Abstract painting for mental health. Bipolar & PTSD.



My name is Xanthe Wyse. I have bipolar disorder and PTSD. I have found painting abstracts to be incredibly helpful for my mental health. It is like a meditation in action and calms a racing mind and eases anxiety.

I filmed a short clip of a painting I am currently just making up as I go along. It started off as an abstract bird flying (my original vision) and I thought perhaps I could be called ‘Hope’. But then it changed and I started to see instead a dancing goddess. So now, it’s currently called ‘Euphoria.’ It is an expression of some of the emotions I felt in bipolar mania.

It’s quite interesting to watch myself back as I just seem very quiet. A very different experience to what is going on in my head. I am listening to a song on a loop (the song was ‘Cool for the Summer’ by Demi Levato who also has bipolar disorder). Quite often I dance while painting. You may notice me rocking to the music in places. The music is quite upbeat and you would probably not guess the style of music looking from the outside. I go into a trance-like state when I paint. It’s a break from my constant thinking. During painting, I felt both energised and relaxed. It’s a very pleasant state to be in – I am free from anxiety and overthinking.

The colours I choose are symbolic. What I paint is symbolic. Only I know what the paintings mean. When my mood is very elevated (mania), I may paint trauma in bright colours, yet not feel the painful emotions to go with it. I may dance and smile and express the trauma without anyone guessing. But they will see intensity in the mania paintings. My paintings are all about emotions that I have difficulty expressing. They may link dozens of themes in metaphor.

I use acrylics because they have no fumes, dry quickly (great for layering) and are easy to clean up. I had an exhibition of my process paintings last year for mental health awareness (focus on bipolar). I didn’t expect any to sell (I didn’t think they were any ‘good’ apart from how they helped me and I didn’t price them. Over a dozen sold. I paint whenever I feel like painting (which is more often when my mood is elevated). Occasionally I cry when I paint, but listening to music helps reduce the intensity of the pain and I feel better afterwards. When I feel better, I change the song.

What I love about abstract is that I can paint very personal themes and the view doesn’t know what I am painting about. They may pick up on mood and emotion but have not idea what I painted. But I know. I was able to express it. I can process trauma without re-traumatising myself.

Source: Youtube