Symptoms of My Mental Illness: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

This is an annual compilation of designed posts shared on Instagram over the month of May 2023 to raise awareness on mental health. Please read, share, comment and hopefully gain a bit more awareness in the process.

May 10th:

10 days into the month and finally, a post appears! ✨

May is Mental Health Awareness Month 💚 and it has become the month I share a bit about my struggles with my own mental illness. This year’s theme is #BreakTheStigma so I’ll be sharing some symptoms I experience on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time we brush off things we might be struggling with because we think it’s just life and everyone has to deal with the same things, but that’s not true and recognizing that maybe we need help is really okay and highly recommended.

May 12th:

I am a planner and decision maker naturally, or at least that’s the version of myself that I remember and thought I was.

The first symptom I’d like to highlight is the indecisiveness. 🙈

It’s when my brain gets clouded and overwhelmed with all the possibilities and I can’t focus on one thing. It’s when I can’t decide if I’m going to work at home or at a coffee shop for the day so I just stay in bed. It’s when I can’t figure out if I should try to eat healthier or just feed myself to live and so I don’t eat at all. It’s when I can’t choose what 3 tasks to prioritize for the day so I do nothing. My inability to make decisions on a daily basis is crippling. To counter it, I try to pre-plan things the day before so I’m not overwhelmed in the morning but sometimes I wake up overwhelmed by my pre-plan 🫣.

Today I have to do my apology tour. It’s when I’m coming out of a particularly difficult time and I’ve ignored people or clients and need to communicate before more time passes. I hate it, but I’ve accepted that a huge part of dealing with this is communicating, and actually dealing with the consequences, not ignoring it.

May 15th:

My body shuts down. I’m numb. I am unable to move. This is what a lack of energy feels like for me.

Sometimes I get a warning when my energy is about to go on low, it feels like a battery draining slowly. Sometimes it’s literally a switch, one minute I’m on and then just like that, I’m off. And then sometimes, a lot of days recently, I open my eyes, but can’t lift my body out of bed. I try to raise my hands, nothing. I do a bit of mental gymnastics and self talk to get my body to move or I give up and stay in bed till I feel like I can move.

Energy is really this lovely thing our body needs to do most tasks and when there is none, sometimes without warning, it is a very frustrating experience to push through and still figure out how to reply to emails, have meetings with clients and feed myself (the latter usually doesn’t happen even though that’s the one that would actually give my body more energy).

The fix for this is to go for a walk. But I have very rarely been able to muster up the energy to put on clothes let alone drag myself outside to put one foot in front of the other. It’s cruel when the “cure” for something is polar opposite to what your body is experiencing, and the unintentional guilt trips of well wishers who say things like “why don’t you just…” is the most unhelpful thing in these moments. On days like this I have to be gentle with myself, which is a work on progress like everything else.

May 17th:

I sleep 8-10 hours most nights and wake up exhausted. If you give me a chance, I can sleep for 12 hours. I spend most weekends in bed sleeping if I’m not out interacting with people. I sleep too much and my body never feels rested. I’ve never been able to nap before. Now I can sleep in the middle of the day if I’m feeling stressed. I know I’m out of a bad cycle when I’m asleep for shorter periods of time.

May 19th:

In 2010, Bruno Mars sang a song about not feeling to do anything, named The Lazy Song, and it maybe re-introduced that struggle of exhaustion vs laziness. But it also gave folks a word “lazy” to define my mental illness. (Maybe I’m putting a lot of pressure on a song that’s just reflecting society back at us but walk with me…)

“Today I don’t feel like doing anything. I am just laying in my bed. I can’t even pick up the phone, please don’t leave a message at the tone. Today I can’t do anything.”

This is a more accurate, less lazy, more illness representation of today’s symptom.

I can usually pick myself up by planning a vacation somewhere, eating my favorite meal, watching a movie, but when the loss of interest in ANYTHING kicks in, traveling means nothing to me anymore. Food is not exciting. My favourite movie becomes annoying noise and stimulation. My dog becomes any dog, not my child who I love and care for. My friend’s birthday is whatever. My deadlines are not important anymore. Zeroooo interest in anything. It’s a scary time I hate. And when it happens I have to force myself out of my space and head. Especially when I do have deadlines that on a regular day I would care about. I drag myself to the shower. I take 2-3 hours to get dressed and hop in the car, and I go to a place where there will be lots of people, lots of noise to distract me from myself long enough. Where I can feed off of other people’s energy. And find interest in life again.

May 22nd:

We don’t talk enough about the scary memory loss aspect of mental health. Not dementia, not blocking out trauma, just the basic remembering everyday things. If I try to remember what I had for lunch last week, I couldn’t tell you. If I don’t write things down when I’m in a meeting and set reminders, I won’t ever remember to get back to a client. I don’t remember names, birthdays, memories, both my short term and my long term memory are shambles! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this to be a symptom of being depressed but here we are. I don’t think I’d be able to survive without Google Calendar. Literally. Here’s to getting through today, this week, and the rest of this awareness month in one piece.

May 24th:

When I am at my lowest of lows, I avoid any situation where I need to be around people. I ignore messages from friends, sometimes I put my phone on DND so I don’t get overwhelmed, it’s just me, my couch, my bed, (my dog), and my mind, spiraling out of control. The default is to sleep, because it’s easier (and safer) than all the thoughts. The avoidance (for the friends who are ignored in the process) is really to protect everyone else from having to interact with an unstable version of myself. On a good day, I’m able to balance emotions, think clearly, and communicate with a dash of empathy and compassion. On a bad day all those filters and techniques disappear, I barely have energy to say hello, don’t ask me to smile, I have nothing to give or contribute to an interaction. I want to move, speak, or think as little as humanly possible and being in a social setting in that headspace is a recipe for disaster.

On the other end of this intentional withdrawal, is the one when I don’t realise I’m slipping into a new cycle of low. I don’t feel to go anywhere or do anything with anyone. It’s just me and Netflix for days. I’m lethargic, i probably haven’t bathed for a while, I’m in yesterday’s pajamas, my place is a mess, dishes are piled up, and I’m just existing (barely). This unintentional avoidance of social interactions is the real symptom, and when this happens I force myself to take care of my personal hygiene and leave my cave of sorrows (home) and go outside. I have to remove myself from the environment that has me stuck in order to clear the funk mentally. It’s the only way. Sometimes a friend messages at just the right time and pulls me out, and I thank the universe for the slight reprieve.

I wanted to highlight both sides of this because the first avoidance is self care (or maybe self preservation) while the second one is not and we sometimes think we’re doing the first one when really it’s the second. Or maybe they are both the same thing and just my brain lying to myself lol. This is a big one for me, and so separate from intentional rest periods and enjoying my alone time.

May 26th:

The never ending voice in your head that says you’re not good enough, that berates you on a daily basis, that criticizes your every action, thought and feeling. 😖 We talk a lot about imposter syndrome, well this is her big sister. And she doesn’t go away.

In a coaching session during the pandemic I got a really helpful tool to battle this feeling. My coach told me to identify whose voice I was hearing, and identify where I learnt it from. I realised it wasn’t my voice but actually someone close to me. I then had to find a new voice, someone who was kind, who is gentler, who speaks to me the way I’d like to speak to myself. Once I had the person, or at least the idea of the person in my head, my homework was to find an object that reminded me of them, an object I would see daily, so when I started berating myself again, it would gently tell me, it’s okay.

Here’s the feeling a little less worthless today. 🖤

May 29th:

I’m annoyed a lot. Irritability is a part of life right? But when you lose your composure because your pen ran out of ink, then maybe it’s not just the regular old irritability, just maybe it’s something else.

The smallest of inconveniences feel like an attack on my very being. I can handle the big stuff really well. Car accident? No problem. Apartment flooded out? Sure let’s deal with that. You call me when I sent you an email? Burn everything down immediately! 🔥

Noticing this level of reaction to the “little things” has tuned me in a lot and forced me to just be more aware of my reactions. Irritability is stress, and stress kills 🥹

May 31st:

And here we are, at the end of another month. We made it. We survived. Go us! 

Identifying our symptoms is step one on a long journey of living with mental health challenges. 

It. Takes. Work. 

It’s so tempting to use our symptoms as an excuse because we have a genuine reason and explanation for our behaviour. We have to equally put in the work to treat, manage and deal with our symptoms. Like all serious illnesses, the consequence of ignoring symptoms is death, and mental health is as serious as a heart attack folks. 

And this is not an easy process. I shared before how many therapists I’ve been to, how many tries at medication it took to get the right one. It’s a process. And it’s going to take the time it needs to take. I know this is in no way comforting but the good news is you are not alone in your struggles. Find community. Keep sharing. Connect with others and swap tips. You are not alone. 

Until next May, take care.

Ayrïd Chandler

Broken Englizh

Brief for Open Call on Home: There are physical and metaphorical places that give meaning tothe word ‘home’. What does home mean to you? How does it inspire or manifest itself in your artistic practice? How has your idea of homeand your identity been challenged, misconstrued, and/or transformedover time?

Wrong Home

“Why you eh stay in foreign? What you come back here for?”

It’s been 10 years since I returned to the country where I was born. My navel string definitely bury here. There is an invisible chord tied loosely around my ankles and wrists that keeps me anchored to this piece of land.

I just moved to my 10th dwelling, I can’t call it home just yet. When I was a child, I grew up in a bungalow development plannings in Couva, a townhouse sharing walls with each neighbour, left and right.

One. By my 11th birthday we moved…

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Client Corner Feature: Rawkus

Freshly home from college, trying very hard to meet new people, I was sitting outside a lounge in Woodbrook, Port of Spain one night (R.I.P. Rossco’s) and heard someone using design terms. My ears perked up and I found myself making small talk with a guy named Keegan Simon who had a local t-shirt brand called 1ndividual. Finally!!! I found a creative in the design world at home to hang out with. He invited me to his studio where I got to see his screen printing process (one of my close friends from college also screen printed tees so I felt a bit nostalgic at the time) and it was here that I met Jayron Rawkus Remy, this week’s client corner feature. I felt it important to highlight the random way in which meeting people leads to possibly meeting your next client. As his name suggests, this raucous individual was extremely passionate about culture and T&T, the place I just returned to and was quickly falling in love with all over again.

While visiting that same friend from college who designed and printed tees, Jayron reached out to brand an event that he was doing called HearTT. He had a logo done for the previous version of the event but didn’t like it. On reviewing the “logo” in question I realised it was a stock image and not an original piece of work. I asked Jayron if he was aware this was what the previous person did, and he was not. And thus began our 8 year long working relationship.

HearTT | 2015

Rawkus’ signature event: Throwback & Wine was created to highlight his style of djing, focusing on the older songs. In 2015 he did six events and 23 variations of events over the next 7 years.

Throwback & Wine | 2015

Pop Up & Wine | 2016

I am assuming Jayron enjoyed the process of working with me because after two years of events he asked me to create a logo for his brand name: RAWKUS. Some backstory is necessary, who is Jayron? Jayron Rawkus Remy is now a well known morning show host, beloved DJ, audio technician, producer, father, husband and a truly amazing friend. Jayron is the first client to 100% trust me as a designer and give me unlimited time to get it right. It took a year to get this logo. It took 3 rounds of multiple options and not getting it right before I finally created something that he loved. Something that would represent all these various aspects of his profession, something that would make people take “a dj” seriously. Finally at the end of 2016, to start the year in 2017, we had a new brand.

Rawkus Logo | 2017

Throwback and Wine | 2017

Throwback & Wine | 2018

Events | 2019

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In 2020, the pandemic affected physical events but did not stop Jayron who came up with Stay Home and Wine.

Stay Home and Wine | 2020

In 2022, when restrictions lifted, we got a chance to meet in person again.

Throwback and Wine | 2022

And we just had the first Carnival version of Throwback for the ‘mother of all Carnivals’.

Throwback & Wine | 2023

When I went to college I looked down on event artwork. In 2008-2012 party flyers featured stolen images on popular women, lots of flares and filters before filters was a thing. It was tacky. It was sexist. I was not interested in being a part of that design world. I’m glad I didn’t say no to ALL event related artwork or I would never have had the opportunity to work with Jayron on all of these events that created a space for people to be and feel free, even if it’s only for 4 hours. I learnt so much more about Trinidad’s musical history from attending these events than I could ever have learnt elsewhere. It’s because of Jayron I now know the infamous song to close and event that will also close this post.

Client Corner Feature: The Lydians

In 2022, I celebrated 10 years since I graduated college and entered the world of work as a full-time creative. Scary stuff. On looking back and taking stock this year, I realised that there are some clients who have been with me over multiple years. Because I am primarily a logo designer this isn’t my norm. I am there at the beginning to get them started and then we part ways. But after reviewing my client list, there are some that kept popping up so this Client Corner Feature is to focus on each one of these clients (and be nostalgic and overshare!).

First up is The Lydians.

As a child, my mother took me to the Lydians Christmas concert every, single year. Actually, we went to anything The Lydians produced once we could. My mother worked for an oil & gas company and was an external comms officer who used her powers for good by ensuring creative projects got funded. As you can guess, she, through her profession, sponsored The Lydians all those years we went to those concerts. And this is my earliest memory of them, before becoming a designer was even a thought. My favourite part of a Lydians’ Christmas concert is the end, not because it’s over, but because a Lydians’ Christmas concert always ends with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus…accompanied by live tassa! It is one of my absolute favourite things of all time.

Fast forward to 2017 when the Communications Officer of The Lydians (at the time), Janine Charles-Farray (who also happened to be my favourite singer!) reached out for some assistance with producing artwork for the same annual Christmas concert I religiously attended. “Finally!” I thought. They were having some trouble getting the artwork done in a timely manner that year and called me for some assistance.

2017 | Hold Out Your Light

I remember being so nervous. I put all this pressure on myself about this great client, my dream client and delivering a great product. It was so surreal seeing my work when I attended the concert that year. Janine and I worked together to ensure this we got this just right. She was one of the first creative clients I had who gave specific creation direction and requests. I learnt so much and luckily, they were satisfied because the following year, we did it again.

2018 | The Gift

I should probably mention all of the various deliverables for the project and the process. So what goes into creating the visuals for a show: it all begins with a theme. Each year most annual events pick a theme, The Lydians was no different. They would pick a name for the concert each year and this will dictate what music they select to perform. They tend to stay away from the cliché Christmas themes, and being a choir rooted in the Anglican faith, there are almost always religious undertones.

So first, they give me the theme/title for the year. They share a creative brief which describes why they chose the theme and what is the overall message they are trying to share with their audience. This is extremely helpful for me because it helps me to create something that matches that message visually. A peeve of mine is when there is inconsistency in messaging and the visuals do not match the rest of the theme for an event. I see it all the time. Anyway, I digress. Once I get the creative brief, I then create 2-3 options of the title and what it would look like on a flyer. The client provides feedback, maybe we make a few edits to the chosen design and then I roll out all of the needed deliverables. These include: a main flyer, sized for press, website, and various social media platforms, as well as the tickets for the show, any merchandise that will be on sale such as t-shirts and more recently masks, signage (in this case, pennants), and the programme for the show. The visual elements are also shared with the video editor for consistency and with the projectionist for on stage visuals.

2019 | Deo Gratias

2019 was the last year that Janine and I worked together on the Lydians Christmas concert. The underlying theme was muses and representing past, present and looking toward the future, hence the 3 faces. 2019 also happened to be the 40th anniversary of the choir, their ruby year, and on top of the usual artwork requests was the ask for an anniversary logo.

As we all know, 2020 brought a global pandemic and the event industry as we know it was basically over. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the Lydians’ General Manager, Garnet Allen, to produce artwork again.

2021 | Arise, Shine!

As the name suggested, Arise, Shine! was to mark that coming out of the darkness we as humans felt for the 2 years of lockdown. This was also the beginning of the Lydians securing sponsorship by FCB and the introduction of their dual logo use on designs.

2022 | Season of Steel

For the first time, I got to work on something specifically for Lydian Steel and outside of the Christmas season. The Lydian Steel also celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2022 which meant, another anniversary logo!

2022 | Angels Bending Near The Earth

The person who got me started on this 5 year journey with the Lydians unfortunately passed away in the second half of 2022. The 2022 Christmas concert was dedicated to all the angels who left us as well as the ones still with us and while this was the longest title we’ve worked with to date (5 words long!) it felt like a nice send off and thank you to someone very special to us in the creative community.

Rest in Peace, Janine. And thank you.

If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for reading! Feel free to comment and ask questions about anything related to this post and look out for the next 3 Client Corner features.

Let’s Talk About Money

Money has always been a struggle for me. I personally believe(d) that money is to be spent. The concept of saving eluded me. I was never taught how to, only told that it was something I should be doing. So as any creative self employed person would, I lived from pay check to pay check, made sure I was making enough to cover rent and bills and feed myself. Whenever something unexpected popped up, as is inevitable in this life, I would be stressed, sad, and all around frustrated because I would be reminded that I have no savings to deal with situations like this. The pandemic only emphasized this further.

So this past year, it’s been all about the money for me. There are so many negative connotations with money. Whether it’s the root of all evil, or a sign that yuh sell out. Having it means you “feel you better than everybody”, it leads to greed and envy and all these yucky things. But here is the reality, without money, we can do nothing. Literally.

There was a specific period this year where I had zero dollars. All the money ran out and I was in between pay checks. Someone wanted me to meet them in person, and I couldn’t because I didn’t have a car at the time and I had no money to take a rideshare or taxi. I couldn’t eat because I had no way of going to the grocery to use the Massy points I had to get something to hold me over. And the state of depression I was in prevented me from reaching out to ask for help. Plus let’s be real, it was also shame. This moment really brought home for me the reality, forget comfort, forget nice things, money is needed to simply live.

Being the problem solver I am, (after getting help from people who called and asked the right questions at the right time, thank you), I changed how I interacted with money. First, I needed accountability and someone to help me budget. I reached out to my accountant and explained everything, I got really vulnerable. What happened after has literally changed my life: I meet every week with a financial advisor and go through how much money I’m expecting to make in that week, and how much I need to spend. Everyone I’ve ever tried to ask for help always wanted me to give them information on a monthly basis, but every month when you work for yourself is completely different. Weekly tracking worked. I started to see how many clients I needed to take on in a month, to pay attention to cash flow, to say no to a lime sometimes, to buy the cheaper product in the grocery, and generally be more aware of how I make and spend money.

For the first time in my life, I was able to use my own money to purchase a laptop for my business because l actually had it in my account. I want to be really open and transparent about this because we do not talk about money. As an adult I don’t know a week that has gone by that banking does not frustrate me. Something has got to give and I believe that together, if we share our experiences, information, advice, we can figure this thing out. So in case you were wondering why I’m doing an event next week entitled Let’s Talk About Money, this is why.

I am grateful to Lorraine and C15 Studios for agreeing to cohost with me. I am grateful to Dr. Keron Niles for calling at the right time. And I am grateful for all the experiences along the way, and all the people who were a part of them, truly.