'I was existing': Indigenous man uses art to recover from mental breakdown
Bathurst art show expresses Chris Grant's use of creative energy to heal
A young Indigenous artist who has struggled with addiction and mental health problems says he's now channelling his destructive energies into safe, creative outlets.
Chris Grant of the Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick is exhibiting his art at the Bathurst Heritage Museum in a show called Disposing Sanity: Life After The Psych Unit.
"I decided to put up my art as a way to show healing and recovery because I've had a lot of really difficult situations happen in my life where you don't know where to do with that energy but destroy yourself," said Grant, 21.
His work depicts his struggles with mental health issues and addiction.
Grant said where he comes from, people are very "hush-hush" about mental health issues.
"A lot of people don't want to admit that they're going through something. My show is my way of putting my foot in the door and saying it's OK to talk about it."
Grant said he wants others to know it's OK to express their struggles with addiction issues and psychosis or any problem that may come up in their life.
"It's completely healthy to understand the meaning of suffering and what you're willing to suffer for."
Grief and sadness
Grant said a misdiagnosed mental illness early in his life made him very quiet and withdrawn, rarely standing up for himself.
"Since I was a child I have seen things that weren't there, heard things that aren't there," he said. "I felt extreme grief and intense bouts of sadness, but also bouts of euphoria and grandiose delusions."
Within months, he was an addict. He was abusing his own depression medication and smoking a combination of tobacco and marijuana.
"I would constantly find a way to give myself a head rush to escape from my issues, but all it did was further my psychosis issues more and cause me to spin more out of control."
While he was attending university just a year ago, Grant said he was still dabbling in psychedelic drugs including LSD and mushrooms.
That's when he hit rock bottom.
"I had this breaking point where I couldn't deal with all the pressure anymore and I was extremely suicidal, self-harming and had no will to live," he said.
"I was just existing."
After quitting everything cold turkey, Grant had a moment of clarity when he thought about the support of his family and where he came from.
"It brought me into a really intense bout of manic crying where I couldn't bear the weight of what I had done to myself and the guilt associated with that."
Grant was put in the psychiatric unit where he stayed for close to three weeks, a stay he said helped him get better.
A journey of learning
Grant said his art, expression and reading a lot of poetry have also helped him on the road to recovery.
Grant said he's trying to inspire other people to look at their life in a dualistic way. While his art centres around scenes of death, suicide and drug addiction, things that make many people uncomfortable, he also wants people to see the positive things his art can bring to them.
"I've always been a person who has to create something just out of basic necessity for my survival."
"The key to life for living a happy life, at least in my case with the mental issues I struggle with, personally is living an authentic life. Even if others think it's eccentric or a lunatic, there's no such thing as an absolute truth. There's only what's true to you."
Grant said to him the best way to deal with it is find what you love, practise it and don't worry too much.
"Do what makes you happy."
In addition to creating art, Grant is a content creator and a musician who is working on an album. He will be attending NBCC in Miramichi to study animation in September.
Grant's art show continues until the end of August.