• Lisa Foujita

Drawing when manic


The way I draw (starting from one point and swirling about to end on the same point) originates back to when I experienced my second manic episode at age 20. It was as if I was trying to form a balance within myself when everything inside me felt so chaotic: I was attempting to keep balance with the unbalance that was the world around me. It was almost as if I was playing Kokkuri-san, a Japanese table game similar to the Ouija board, where my hands moved against my will in tune with whatever was controlling me.

I Love You

I feel that, in a way, both depression and mania are a kind of defense mechanism. If I don't have the cushion that is depression, then I would have to experience pain directly. And mania seems to be a sort of therapy, balancing out the hard and painful depression that was experienced before.

It's hard to explain but drawing, listening to music, and talking when manic are all an attempt to express and digest whatever "crazy" inexpressible fears I felt when depressed.


When thinking about this on a larger scale, the ups and downs of manic depression is a way to balance out the societal stress that surrounds our everyday life. It sounds ironic because this illness is such a mental unbalance. But in a way, bipolar disorder is itself a defense mechanism so as to not become crazy or have suicidal thoughts when exposed to such unbearable societal triggers.


Girl With Purple Hair

At least that was the case for me... For me, depression was my first phase when becoming bipolar, but when I experienced the manic phase after that, I looked back at my first depressive phrase and was like "What the heck did I just experience!?"

And all that expression (in my first manic phrase, I mostly wrote poetry) was not just some manic symptom but was a way to digest the trauma that was depression. Of course, I didn't even know the term "bipolar" back then, and it was all subconscious. But it was a way for me to come back from the dead and breathe in life through art.


Night and Day

By the way, I use vivid colors in my drawing, and the motifs I use are cute because depression is so traumatizing and needs to be filtered out with happy thoughts that I can't draw straightforward "depressive" or "dark" art. I think that can be said about other outsider artists. One thing is that I need to brighten up my depressive thoughts so I don't turn crazy. I need to become as happy as I was sad to overcome the depression before. But another thing is that when I become manic, the world around me becomes truly beautiful in my eyes, and that's not some illusion. In a way, my drawings show me that not everything about my illness is so bad as people may seem to think :)



About Lisa Foujita

American/Japanese bilingual. Staff member of a bipolar self help group called "Kanto Wave" . I draw for fun but mostly because my mania tells me to. Bipolar Disorder taught me the love of art, and for all it's suffering, I am thankful.


Check out Lisa's works:

Instagram: @lisalussah



Edited by Emiru Okada