Carly Swenson • Intuitive Artist

bloodwork: part II • internal pain

Blood as an expression of pain is partially at play in this body of work. I was a cutter off and on throughout college, before I had any real grasp of myself. Depression and anxiety are a difficult combination for my highly sensitive empath personality. As a result, I  feel everything. And everything can be far too heavy. Sometimes, I felt stuck in a world I was never really intended to be in. As if somehow, I was simply made wrong. All my brain parts and emotion parts were just put together in a way that isn’t conducive to the reality we exist in. When depression creeps in everything crumbles and doing anything feels insurmountably difficult.

When things turned especially bleak—that’s when the blood helped. Cutting wasn’t about causing pain. I don’t like pain; I already had pain. What I didn’t have was any tangible reason why I hurt so deeply. At the time, seeing blood made sense, as if it provided a viable reason why I was so profoundly sad. (I should say, “I felt seeing the blood made sense”. Objectively, of course, the act of self-harming had no actual benefit and thus didn’t help.) But deep in the recesses of my depression, cutting made this misguided form of sense. 

I understand how a rational human who’s never struggled with depression would think this sort of logic is beyond absurd. But if you can relate, it helps knowing you aren’t alone.

Life after the 2016 election was difficult for those of us with empathy. We saw a presidential administration acting in ways so far against the best interests of its people. Time after time I’d naively think, “It can’t get worse than this?” And it would get worse. And worse. And worse.

As an artist, self expression is cathartic. I had so many pent up thoughts without a means to express them. So once my original idea came to me, it opened an emotional floodgate. The menstrual blood became a safe and symbolic means to express internal pain.


4 Replies to “bloodwork: part II • internal pain”

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