Depression, Body Dysmorphia and Kylie
David is an animator and artist based in London. His powerful, beautiful and honest work is inspired by childhood and gay culture. He also has a fashion line, Bear Crump, which you can see more of here.
Hey David, first question is always the same on this blog ;) How’s your mental health?
That’s always a difficult question for everyone maybe :/ I have felt like my mental health could be part of my personality, and that’s ok - I think I’ve learnt that now. Thinking about some of my conditions, I’ve always had some traits that could be underlying mental health conditions.
I had high anxiety as a child, but never recognised it as that. In primary school I would often spend lunch time play on the bench sitting on my own - it wasn’t through lack of friends because I had some very awesome ones, who are still great friends now. It was mostly through choice. But I would get high anxiety thinking about my mum working nights, being scared of going home to my dad, not wanting to play football because I was no good at it, wanting to play hopscotch with the girls but knowing that was not really where I belonged either and the boys would frown upon that... and one game of hopscotch was not worth a week of being teasing about it. I had many lunchtime conversations with dinner ladies about why I was sitting on the bench all on my own.
Describing how I feel today is like how I used to feel sitting on that bench. I’m watching from afar, wanting to join in, and maybe play hopscotch, or even netball, but I’m too worried, and too scared to even look up, because I may look too fem, too ugly, too awkward, too short, and too unable.
That is a really powerful image, and one I feel I can relate to - being somehow unable to move.
I’m desperate to look different or be someone else - the thought of having to be me paralyses me, so I’m stuck on that bench a lot, with my feet too short to touch the ground, my head down.
Your art focuses a lot on the human body, is that a cathartic process for you?
I do enjoy drawing, painting or animating very much. But there is a lot of agonising analysis of the work that happens - that can be mental torture. If I make something that I’m satisfied with then that’s a good day, but if I make something that I’m not happy with then that’s bad, so it’s a bit hit or miss.
My depression and body dysmorphia have a lot to do with how I look and the way I present myself. A word best to describe it to me would be heavy eyes. Not being happy with how I look. A lot of my self hate is directed at my face, it’s a huge source of my low self worth. I’m looking at stuff too much, perhaps over analysing too much. (I’m told artists do that sort of thing.) I blame my eyes for this. So it makes me want to rip them out of my head, not only for what they do, but how they look. I feel my heavy eyes look like cartoon eyes, with heavy eyelids making me look incapable and unalert.
My eyes overwork. They compare myself to others, looking at other men that I will never be. I wish they would stop farting around (in their cartoony way) and just look straight ahead, so I could have some rest, and look capable and serious for once. The weight of my depression is felt around my eyes, and they are exhausted. They weep too much for my liking. But that’s cause they are heavy. Like a heavy heart, so heavy eyes.
When you are feeling very heavy like that, what do you do?
I do take medication for my depression, which has helped. Podcasts also help so much, as having someone’s voice in my ears helps me relax. I often think I would be a lot worst if podcasts never existed. It’s like having helpful friends sitting inside your ears, who I can carry with me, wherever I go, and they don’t expect anything from me. They just talk and I listen.
I also have to mention Kylie Minogue - being a huge fan of hers gives me strength to make it through a lot of days. I imagine being fanatical about anything is great as it can lift you up a bit. Kylie is like that for me. She is part of my daily routine. Listening to her music, going on forums to discover what’s new with her; these are things that keep me lifted. I love her music and what she stands for, and have loved her since I was 4 years old. Her music gives such a positive message - it covers a wide range of relatable emotions, some good, some bad. I feel like Kylie is ‘kind media’ for me, as kindness feels very much part of who she is. I really admire that.
Others things I would put under the ‘kind media’ bracket would be an animated series called ‘Steven Universe’. It’s a series is mostly aimed at kids, but a lot of adults watch it. It’s message is teaching kids about gender, mental health and relationships and it’s very forward thinking and insightful, especially for a kids show. Steven Universe is like a giant big TV hug for the senses when I’m stressed out. Often my best days are the ones where I can leave part of myself behind.
What does it feel like to ‘leave part of yourself behind’?
One day like that was going to gay pride in London. I’ve been to pride in years before and they’ve often been my worst days. This year however I got to cover my face - a friend and I had made bear beards, and paired with a baseball cap it meant I was well covered, so I didn’t worry so much about how I was presenting myself. I felt like something new.
Another place might be going to a gay sauna. This may sound like a nightmare, considering how I feel about myself, but I can leave part of myself at the door. Sex will rarely happens but the thought that it might can shut out fifty bad thoughts. Saunas help me relax, and think about breathing. I get too hot to think of anything else, which gives my brain a rest, and time seems to not exist. You can find yourself in a room full of steam all to yourself in a maze of rooms with wandering people, so it can all feel a bit unreal, and I like that very much. It’s like a time out from normality.
Your honesty, and your ability to express how you feel in words - and in your art - really touches me, and I’m so glad to know you. I also want a big TV hug, so let’s go watch some to Steven Universe episodes :)