What Van Gogh Taught The World About Mental Health

The phrases “beauty is pain" and you must suffer for your art" have always impacted me. Why? Well, I learned about Vincent Van Gogh in 5th grade.

I sat in Ms. Parker's art class learning about this man who's art changed the world. She taught me about oil paintings and techniques in art that Van Gogh used. She explained that he suffered for his art and that, instead of eating, he would buy his paint. She continued saying that he also suffered from anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

I was too young to understand what mental illness was, but his suffering really stayed with me. I was intrigued with how his mind worked because I couldn't understand how someone so tormented could produce such beautiful art.

We continued to learn about many different artists and how they impacted the world, but Van Gogh always stayed in my mind. I even remember telling my mom about the artist who cut his ear off for his art. Then my mom did something that changed my life forever. She pulled out a book and showed me a picture of Vincent van Gogh's “Starry Night" painting. I fell in complete and utter love.

Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

That's weird, right? A 10-year-old saying she is in love? You have to realize that it is such a beautiful painting and it was said that around the time of painting this piece, he was struggling deeply with alcoholism and depression. I stared at the picture imagining this amazing artist pulling out his canvas sitting over a cliff and just painting what he saw.

In his heart, there was pain, depression, and a lot of troubles. Yet, he translated all that into art that transcended time and generations. I can imagine that he probably shed a few tears while painting and that there were times he didn't even want to finish a project. It was his life, but he didn't know he would impact us so much.

There is a stigma around mental illness and it's almost taboo to mention “therapy" and “psychiatrist" without getting some weird stares. The truth is that, although there is a negative stigma around it all, there is nothing that can stop you from being great. Look at Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Georgia O'Keeffe, and even King David.

If you look at the Psalms, you can tell he suffered from depression, anxiety, and possibly even bipolar disorder. Even with all that, God used him to do great things. If you don't believe in God or aren't compelled to live a spiritual life, then look at Van Gogh. Through his depression, he channeled beauty, excellence, and was able to impact millions of lives.

Having to deal with mental illness and insecurities isn't easy and it's easy to forget that these things don't define you. They are just things you have to battle against to become stronger and to find that passion that helps you cope with life. Some of us write, read, paint, sing, or even just listen to good music. Let your personality shine above anything else and, most importantly, don't give up.

You're here to make a difference in the world, and more people should know about you and how you changed the world.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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