Mental health

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_why do I care about mental health?

I only started paying attention to my mental health after 2020. There were many reasons why - cultural, personal, societal. I was trained and I trained myself not to dwell much on my emotions and go on with life by being strong. I don't remember many conversations with my family or close friends about how we feel, why etc. - even after me having traumatic events, I didn't talk much to anyone.

This started changing in 2020 - when I was 35. Thanks to covid-19 and all the trauma that came out of it + some follow-up events, such as my first [severe and acknowledged] burnout. In 2021 was the first time I went to a psychologist. It was also when I moved to Rotterdam and started my master's programme there. I found myself in a group of amazing and heartwarming people who taught me a great deal about sharing and having real talk. During my first steps in this journey, I had the need to illustrate and map some of the things I was researching about my mental health. I guess, I also needed to share.

_projects & works

reversed words

illustration of one of the sonic contributions, the visualisation of the sound waves is also in reverse // digital illustration, 2023
sound jam #5 // reversed words, part of my Sound Jams // Deluxe Edition audiozine publication
makers // mitsitron [Mitsa Chaida], Stephen Kerr, Bruno Morera, Ål Nik [Alexandra Nikolova], Emma Prato, Yasen Rogachev, and Katayun Taraporevala

Last year at Prototyping class we were given the assignment to apply some audio effects to try them out and learn how they work. That made me think in what cases I would use any of them. The effect of reversing audio is quite particular and it is often considered as creepy, but musicians also apply this effect on instruments in the search of new and beautiful sound. While thinking what kind of sounds I would like to reverse, I came up with the idea of taking words that hurt back. I did a small prototype back then and didn’t follow up for a while.

Almost one year later, I wanted to test the idea of facilitating a remote sound jam that can bring contributions from people with various background and located in different countries. Thus, I decided to bring back that idea to life and explore it a bit more, with others. I invited whoever wanted to join this experiment, to send me some words that they would like to be taken back. Then, I edited all the audio pieces and mixed them with other reversed ambient sounds.

This sound jam was an open call to join a collectively made sonic publication. Since there should be a concept that brings the ideas and pieces together, the theme and question for the jam were essential. In order to make it as inclusive as possible, I invited them to either send a text [that I would record myself], an audio recording of the words they want to be reversed, or an already edited recording with the “reverse” audio effect applied. With this method, there is an editor who mixes the pieces at the end and takes the final editorial decisions.

▶ read about the sound jam here: Sound jams: reversed words

accepting rotterdam

accepting rotterdam, zine A5, digital print, 2022

10 illustrations, created as a diary of ten phases I experienced when moving to a new city. The works were digitally drawn, and then computer processed with various effects. Their animated versions were available on NFT. However, after a while I became more critical of the way NFT worked for art [but not only], thus I didn't reactivate their listing. A few months later, I turned the illustrations and poems into a zine publication, that was printed in 20 copies. Some of them are still available.

01_arrival: the poem, 2021
10 digital and processed illustrations
A5 zine, digital print
01_ arrival is also available on an A3 riso prints & A6 postcards

Zine's introduction:

During the last three years, I have been moving in every 5-6 months. Whatever I did, when the fifth month comes near, something happened so I needed to move to another place. Living as a nomad has its perks, but it is also quite bizarre to always think about “let’s not get this with me because it will be more of a hassle to move it next time”. My latest move was from Sofia to nowhere (because I was travelling for 2 months around Europe without a home) and then to Rotterdam. Here is my diary of the first months after I moved to the Netherlands.
I compiled 10 illustrations and 10 poems. Size is A5.
Self-published. Rotterdam, 2022.

▶▶ you can purchase the zine online here
▶▶ 01_arrival - see the illustration here
▶▶ 01_arrival on A3 riso print is here & on my online shop

the thousand-foot journey

the thousand-foot journey, digital artwork, 2021

▶▶ see the artwork here

_mapping emotions and anxieties while slowly moving to a new country
_digital illustration, graphic design, 2021 // Sofia, Budapest, Schiavi di Abruzzo, Vienna, Munich, Aachen, The Hague and Rotterdam

In 2021 I travelled more than 5500 km around Europe. I got to test how is it to pass so many borders after a year of travel difficulties, restrictions and worries. Also, since I have flying anxiety, hopping on a plane was out of the question for me at that time. It was also while I was recovering from severe burnout.

What a journey it was! Full of emotions - anxiety, excitement, fear, happiness… Each stop was filled with those and therefore, I coloured them. To see them. My journey is depicted as tree branches, growing to the final destination of my trip - Rotterdam. Or it is a spilled ink on the map… Or something else that you see?

mental pain

mental pain: I, II & II, digital illustration, 2021
_series of 3 illustrations depicting the 3 stages of the burnout I went through between March and May 2021
_digital illustrations, 2021 // Sofia, BG

I: clouds in the head
the first piece illustrates how my worries started to feel much heavier and they were breaking my focus, making me think and feel quite grim. I've been feeling a little depressed, a little bit stressed, a little bit insecure and so on for quite some time. It didn't become something I got used to, it became worse and worse.

Mental pain 1: Clouds in the head published in "Podslon" magazine, 2021

II: cough
the second work depicts the second phase I was going through, still not recognising the alarming signs - I was coughing a lot and it was connected to the moments when I felt more anxious

III: no air
the last phase of the burnout ended with neuralgia - the pain was so strong that it didn't allow me to take a deep breath. I waited for a few hours hoping it will fade out, but since it didn't get any better, I started to worry that I might get a heart attack - that crazy strong and scary it was. After going to the hospital, it turned out to be neuralgia and the pain lasted for 10 days - it took that long until I could breathe normally again.

The illustrations were published in the first, second and third issues of the "Podslon" magazine.


What I've collected while working on these projects - reads, inspirations, artworks etc.

▶▶ experiments with sound, part of my work for the 3rd trimester at XPUB, year 1 // special issue 18: radio implicancies
★ Giulia Rosa // I’M TOTALLY FINE. & MOOD
★ Gemma Correll // comics about mental health, pugs & so on
★ Carissa Potter Carlson // sometimes this is what resilience looks like // sorry cannot carry your shit right now
Worry Lines
Liana Finck // depression // anxiety and depression
today i am sad