Stuck in the Abyss

Stuck in the Abyss

"Stuck in the Abyss"

(Mixed Media)

All three art pieces are quite different but were not created far apart. My aim is to use my own emotions to show how rocky mental health can be. I have always struggled to express my feelings using words, I have always felt that no one wants to hear my darkest thoughts because everyone has their own darkness to deal with. So I turned to art, my aim for my art is to create a piece using my own raw emotions so that each piece may be interpreted differently for each viewer. I want my art to evoke emotion and make you feel something. The notion of healing trauma you did not know you have. Having to rediscover yourself whilst dealing with your current self is quite a heavy task to carry. Being suffocated by your thoughts, consumed by your pain. Just wanting space to break but not wanting to know how it feels. One day you are on top of the world and the next, the world is on top of you. It is an ever evolving process of being absolutely numb and feeling everything all at once.
Julia Swettenham

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.

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