Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Depressed" (self-portrait)

Mixed media on watercolor paper - 8" x 10"

"Depression is my lover.....

I've known it intimately since I was a child.
It whispers damaging words that linger in my head.
It holds me down hard and at times won't let me up."

I've suffered with depression for most of my life, with suicidal thoughts as early as 7th grade, if not sooner.

Sometimes I regret not acting on those thoughts back then because things would've been much simpler if I had died as a child. I would've saved myself a lot of fear and pain and despair.

The depression has been with me for so long, literally decades, that it now feels least normal for me. Or maybe I lowered my standard of living and just accepted that I'll always feel this way.

Close-up detail

"Depression is my lover.....

It's persistent and waits for me patiently.
It takes me in its open arms and kisses me and smiles when I cry.
It forces me to dance with it at any given time, day or night."

It's like death came long ago and I've just been existing ever since. No purpose. No meaning. No direction. A shell of a man crumbling away piece by piece.

How can I think long-term anymore when at times I barely make it through the week, let alone the day?

Am I prolonging the agony for nothing? What's the incentive to keep going if I'm always feeling like this? At this point will things get much better?

Close-up detail

"Depression is my lover.....

It is of a jealous nature and quick to drive away joy.
It rips me apart and slowly kills me from the inside out.
It loves to separate me from my dreams and goals."

Feeling lifeless, lost, numb, and stuck. A lack of desire and a fatigue so great I sometimes struggle just getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, or making something to eat. All I can really do is sit with the deep sadness and wait for it to lessen in severity.

And then a glimmer of happiness comes along. I start feeling better, having a good day. Thinking maybe things are finally picking up when suddenly the depression comes back with a vengeance. And once again....all hope is lost.

The same damn cycle for years and years and years.

I can't seem to escape it and fear I never will. Depression is my lover and it won't let me be.


Anonymous said...

Man, I totally get that. The portrait looks great though. Do you have any positive support though? Something to break the chain of negativity and fear. I'm just worried because I suffer from seasonal depression and it's never easy (as I'm starting to feel it's affects at this time). Hope things start to pick up.

martha miller said...

dean, there is so much help and support out there for depression!!! have you seen a therapsit or a doctor? i'm in recovery from panic disorder, another dabilitating mental illness. i've had to get TONS of outside help for this!!!
this is a FABULOUS self-portrait! it is highly theraputic to put your darkness on the page. have you read eckhart tolle's book, the power of now? if not, i encourage you to do so. he speaks of "the pain body" and the ego's attachment to pain and drama. good stuff. i'm glad that you can blog about this - bravo!!! hey, send me your address and i'll send you some mail art! xox

Anonymous said...

Im many thoughts rambling around in my head...wanting to encourage you, but understanding all to well the feelings you write of...the pain in your eyes all to familur...your words, beautiful and tragic all at many lines describing me, my life as well...the pain in your eyes haunting...Im sorry, I ramble on...I will say a prayer for you today...

Pilgrim said...

Now it looks a bit like Hitler after being liberated in Buchenwald. :-p Propz Pilgrim

Unknown said...

Wow! This is so powerful SO powerful! I can so relate to the pain, despair and being on the edge of that dark abyss wondering if it would be easier to let myself plummet into the cold dark unknown or trudge on through the biting cold world.

It's work to keep depression at bay. It's easier to fight with friends for one thing Dean. (hugs)

Anonymous said...

I wish I had words of comfort for you, Dean. I wish I could heal you and make you completely whole. And I wish I could banish the depression forever from your life.

I struggle with the same thing, though, and so far as I can tell, there's no way "out." Sometimes we can learn to live with it, tolerate it at times, but it's still always there. I wish there were a cure for us.

Dean Grey said...


Positive support?

Hmmm, not in an immediate way I'm afraid.

I'm sorry to hear you suffer from depression as well. Mine is year-round though and not just during the winter months.



I have NOT seen a therapist or doctor....yet! I don't know that I'm ready for that step.

Believe it or not, another blogger suggested I read Tolle's book a while back.

I'm glad you think my self-portrait is FABULOUS. I'm pleased with it myself!

I also recall reading about your own anxiety issues on your blog in the past. It's nice to know I'm not alone.



It's a very personal post so don't apologize for "rambling". It's a heavy topic and hard to digest.



I like the way this portrait turned out. Is your comment good or bad?

My goal was for the painting to be dark, moody, and a bit twisted. Do you think I achieved that?

Just wondering.



You're right! It's definitely work to keep the depression at bay.

I think this latest self-portrait is powerful as well!



I wish there was a true cure for depression too.

As you mentioned, we just have to learn to live with it and tolerate it as best we can.

Hang in there, James!


Thanks to all of you for the thoughtful comments!


pathetic prophet said...

Oh, I remember the days!!! The horrors of not knowing hope, the reckless spiral of all desire, the end of affirmation. But for me now it's a memory, something that only exists in momentary flashes. Now I can say I'm depressed and know it will end before the day does. How did I get there. Hard work, a couple of friends and God. When I started to open up to what God feels, thinks and says about me I began to see myself in a different light and was able to work my way out of an impossible situation. It took time, it took effort, but it worked. Talk to me. benedicktus@gmail. Write and I'll give you my phone number. or give me yours and I'll call you.

Dean Grey said...

pathetic prophet!

But does your depression now come in momentary flashes because of God or simply because of age?

Maybe as you got older things worked themselves out?

I appreciate your advice but I'm not the most religious person. Opening up to God is easier said than done.

I hope I can reach the same point you have in life!



jason said...

Sheesh...I hope it gets bettter for you.
I struggle with depression too. It seems like an epidemic, doesn't it? Everyone seems to have a story.

I recently did the unthinkable (to me) and had Lexapro prescribed to me....and I think it helped a bit. Nothing miraculous, but it did help a bit.

It's good that you're able, it seems, to channel it creatively in your art, though. I love the ivy twining across your face there!

Tracey Clarke said...

Dean, dear friend, we have all watched you struggle with this repeatedly on your blog. Many people can relate (inluding me) and have offered very powerful and crucial steps you can take to change. I hope you look back over each posts comments and begin to make steps toward healing. Chronic depression does not just go away or magically get better. You have to do the hard work to create a better life. I really want to urge you to find a good counselor and consider the necessity of medication. Your brain is an organ and can be sick just like your heart or lungs can. I can say meds, along with good counseling, saved my life.
Step on out there and do something different..get good and pissed off about how much of your life has been stolen by this....

Love the beautiful portrait....

Susan Beauchemin said...

Whoa Dean--Your self portrait is gripping!--those luminous moths! I love this! I hope by drawing this and writing, it can help with your depression, but I do agree with my sister. There is help--it does seem like you're reaching out and just posting this is a very brave act! I hope the best for you--you don't have to feel this way all the time--make a phone call--get some info--just a little bit a day--nothing major--one little step.

Dean Grey said...


I'm glad medication has helped you a bit. Maybe in time I will get there too.



Thank you for the wise words. I know you have a firsthand "been there, done that" experience in this case.

Your suggestion to step out and do something different is a good one. I think that's a smart place to start.



I'm glad you like my self-portrait! It does help me by finally representing the depression in a visual way.

I think you are right. I have to take it a little step at a time.


Thanks to the three of you for the kind advice!!


Alvin Richard said...

The transformation from the initial painting to what it has become is mind bogglingly astonishing, and I suspect that if you seek help with a therapist and all that is out there and available to you, the same transformation will occur inside you.

Your artwork is a cry for help. If you are able to so eloquently say all of this in this kind of forum, you have the ability to take the next step and completely change your life.

AndyDrewby said...

He sucks me dry
A withered husk
I am but a simple see through ghost of what I want to be,
my life shrinks around me as I turn away,
how can something so hateful court me so carefully
something so careless cover every base,
if this is a dance I am sure of the steps but have no skill in the execution of them,
no luck in the placement of my feet,
my partner courts me with the promise of sweet release,
he stabs me with cruel truth,
reality is mine to grasp but I can not reach,
as the dance continues my weariness grows and I long for some release and I pray that god can make it sweet or bring me peace

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

Beautiful, well done piece, Dean. There's a LOT of depression in my extended family, but thankfully I escaped. But I see the iron vise that holds people into it - the people who 'beat it' best tend to have good therapists. Not an easy thing. Especially if $$ is an issue, I know. DO real Eric Tolle's book. It's in the library. And every day do something kind (which, I'm sure you do already, I can tell just from your posts) for someone else - not your sick uncle, that's more of a caregiving thing, good to do, but not the same. I have faith in you, Dean.

Dean Grey said...


Thanks for the reassurance!

I like your idea of being able to change and grow just like the self-portrait did.



Beautiful words from you!



I'm glad you like the painting!

I will keep your suggestions in mind. And it's nice to know you have faith in me!


I appreciate the supportive comments from you three!


LeAnn Whitacre said...

I'm praying for you, Dean. I'm asking God to send you a few moments of peace and sunshine into your life each day...look for it.

Dean Grey said...


Thank you so much for the prayers and for thinking of me!

I'll definitely be looking for it!


amar said...


What a potent self-portrait. You've done an amazing job!

My eyes welled up with tears as I studied the details of this piece. You have managed to artistically express exactly how I feel, how I have always felt, since I was a young child.

I wrote and recorded a song called "Deep In Blue". It's about depression and my life-long daily struggle of trying to find my way out. Depression has become my lover, too.

I hope you don't think about death as an escape from depression. We have no way of knowing what happens when we die. I'm afraid that if I lose the battle and take my own life that I would end up in a permanent state of misery.

Stay connected to the outside world. Keep expressing yourself through art and writing. And hopefully someday you will break the depression loop.

May you find butterflies of light to dispel the darkness of your world.

All my best,

stanw said...

The self-portrait I like although I admit it scared me when I first saw it. Guess that testifies to the fact that you have depicted your depression accurately, as you see it. I hope and pray as you continue to look at it that you will do anything to rise above it.

I think I can say from what I have read in the comments that we love you a lot Dean and wish you the best. Please live, really live. I'm saying this because I know where I have been and don't want to be there anymore. It felt like a pit I couldn't dig my way out of. God, our Father, loves you so much, don't be afraid to trust Him.

Cheering for you. Better days are ahead.

Dean Grey said...


Sometimes I do think of death as a sort of release from all of the sadness. I understand why you think differently.

I'm sorry to hear you suffer from depression as well. I'd like to hear you song sometime!

I think your suggestion to stay connected to the outside world is a good one. Often when I'm feeling down, I withdraw from everything around me.

All my best to you as well, Amar!



The self-portrait scared me a bit too and I'm the one that created it!

It's easier said than done to put your faith and trust in Him. I will try though.

I hope you are right about better days being ahead!


Thanks to the both of you, gentlemen!


Ekanthapadhikan said...

Dean, my dearest friend, how close I've been to what you're talking about. But just like a miracle, I woke up one fine morning and saw the whole world to be different. What really happened was that I really started accepting pain and agony as a part of life. And mind you, it's not the defeatist way of saying we have to accept it and so we did. This is something better. I started looking around, started looking into the lives of people around me and by people I mean, people who live their daily lives in misery and are still all buckled up to celebrate an Easter or an X'mas and with all their hearts. They have a million pains all bottled up in their hearts and yet they smile at me as if they're the happiest souls in this world. This was amazing! How could they do it? And I found out the answer after much speculations and cross examinations - they've too little time to dwell in their pains when they have to spend every second to fight for their bread! And then I asked this question to me-self - I'm much fortunate than them in having not to struggle for my three times square meal and yet I'm sad, depressed and always dwelling on one thing or the other. And then I said to me-self - What the f#$k are you doing? You damn little brat you've lived for 26 years in this planet and you might live for another 30 or 40 years more. And that means, you've almost lived half your life and all that you did till now was cry, cry and cry and for what? It's time you made up for your lost times. You've too little time left, for all you know!

And then I read this on the wall on my way to the office - "Shit happens in life and this time it has happened to me. Why bother anyways? The trees are still green and the sky is as blue as ever. So, why not make some hay while the sun still shines?".

It was some mad hatter who scribbled that on the wall but I found it to be very profound. Tell me what you feel about that? And yes, as someone has already mentioned, there's always help. But mind you, you can be helped only when you're ready to accept that help.

Ok. Enough of this. But my heart really goes out for you in prayers. Feel good dear one, you don't have much time left in here as you think. Before you know it, you'll be on your most desired journey. But be sure that you don't have anything to regret or hold you back to this world when you finally set off. Else it's going to be terrible! Arguments apart, believes apart, faiths apart, no one has ever proved that there isn't a life after death!

And thanks a lot for visiting my blog!

Ekanthapadhikan said...

By the way, that painting is awesome. It's very captivating!

Dean Grey said...


Wow, your words made me pause for a bit.

You've obviously traveled a bit and have seen much more than I. I guess that could be part of my problem. I'm living in my own little world when I what I really need to do is experience all this world has to offer.

Thanks for reaffirming that thought!

Your comments are inspiring and I hope I can get to the point you have reached in life.

I'm glad you like the painting as well!

Thanks for stopping by, E!


Carol Nelson said...

Dean, You always have such lovely, insightful observations about my work. I wish I had words to say to you about your inner torment.
Is it somewhat of a comfort that you have so many virtual friends who are empathetic?

Dean Grey said...


Sometimes just showing up is equally as important as having words to say.

It is definitely comforting knowing the Blogger community is so supportive.

I appreciate it!


melanie said...

Hi Dean, i just wanted to say I think your portrait expresses the feeling you write about in a very honest and haunting way. I hope this comment finds you feeling loved and supported in your life. I think it's very brave to acknowledge all that and too share it.You have so many wonderful people cheering for you and offering their wisdom and love. That's so very special, hold onto that!
I empathise with you, i really do.
I know what it is like to feel so empty of life and so full of misery at the same time and i too write about's all there in my earliest blogging.
My art and my ability to express what feels so unexpressable has many times been my saving grace. I wish you peace in your heart and soul and peace in your mind. I hope the sun shines in your life and upon you!

Dean Grey said...


I'm sorry to hear that you can relate to the depression.

Were would we be without our artwork, right? It's one of the few healthy ways I can express myself. I'm sure you'd agree on that.

Thank you for the thoughtful comment!


Anonymous said...

Lovely artwork. Do you mind letting me know what you used for the black? Ink?

As for depression, I wish you well. I believe that you shouldn't have to just tolerate it, at least not until you've exhausted all treatment options. I think therapy would be a great step when you are ready for it. It helped me a lot when I needed it. Wishing you good health.

Dean Grey said...


Please scroll down a couple posts to "W.I.P. Self-Portrait - Step 3".

There you'll note I mentioned about inking the face and hands.

The black of the background was pure watercolors but the black on the face, hands, and hair was a basic black ink.

Hope that answers your questions!

And yes, therapy would be a great you said, when I'm ready for it.


Kathleen Coy said...

Hi Dean, this portrait just blows me away. So much pain, so much power, yet I can see hope there too, in the leaves, star and butterflies.

I can't think of any words of wisdom or advice other then whats been said already. I just wanted to let you know I'm thinking of you and sending virtual hugs!

Dean Grey said...


It makes me smile that you think my "Depressed" self-portrait is powerful and not just filled with pain but hope as well.

I appreciate the virtual hugs!!


Fábio Cembranelli said...

Hum..depressed or not..your self portrait is truly awesome. So powerful, it's hard to believe you feel depressed here...!

Julia Kulish said...

Hi Dean -
I just happened to come across your blog and loved your self portrait. It is very haunting. As many others have said, your words are beautiful. I am so sorry that you struggle with depression as you do. As a young teenager I too was under such a blacnket of oppression it felt as if I would sufficate. I know you said you are not a very religous person. I understand that. I wont attempt to be pushy. For me, beginning to know who God is set me free for that oppression. I will sincerely keep you in my prayers. Please know this -
"The Lord is near to the broken hearted, He will save those with a crushed spirit." Ps. 34:18.
Thank you for sharing your art - it is really something

Dean Grey said...


Thanks so much for the compliments on my self-portrait!



I'm glad you found me!

It's not that I'm not religious, it's just my relationship with God has been very strained for a long time now.

Thanks for the kind words and the psalm!


I appreciate hearing from you two!


Gwen Bell said...

Dean, this SP is painfully beautiful.
So much detail. Love the wings.

As a lifelong, hard to treat Bipolar Depressive, I have these words of wisdom: Get thee to a good psychiatrist and find an Antidepressant that works. It can take time but it's so worth not being a slave to depression. Even on meds, the mood fluctuates but it won't be as severe. Keep trying until you find the one that works for you. After that, make sure you are on a very strict low sugar diet, regular sleep pattern and lots of exercise. If I can be stable, believe me, so can YOU!

Dean Grey said...


The kind words about my self-portrait are very much appreciated.

I'm open to your advice but a psychiatrist would cost a lot of money, correct? And since I'm not working at the moment, well....need I say more?

Now if I can only get around to running again, but that would mean I'd have to exercise! Ugh!


Anonymous said...

Im sorry to read about what youre going through and i know its serious. You have had some very kind words spoken to you and a lot of prayers. I dont have all the answers for you, thats for sure. i know that in my own life, Christ is the only one true thing I have, beyond my wife and kids and family and friends. they all fail me at some point as i do them, but He never does and His Words get me through the day.
I will try to remember you in my prayers.
God bless you man! I mean that. I feel for you. Be strong.

Dean Grey said...


That's so nice of you to say!

I've prayed in the past but lately have stopped because it feels like my prayers are falling on deaf ears.

At times it does feel like He has let me down. I know you feel otherwise.

I greatly appreciate the prayers and the kind words, Joe!


Roland Halbritter said...

... really wonderful drawing ...

.. do mail art and you will never get any further depressions ...

Dean Grey said...


I love doing Mail Art but I don't know if it's a definitive cure for depression, silly!


Bill said...

Did you write the poem or find it somewhere? Between the poem and your portrait, it is an unbelievable accurate portrayal of how horrible depression is. That doesn't sound quite right. Your portrait is incredibly fantastic. Depression is incredibly horrible. I've been on medication for it for 17 years now. My doctors keep changing the medication, but the depression keeps coming back. It is exactly how you describe it. Maybe I should accept it as my lover.

Dean Grey said...


Yes, I wrote the poem myself.

I know firsthand how crippling depression can be.

I'm sorry to hear the medication doesn't seem to be working. Are you seeking counseling as well?

I've heard the two work better together.

Don't accept depression as your lover. That's a form of giving up IMHO. Instead just acknowledge that it's something you'll have to deal with whenever it rears its ugly head.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dean, I am a High School Art student in Australia and I found this piece of work while looking for artworks to analyse to do with 'The Physical Self'. When I saw this painting it blew me away and I knew it was the artwork I wanted to analyse. This is very powerful and expressive, I think the best art comes from the heart and deepest feelings and that is exactly what you have done here. For you to be able to portray your private thoughts in a painting is just amazing. As I am analysing this, I have a few questions which I hope you wouldnt mind answering :) 1. What does the plant on your face represent? Is it ivy? It is a very intruiging part of the art and it was one of the things that caught my attention. 2. If you don't mind, could I please have your birthdate? As it is needed for details for my analylisis.

I hope your struggles with depression have eased since 2009. I am sorry to hear you are going through/have been through such pain for a long time. I know others have commented saying there is help, and I hope one day you will be able to seek it when you are ready if you have not already, you deserve to be happy. You are very talented, not only as an artist but also a poet. I honestly love your work. Congratulations to you. I look forward to hearing your reply. :)

Dean Grey said...


It's always wonderful when people find my older works of art on my blog!

To answer your questions:

The plant growing out of the star-shaped cavity on my forehead is indeed ivy. It represents my love of plants and connection to nature.

As for my birthdate, I was born towards the end of April (I'm a Taurus).

My depression comes and goes, lessens and grows, depending on the situation(s). I do believe I'll always suffer from it in one form or another.

If you have any additional questions, please contact me through my blog e-mail (found under my profile page).

The best of luck with your project!


Anonymous said...

I know this is an older painting, but I just had to let you know that I can relate to you. I am working on my own self portrait and stumbled upon yours while trying to find inspiration, btw. I am an artist working on my MFA. I like your focus on line. I am bipolar, so my sad feelings really come and go :) But when I am plunged deep into depression no optimistic words help me and I don't care if people are thinking of me. Any optimism makes it worse because it contrasts so sharply with my insides. But when the happiness returns it is as though I have been drenched with sunlight and it bleaches all the sadness out of my mind. But there is nothing like that gut wrenching feeling of depression when I have my lows, that impossible shadow that should not be there, cannot be there, in the full on light of day. Ok, I know Americans are supposed to be spoiled, etc., but depression is real and is often a chemical imbalance, if you are super lucky, and can be fixed but then it isn't always that easy. My words of hope that might not help you: You are not alone. While you are wishing you were dead it is pretty likely I am too. p.s. If you get huge mood swings you could be bipolar, just had to say that in case it helps you :)

Dean Grey said...


I'm glad you found me.

Yes, when others say "be positive" or try to have me look on the bright side of things, it actually makes the depression that much worse.

It makes me feel like I must be doing it all wrong and they must be doing it all right. Or at least like they don't understand it.

I don't think I'm bipolar as I don't have many "ups". I'm usually just depressed most of the time but do get highs when I create my art.

And I know I'm not alone even though it feels that way much of the time.

I appreciate you sharing your story with me!

Let me know how your self-portrait turns out once it's finished!