“It’s The Easiest Language For Me”: How Art Helps One Woman Cope With Depression”

by Emma McGowan

Maeve McGlinchey was in sixth grade when she realized her interests just didn't line up with those of her classmates. "You start to realize that you're not on the same wave length as the other kids," McGlinchey says in the first episode of Bustle's new YouTube series, Diagnosis Diaries. It made her wonder if she was interested in anything at all.

“I was just like, ‘I'm pretty young for feeling like this. I don't know what these feelings are, but something's not right,’” McGlinchey says. “Learning my diagnosis definitely changed how I felt.”

McGlinchey was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. For the artist, depression feels like “a cement room full of cement people, and you’re just a cinder block.”

“You just build up all these walls around yourself,” McGlinchey says. “You just make yourself as tiny as possible, almost to the point where you can't say that you're even existing, you're just a tiny little pebble in a cement box.”

Art helped her make sense of it all. Growing up in a household with two artists — her mom is an interior designer and her dad does art in free time — she learned to express herself from an early age.

“Art's something I don't have to fear,” McGlinchey says. “It's like the easiest language for me.”

Now an adult, McGlinchey uses her art to help manage her illnesses. For inspiration, she turns to things that have happened to her that make her angry. She then asks: “How can I represent this experience in a way that makes other people angry too?”

“Then it's no longer about that anger. It's about the excitement that I've now brought to the subject that has made me so angry,” McGlinchey says.

Learning to manage her illnesses has also been an important part of her life. McGlinchey knows what it looks when a depressive spell is coming on. The first sign: She stops taking care of herself. She stops showering; she stops washing her face; she stays in bed. She backtracks on all the skills she’s spent years building up to help her cope.

But McGlinchey also knows what it feels like to go from the “complete despair” of a deep depression, back to the full range of emotions when she climbs her way out. Managing that chemical imbalance can be tricky, but she has words of hope for anyone who’s struggling: “I think the hardest part for me was wondering if it is possible to become a person you're comfortable with,” McGlinchey says. “It is, and you can do it.”

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.