fear

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I am feeling so incredibly stressed about my upcoming SSDI hearing and everything related to it. It has become an obsessive thought pattern that I can’t get out of. This always happens when something I am super nervous or scared about is looming on the horizon. My mind is a circular track of “what ifs”, incessant thoughts about things I need to do, fears that I will make a mistake and blow my last chance for SSDI benefits, and fear that if I fail and am denied again, it will once again send me into a suicidal spiral of feeling worthless, disbelieved, and like I will forever be a burden to society and those I love.

Tomorrow I have to ask my psychologist to fill out a RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) form for the hearing. I think she will be open to it and want to help, but I am still anxious about asking and scared of rejection. I have to ask my primary care physician to fill out a similar form when I see her next week, and am even more nervous about that because I know she is often rushed and I don’t want to be an inconvenience or annoy anyone by making demands.

As you can see, I struggle greatly with asking anyone to do anything for me. I’m not sure if it is just my lousy self-esteem or what, but I always feel like anything I need is an imposition on someone else. Maybe the result of being raised by a narcissistic parent? Growing up, I often was made to feel like anything I needed (emotionally or physically) was selfish and inconvenient to those around me. To this day, I struggle with feeling like I am actually entitled to anything – even basic human respect.

I think my fear of being disbelieved about my disabilities also stems from the fact that when I first started getting really sick, even my own husband and family didn’t believe me. My husband came around first, when he saw how much I truly was suffering every day and how even the things I loved most were being ripped away from me. He has even apologized for his initial doubts. Some of my family (including in-laws) still make me feel invalidated, but I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t do much about that.

Feeling Low After Lawyer Visit

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Today has been a rough day 😦 I had to get up early to go to an appointment with my lawyer to talk about my upcoming SSDI hearing in February. I woke up feeling exhausted, achy, and sick to begin with, my stomach and digestive system freaking out from the anxiety of the change in routine as they always do.

The meeting went ok, I suppose. The lawyer seems really nice and genuine, but the whole thing depressed me. For one thing, it isn’t easy to have everything that is wrong with you physically and mentally just laid out on the table for everyone to see. It isn’t fun facing the reality of my own limitations and self-perceived flaws. I know I can’t help having mental and physical issues, but it SUCKS to have to dwell on them and think about them more than I already do normally.

The lawyer wants me to try to get my doctors to fill out some forms to take to the hearing and that gives me high anxiety. I hate having to ask anyone to do anything, it is just the way I am. I have a deep fear of rejection. What if they say “no” when I ask them to fill out the forms? Then I will feel even lower than I already do. I know my doctors are caring people who try to help me and they will probably be more than willing to help, but my brain just can’t shut off the “what ifs”.

I came home from the lawyer visit, cried for a little bit, then crashed for a few hours in bed. I still feel like absolute crud, but am trying to get back into my normal routine. I am desperately in need of some self-love and comfort right now, but that isn’t easy for me to do.

Does Any of It Matter?

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Do you ever wonder if it all matters? I sure do. I try to be positive most of the time when I think about the things I do and whether they make a difference, but when I get depressed, the voices of doubt tend to get louder. They say some pretty mean things:

Are you just wasting your time writing and making art? Who really cares?

Why would anyone care what you have to say? Who do you think you are?

You try to support others, but do they even notice? Does it even help them?

You only focus so much on art and writing because you can’t keep a REAL job. 

Your own family never cared that much about you, why would anyone else?

If you died today, barely anyone would notice or care. Your funeral would be empty. 

You are selfish and everyone sees through you. 

You are a drain on your husband and society in general. 

I know these are very negative (some would even say abusive) thoughts, but when I am feeling low, they play in my head like a stuck record. By writing them out, I am hoping they will finally shut the hell up. Do any of these thoughts (or similar ones) ever haunt you?

 

Who Do I Want to Be as an Artist?

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Today I was inspired by a blog post from Judith over at Artistcoveries, in which she asks the question – Who do I want to be as an artist? I love thinking about stuff like this, so I wrote the question down in my journal and brainstormed my own answers. Here is what I came up with:

Who do I want to be as an artist?

  • Unafraid to experiment
  • Unafraid to offend
  • Unafraid of mockery
  • Confident in my creative abilities
  • Willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my art
  • Use the materials I love, not feeling forced to use what is considered artistically “professional”
  • Confident enough to charge what my art is worth (probably one of the hardest parts of being an artist in my opinion)
  • I want to be loved and respected by other artists and art lovers, especially those in the autism, bipolar, and outsider art worlds
  • I want to create what I like
  • Overcome my fear of doing in-person art events (currently hindered by my crippling social anxiety)
  • Monetarily successful enough to rely on my art for my general income

Do you relate to any of these wishes? Who do you want to be as an artist?

A Bipolar Self Image

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Just like with my thoughts and feelings, my self image changes so wildly with my mood. A good example of this is my view of my looks and/or attractiveness. Most days I think I look average when I look in a mirror. I’m not delusional, thinking I am some kind of supermodel or show-stopping beauty, but I also don’t feel like I am a troll or a goblin.

Once in a while, when I am slightly or fully hypomanic, I look in the mirror and think I am beautiful. I will never be gorgeous in the artificial Hollywood kind of way, but when my mood is just right I can see a kind of classic or wholesome beauty in myself that I like.

But then there are days, like one I had recently, when I feel as if I am sitting in the rock bottom level of despair and gloom. On days like these, I may accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror (because I wouldn’t intentionally look), and upon viewing my reflection, I feel down to my very soul that I must be the ugliest thing in existence.

Bipolar and other mood disorders can skew our view of reality so much, sometimes I feel like I am living in different realities from day to day. Today isn’t too good, but it ain’t too bad either, so I guess average wins out again.

I Refuse to Be a Social Media Doormat!

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Yesterday I had to make a choice to unfriend someone on Facebook, a choice that I hate to have to make, but am finding more necessary as time goes on. The person I ended up unfriending was an editor and small publisher I had worked with in the past, so there was a little bit of sadness at the loss of a professional relationship as well as a personal one, but to tell the truth, this person had always come across as rude, selfish, and impatient…so have I really lost all that much?

As I am getting older, I am just getting to the point that I am tired of being the kindly doormat that lets others walk all over me because I have a desperate desire to please everyone. I don’t at all mind people who have different opinions and beliefs than I do, in fact, I hope we can learn from one another, but when someone repeatedly shows a clear cruel streak and lack of empathy or compassion for others who are suffering greatly, it pisses me off. I also find it extremely hypocritical when someone throws a fit every time someone criticizes their viewpoint, but they refuse to even listen to any other point of view but their own, even going out of their way to silence any reasonable objection.

Sometimes I think that maybe all the therapy is helping me, because at one time I would have stressed greatly over unfriending someone because I would feel bad about it. But this time, I honestly only feel relief that I won’t have to be a witness to the negativity and mean-spirited vitriol anymore.