Stive Asia

2022-03-27

An Open Letter From An Artist Who Uses Art To Cope With Mental Health

“I finally got myself diagnosed by a mental health professional a couple of years ago. It was one of the most liberating moments of my life, to know that it wasn't all in my head. That the pain I was feeling was real.”

 

@milkcafe.co is an Instagram content creator from Indonesia who documents her cute cat illustrations as part of her initiative to spread mental health awareness. This movement is inspired by her own personal journey with mental health. Below is her open letter to all artists who happens to be in the same situation as her or anyone who’ve been through the pain: 

I was always an anxious child, and to make matters worse, my home life was not really the best. School life also felt extremely hard back then, I was so confused to see how my friends could be so happy and carefree while I continually felt my absolute worst everyday and I didn't know why. 

The struggle continued into adulthood where my mental illness got worse and worse. My body took the hit very badly, there was a time when I had to be hospitalised almost every year. 

 

My coping mechanism was to force myself to be the best. At school, work, and everything because I thought the praise and accomplishment would fill the void that I felt. 

“To nobody's surprise, it didn't and no matter how many accomplishments I received I felt worse and worse.”

Gradually, art came into my life, and it has till now become a part of my life. One of my earliest and happiest memories was drawing with crayons on the walls of my home (to the disdain of my mother of course lol). and like any other 90's kids, anime has been a huge part of my life, this led me to make fan arts and discovering art as a stress relief. 

Still, my emotional and mental struggles have never gone away.I was just so sick of being sick, so I finally got myself diagnosed by a mental health professional a couple of years ago. It was one of the most liberating moments of my life, to know that it wasn't all in my head. That the pain I was feeling was real.

After finishing high school, I chose to pursue art seriously in college, graduating from an art and design faculty majoring in Graphic design and continuing to work in the creative industry up until now.

This decision was made based on my passion for art. I did ask myself a long time ago, why art? 

I found that my answer was that I want to make people happy through something I also enjoy. It's my life motto now and I wish to make people happy through my art.

So then I created this Instagram page to document my drawings. My drawing concept is essentially 'comforting' drawing. whether it's the adventure of little kitty cosplaying into various cute food or wholesome comics. My hope is to make the day a little brighter for the person who sees my art.

You might be thinking why I name this page Milk Cafe Co. 

It's a bit weird but I have this fascination towards milk lol. I love naming things with milk in it, I named my favourite plushie Milk Tea, my first cow in harvest moon Milky, etc. My favourite drink is also milk tea, particularly royal milk tea. It's a type of milk tea from Japan where they use an osmanthus flower in it. 

I feel like it was natural to also name my account with it, hence the name milk cafe. The cafe part was my concept for the page; I want it to feel like a comfy cafe where people can visit whenever they need some comforting boost.

On a side note, my main character is a cat that I often call a little kitty. Cats have always been a source of joy for me, I've grown up with many cats, at one time there were around 15 cats living in my house. This seems to translate into the characters that I made. And I've always been in love with animals, 

With this little success blooming along the way, life still remains as a struggle. Everyday still feels like an ongoing battle for me, but I still make a conscious choice to be here. It feels like I have to fight my own inner voice everyday, good days feel nice and quiet; on bad days I have to keep fighting the voice in my head that told me to give up, and that whatever I do doesn’t matter anyway. 

“Therapy has been a huge help for me regarding this, nowadays cognitive therapy helps me with those bad inner voices in my head.” 

So far, the biggest success I had with my mental health was to also help other people that share the same struggle as mine through my art. There was a time that I received a DM from someone after I posted my art on instagram. In it, the person said that they are struggling very hard and was feeling suicidal, but seeing that little comic I made in their feed that day made them feel a little better and turned into realization for them of how foolish it was to want to end their life that day. 

It was a heavy message to receive but it was mixed with a feeling of joy for me; just knowing that the pain I felt could also help others made me so happy.

“If you ask me what my dream for the future is, it will be to continue what I’m doing now and see how far I can go.”

I feel like I'm doing this more for myself, because making this art account has been sort of therapeutic for me. Social media has its ups and downs, but waking up in the morning with the realisation that there are people who enjoy my art is incredibly motivating. Another one of my dreams is to someday make merchandise of my characters. It would be a dream come true if I could make a plushie of a little kitty in the future!

To anyone who is struggling with mental health, my advice is to please reach out and not to face it alone. 

Find help. It can be friends, family, therapy, anything. Mental illness can be such a lonely, lonely disease despite millions of people having it. I fell into the trap of thinking that it's my own problem and that I should face it alone. No, everyone needs help and we shouldn't be ashamed to ask for it. Even so, asking for help can be challenging. 

“It will get better I promise. You're not alone.”

 

Follow @milkcafe.co for more inspiring content on mental health. 

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