Pouring Trauma Into Art

My wife watches a lot of TV. Not bad TV – proper shows like The Sinner, and Prodigal Son (a lot of crime dramas, actually). I don’t; and not because I don’t like TV. I watch a lot of bad TV – mostly reruns of Family Guy and South Park. But it’s just a huge commitment for me to start watching a show that asks me to get invested in the characters. I was also burned badly by Lost and Heroes, so I tend to just avoid TV altogether unless it’s something I can mindlessly zone out to.

But my wife loves getting invested in shows and characters, and particularly loves British TV dramas; I think they tend to be more realistic and showcase the human nature side of things more than most US television. One show she’s been particularly into recently is No Offence, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek police procedural set in Manchester. At one point whilst Googling the show during its playback (I was in the room and partially paying attention), I mentioned that the show’s creator and screenwriter had also worked on another renowned British show, Cracker, known for its realistic and often dark portrayal of police work and criminal psychology, and for its deeply flawed and broken characters.

What struck me, though, was that in researching this writer, Paul Abbott, I discovered that he himself suffered from an abusive and broken past. Amongst other things his mother and father both left them, leaving his pregnant seventeen-year-old sister to raise the family; he was raped when he was thirteen, ended up trying to kill himself, and was ultimately admitted to a mental hospital.

They say write what you know, and in Abbott’s case this certainly seems to hold true. Not necessarily the police part, although I’m sure he had plenty of exposure to the legal system growing up, but the repeated traumas of his youth.

I think many authors look for ways to express their pain through their work, and the same holds true of artists, and generally creators of all kinds. It can be a kind of catharsis, a way of exorcising demons that would otherwise take hold and control our lives. When I listen to Korn’s Jonathan Davis’ solo album Black Labyrinth, I’m struck by how personal the album is; whether he’s hinting at things or outright stating “I deal with things inside that would make anyone else go insane”, it’s an album full of pain.

All of us are molded and defined by the events of our lives, but often there are one or two key aspects that carry forward throughout our days. For me, it’s depression; even though I don’t always feel depressed these days, and my bipolar is largely kept at bay with medication, depression will always be a defining characteristic for me – something deeply integrated into my psyche and personality, and something that defines who I am.

When it comes to my creativity, this naturally comes out. In The Redemption of Erâth, the entire story is largely an analogy for depression, from the darkness of the world to the inescapability of fate that brings people together only to tear them apart again. It remains to be seen if depression can be conquered, or if it will win over the world of Erâth.

There are so many different traumas that we suffer through, and of course different people will react to the same type of trauma differently; what inconveniences some can destroy others, and where some will blank it from their minds to cope and survive, others can never escape the pain. Creativity – art – can be for those people a powerful way of dealing with that pain, a way of externalizing it so that it hurts – hopefully – just a little bit less.

Tales of Despair: Scars and Scratches

I have alluded to this many times in the course of this blog (in fact, I’ve probably outright stated it before), but I used to self-harm. For the peace of mind of Mrs. Satis, who sometimes reads these posts, I should state that I haven’t lifted a blade to hurt myself in over ten years; in fact, I stopped around when we met, and partly because of her. But there was a time in my life when cutting my skin was an enormous part of my identity, and I of course bear the scars (both physical and emotional) to this day.

I’m not ‘better’, and I doubt I ever will be.

There’s a wide range of reasons why people hurt themselves, and just as wide a variety of methods. From cutting to burning to starving oneself (Princess Diana once said she used to throw herself down stairs), self-harm can often be an outward reflection of the emotional pain someone is enduring every day. It’s often associated with suicide ideation, but I don’t think that’s quite fair; the people who hurt themselves (myself included) might often dream of and think of ending their lives, but the harm itself is born out of a burning desire not to die, but to feel alive. Although it might not look (or feel) like it, self-harm is usually topical and superficial, leaving little lasting harm. My deepest scars are not on my wrists; they’re on my upper arm, a fleshy place that was easy to cut deep without doing serious damage.

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Tales of Despair: The Day I Fought my Father

I’d like to resurrect an old post thread, Tales of Despair. In the past, I used this topic to discuss works of art and music that were born out of, or inspired by, depression and despair. Tonight, I’d like to use it as an opportunity to talk about my own struggles with depression. I may keep this series going; I may not. I can’t promise it will be interesting, or well-written; I can promise it will be a deeply personal look into what depression has meant—and continues to mean—for me.

I first became depressed in my mid-teens. I don’t recall much of the early days, but one of the contributing factors may have been the lack of control I felt as a child growing up with well-meaning but overbearing parents. I remember a trip to Germany one year, a kind of exchange-student trip, and when I came back, everything was different. Life was empty and meaningless; colors were muted and gray. Music held little joy (this was before I discovered rock and metal).

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