Removing the Cause of Depression - My Interpretation of "Revelation"
In this post, I'll give you my interpretation of my painting "Revelation". The main theme is removing the cause of depression. It is based on my experience of depression and I'm aware that taking away the root cause of depression is not always possible. Luckily for me, I was able to do this and the effects have been stunning.
They work from 9 to 3, play with plasticine all day, and get loads of holidays. They've got it so cushy.
This is a commonly held view, perpetuated by the media. Even I partially believed it when I first went into teaching. And I was so wrong.
I worked at a school in a socially deprived area and we had the problem that in general, the children came into school at a very low level. Yet we were supposed to get them to the same level in eight years as children from a leafy suburb school in a wealthy part of the country. So we had to get our children to make a lot more progress than other schools. This meant a lot of work.
My typical day would involve getting to school at about 7:30 am. I'd then work until the children arrived. At playtime, some kind person would make me a cup of tea and I would get ready for the next lesson. The dinner hour consisted of getting ready for the afternoon and doing other work. If I was lucky I'd eat my dinner as I worked. If I was snowed under with work, I'd leave my sandwiches until about 5 pm. This happened more often than I would have liked. The children left at 3:15 pm and then I carried on working until the caretaker locked up the school and threw me out at 6 pm. I'd drive home, grab some tea, and then work until about 9 or 10 pm, planning, assessing, and doing other fun tasks. At the weekend, one day was for work, and the other day I had a break. My break generally consisted of walking around town buying resources for school for the next week. I wasn't the only teacher with this lifestyle either, not by a long stretch.
The holidays weren't great either. They were a mixture of collapsing from exhaustion, doing some more work, and then getting stressed thinking about going back to school.
The stress and pressure put on us by Ofsted and the local authority were intense. It's funny, but at the time I didn't realise quite how bad it was.
I loved working with children. All of the children I taught were fantastic. But there came a point where I burnt out. I'd kept up that pace for eighteen years and I couldn't do anymore. Coupled with that I was suffering from severe depression. I didn't realise the two things were linked.
So I left. I left with no other job to go to. I planned to do supply teaching for a little while and then change careers. This plan worked out pretty well. I didn't enjoy supply teaching at all and I was glad to get out of it. I eventually started work at a garden centre supporting adults with learning difficulties. We went out and cut people's lawns in the community and did other garden-related jobs. We would often have to do garden clearances that involved turning up at a house that had more of a bramble encrusted jungle than a garden. We'd spend one to two days cutting everything down and getting the garden back under control. It was a rewarding job.
I got paid a lot less and got very few holidays.
And yet it felt like I got paid more and my holidays felt endless.
When I was teaching, I never had time to enjoy the money I had. It was a waste having it.
When I was gardening for a job, I had time to enjoy my money, time to go out and do enjoyable things. If I had a week off, my holiday would start as soon as I left work on the Friday night. I didn't have to spend two days lying down on the settee exhausted and then another couple of days forgetting about all the other stresses of school before I could relax. All of my time off was a holiday. When I got to the end of it, on the Sunday night, I was quite happy to go back. I felt properly rested.
It was if a new world had opened up. New possibilities. This was how life could be. I decided I would never go back to teaching. I was now able to live.
My depression gradually lifted after I left teaching. It took a while but it eventually disappeared. Eight years later and I haven't had another episode of depression. Bear in mind that I was depressed every single year from being about 17. Sometimes these episodes would last for a month or so and sometimes they would last for a year or more. The last time I was depressed it lasted for nearly two years and it was severe. And now - nothing. Gone.
I didn't realise the effect that teaching was having on me. It was sheer luck that I found the solution to the problem. I can't say that it was easy giving up my wage and the respect I'd earned as a teacher, but I'm so glad I did it.
I have less money but more time, and I am a lot happier.
If you too are suffering from depression it is worth thinking about whether there is a root cause, something that can be removed. I know that this won't always be possible. Everyone's situation is different. I know I'm lucky. But if it does apply to you, it is well worth thinking seriously about. If you can't remove the source, it can still be beneficial to recognise and acknowledge it. Naming the source can take away some of its power. You may be able to manage or reduce the effects in a different way. Even minor changes can help.
My painting "Revelation" shows how I felt about leaving teaching and ridding myself of depression.
The main two elements I wanted to throw into the mix were Super Mario Galaxy and dark rides at theme parks. Exploration, discovery, joy, awe, and wonder were going to be front and centre too.
Imagine opening up a new game. You take off the shrink wrap, pop the disc in the console and wait for it to start up. A whole new world of possibilities opens up. You explore the landscape and find amazing things that cause you to grin and clap childishly. Everything is new and exciting.
If you're not into games then imagine getting on to a dark ride at a theme park, something like Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean or The River Caves at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. All of those same feelings apply. The sense of childlike wonder is palpable.
Not into theme parks? Erm... you may have to imagine something else that gives you those feelings. I apologise for making you do the work on this one.
These feelings were exactly the feelings I had when I left teaching. In the painting the little miner robots are using their picks to cut away all of that "gunk", for want of a better word, revealing something far better underneath. Yes, the "gunk" represents teaching for me but in a general sense, it is whatever is causing depression in someone.
When I start a new painting I always begin with a phase of free association. For more information on this, watch the video below.
The two main words that came up for this phase for this painting were "time" and "peace". From this, I decided to represent "time" by movement and "peace" by stillness. So I thought about something that is both moving and still. Planets were the obvious answer. They are moving at incredible speeds through space and yet to someone on the planet they feel very still and stable.
Two other words that interested me were "parabolic" and "guillotine". I don't know how they came into my head, but I used them nonetheless. I used a parabolic shape for the robot and the guillotine idea was incorporated into the backpack.
Psychologists would probably have a field day with this but I think that the curved shape is quite a peaceful shape and the guillotine represents the severing of me from the cause of my depression.
Spirals and vicious circles seem to appear in my work very often, I am painting about depression after all, and there is a sneaky little spiral in this painting too. The black tube that wraps around the robot is a spiral. They always get in there somewhere!
That's my interpretation of this painting. You may read it in a very different way. If so, I'd love to hear what your interpretation is in the comments section below.
Normally we associate money with happiness and joy. In this painting, I wanted to show that the opposite can also be true. I gave up money and status and became so much happier. The problem for me was that the money and status came with an unhealthy amount of stress and pressure. Leaving my job lead to me being depression free for eight years, something that I would never have believed possible. Sometimes I can feel it coming back but I generally only have a day or two of feeling down and then I'm back to normal. Luckily for me, I was in a position to be able to leave my job and discover this fantastic new world that's full of possibilities. Maybe you're in this situation too. Maybe it's worth giving some thought to removing the cause of the depression. Bear in mind that there are no guarantees but maybe this could work for you too and end up being a revelation.