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Holland teen copes with anxiety by turning her "mental monsters" into art

Artists create for all sorts of reasons: to express emotion, convey an idea, or raise a political ruckus.

For people who struggle with anxiety and depression, art can also be a kind of therapy.

Creating Connection Michiganis a series of intimate, first-person stories about the powerful impact that art can have on both individuals and communities. 

This week’s story comes from sixteen-year-old Kat from Holland, Michigan. She tells us about her time at CultureWorks, a youth arts program that helped her deal with mental illness and rebuild her confidence. 

Kat has experienced serious bullying throughout her life and says her school offered little support. 

She joined CultureWorks in search of an extracurricular activity that could help her process her social anxiety and open up about her “huge bullying incident.”

Art illustrating the feeling of depression
Credit Kat

“My first day at CultureWorks, I was so nervous I was on the verge of tears,” Kat said. “But one of the interns came and talked to me and she seemed genuinely interested in what I did, and that felt really great.”

Kat says she uses her drawings, which she calls her “mental monsters,” to illustrate the physical manifestations of mental illnesses in order to better understand them. 

“My art helped me... be like, ‘No that's not me! It's not me that I hate. It's these monsters that I hate,’” Kat said.

Being at CultureWorks has improved Kat’s sense of self-worth, and she says being in that space makes her feel like she can succeed.

“People encourage me and it feels amazing. People care about me,” Kat said. “I feel like an actual person who can actually be happy and have a great life.”

You can find the full transcript of Kat’s story here.

https://vimeo.com/280813641">MCACA Creating Connections // CultureWorks // Holland, MI // Kat from https://vimeo.com/longhaul">Long Haul Productions on Vimeo.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas. 

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