"Stuck in the Abyss"
About the Artist
Who is Julia Ana Swettenham and what drives my art.
I am a 23 year old female born and raised in Benoni, Johannesburg. I have always been a creative child growing up, and throughout my life I have always been interested in painting and drawing but I struggled to find a style or art form that truly resonated with me. Growing up I was an incredibly introverted, shy child. I was always on the sidelines avoiding the spotlight, but I always strived to be the best at anything I did. I put so much pressure on myself to perform that I created this stigma in my head that I was not worth much if I was not the best.
This stigma followed me into my adult years, where I felt very little worth and that my presence had no real impact on anyone. I struggled with my purpose and my place in this world. When I left high school I moved away from all my comforts and safety of my hometown. Entering a new chapter of my life completely alone, and in this loneliness I found my voice through art. I started using water colours to paint portraits that really depicted how I was feeling at the time. So shocked with how dark and lonely they seemed I kept them to myself.
In my first year of going to university I studied Architecture, a degree all parents would be proud to tell their friends about. I wanted so badly to love it because I thought then I could make everyone proud of me, I thought I could finally be something special. Unfortunately, it was not for me. I left Architecture to study Interior Design the following year.
My first year of university was one of my darkest places that brought me the most trauma that I still cannot face. I worked at Hooters as a waitress whilst finishing off my first year of Architecture. I had it all, a good job where I made a lot of money, a large amount of friends with whom I partied almost every night as we strived to have the most perfect university experience. But yet, I was the most unhappy I have ever been. I felt lonely in a room full of people, smiling so no one would think I was weak. I had this crazy idea that being open about a bad mental state meant that you were weak and incapable of dealing with your bad days. My biggest fear was to be seen as weak.
I turned to love and affection to fill the voids inside of me, not realizing that in doing this I was setting myself up for so much hurt and betrayal. I looked to the opposite sex for approval of myself and I drove myself to a very dark and lonely space, and of course led myself into situations that still haunt me. I did not love myself or my appearance and I did not think I was deserving of love, until I met someone who loved me so deeply that he taught me how to love myself.
This person came into my life so quickly that I jumped into love with him. He mended all my broken pieces and pushed me to break down walls I have had up since I can remember. He pushed me to always be greater, to stand tall and to be brave. I loved this person so much I ended up losing who I truly was. I morphed into a ‘girlfriend’. That was my sole purpose and I struggled to be without this person as I felt weak and insecure and alone when they were not around.
Until…until I walked away from my first true love, I did not know what true self-discovery meant. I have learnt that friends and family are important to have, to be there to calm you down from your panic attack, or to pick you up off the floor, but I am the one who needs to stand up. I need to learn to be comfortable alone with my own thoughts.
I need to love Julia for all that she is and know that she is NOT broken.
My journey with my mental health has only just begun. I am still learning to love myself through the process but to also accept myself more. I am still struggling to accept the fact that it is okay to make decisions that solely benefit me and my life. I have cut out people who I leaned on for love, support and validation, and for the first time I need to give all of that to myself. I am learning to be uncomfortable with my pain, to not ignore it and hope it will go away.
Everyday is a different battle I still face; some days I am positive and full of light and other days I am numb and consumed by my own darkness, but I no longer run from my dark days. Instead I feel them wholly, I let it be a part of me and I paint it out. I have learnt that my emotions are my most powerful asset, and even though I am not okay I know that I am not alone and that hopefully the work I create can help someone else.
For the first time, I back me.
I comfort me, I am my own best friend and protector because I finally know my worth. I am healing and I am growing into everything I know I deserve to be.