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VAINE Manifesto: Navigating vulnerability. Embracing creativity.

I've been contemplating what to say for quite some time. I feel the urge to express my emotions, and perhaps it would have been better to record a video or even go live on Instagram – believe me, I've tried many times. But I guess I realised that I can't force myself to do something that doesn't come naturally.

I want this post to be seen as a manifesto, a platform to discuss how mental health impacts creativity, creating a safe space to share and delve into my experiences over this year.

The truth is, for quite some time, I didn't know what was happening to me or what the problem was. I don't know at what point things started to go wrong or at what moment I lost my enthusiasm. And that, believe me, is what has scared me the most of all.

It all began on February 23rd. While enjoying a games night with a friend in downtown Cardiff, I received a phone call that turned my life upside down. My father had suffered a heart attack and was in the ICU in Alicante, over 2,000 km away.

I'm sharing this, even though it's deeply personal, because I believe it's crucial to understanding the situation VAINE is currently facing. Or perhaps, I simply need to verbalise it to continue assimilating and moving forward...

Anyways, as of today, my father is stable and out of danger, turning the entire ordeal into a horrific nightmare that lasted precisely 3 months and 5 days – a period during which I was essentially living in Spain. There are still moments when I feel like I haven't woken up from it.

'The Waiting Room'

"In the Waiting room, I wait.

Longing for a voice to tenderly utter my name,

a hand to guide me through the labyrinth that is life,

a gentle murmur echoing reassurance

that all shall be well."

I began the year with a sense that 2023 would be my moment, that I would achieve the goals that demanded so much effort and dedication. In many ways, it has lived up to that expectation!

I was even proud of having started working on this new edition of VAINE well in advance, convinced that we could finally release a great edition on time without any setbacks because... there were still 4 months until its publication!... but clearly, things have not gone that way.

During my time in Spain, I immersed myself almost obsessively in the magazine. Although I lacked the means to work on the interior of the edition, having left without my PC and only with my iPad, I endeavored to continue collaborating with our volunteers to create daily content. Focusing on the 'Women's Month Interviews' during March-April proved to be a source of solace. However, my perspective has evolved since then. In hindsight, it seems I sought refuge in work to escape, to divert my thoughts from the situation, and to avoid negative feelings that could distract me from my goal. Ironically, it unfolded much like a boomerang, returning with a delayed effect.

My therapist called it PTS, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and I didn't get it at the beginning. I doubted it could be applicable since I hadn't seemingly experienced any trauma. However, she explained that 'trauma' doesn't always need to be a specific catastrophic event; enduring a prolonged period of stress and poor emotional management is sufficient.

I won't delve into the details of my experiences during the months my father was hospitalised, but people often commended me for my bravery. To be honest, I'm uncertain if I was brave or I was just in surviving mode. It's said that in certain situations, strength emerges from unexpected places, and perhaps it was a bit like that for me. What I can confirm, unintentionally, is that throughout that time, I restrained the expression of many emotions, akin to feeling numb for four months.

What I'm attempting to convey is that since my return from Spain, I made a huge effort to focus on the magazine. Yet, I found myself entangled in a struggle. Suddenly, I couldn't concentrate for more than 5 minutes. Ideas for designing layouts escaped me, didn't know which direction to take, and couldn't even make decisions for myself.

That was one of the most challenging parts for me, because I've always considered myself an independent person capable of making decisions. But at that time, I felt in need for assistance in every aspect. It created a strange sensation every time I tried to work on something for the new edition—it felt like I was about to fall into a void.

In an attempt to push through, I forced myself to engage in tasks, only to revisit them the next day and delete everything I had accomplished. This cycle birthed a sense of rejection, a loss of motivation, and a diminishing enthusiasm that once fueled my work on the magazine.

For me, the toughest realisation was acknowledging that I no longer found joy in what I had always loved doing.

So, as many of you already know, we've paused the edition, and I've taken some time to heal, recover, and reclaim the motivation and creativity needed to move forward. Many times, I thought I had recovered it, but I realised that I'm not quite there yet.

I feel like I'm letting down many people, particularly this incredible community we've built over the past three years, and it saddens me—for us and for you, and for all the artists who contributed to this edition. However, I also understand that dwelling on this mindset won't help. It's crucial to release the pressure from my shoulders.

This whole process has made me think about how closely linked creativity is to mental health and how often we navigate through emotions that we don't know how to handle, affecting our ability to create.

That's why today, I wanted to share this experience with all of you. Firstly, because I felt I had to do it for myself, and secondly, to open up this space for you to share your own experiences so that we can continue growing as a community. I know there will be people who wouldn't have advised me to not share this post. I understand there might be those who advise against sharing such personal posts. Some argue against showing vulnerability, fearing it undermines credibility. However, if there's one thing that characterises us at VAINE, and those who've been here from the beginning know it, it's the transparency and honesty with which we work.

I'm not inclined to hide my emotions or feelings if I believe they relate to a valuable topic that can be shared with our community. Honestly, for those who think differently, perhaps this is not the place for you. I couldn't just stand idly by with all of this inside and wanting to share it with all of you. For me, the most important thing about this project is the community, and if I stop sharing my experiences just to keep a few followers, then I wouldn't be true to my principles, and none of what we've built would make sense.

I won't give up; I can promise that to you. I don't know how much time I need, and I only hope that you'll be there when this period ends. I hope to emerge stronger from all of this, and that we all come out stronger as a community. So to those who truly support us from the beginning and those who continue to be there day after day, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and thank you for reading this.

Big Love,

Siria x

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