Marcela Sabiá Creates Body-Positive, Mental Illness Inspired Art


Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Marcela Sabiá, an artist based in São Paulo, Brazil, wants to help others living with mental illness feel better about themselves. For Sabiá, the best way to do this is through art, and her artwork – a mixture of body-positive and mental illness inspired creations – resonates in its focus on promoting self-love.

I have already talked about my treatment for depression and anxiety but I have never given much details about my depressive phase and I think I can help someone by sharing my story (at least I hope so). I was always very sensitive but soon after I was diagnosed with Panic Syndrome the depression that already existed became very deep. I felt absolutely nothing, just an emptiness and a permanent fatigue. I was lying all day and the things I liked to do before did not interest me anymore. I ate very little and did not feel like talking to anyone. When I had to socialize with other people who knew I was depressed I felt they looked at me differently and I became ashamed, as if they found me a unbalanced/crazy person. I also felt a lot of guilt because I had many things to be grateful for and yet I felt such great sadness within me. Over time the medication was helping me as well as the therapy sessions and today I am a much stronger person and that phase is behind. I still have to deal with depression and anxiety in certain ways but today I control my mind and not the other way around. What I mean is that it is possible to live well and overcome depression, no matter how severe it may be. The key is to seek help, share your feelings instead of trying to deal with it yourself. Thousands of people suffer quietly from mental illnesses thinking they are the only ones who feel that way and that is because there is still a great difficulty in talking about it.This stigma must end for us to be free and mentally healthy. It’s not your fault and it’s a disease like any other. There is solution for depression and there is no shame in assuming that you are not well. You are never alone ❤❤❤❤????#mentalhealth

A post shared by Marcela Sabiá ???? (@marcelailustra) on

“I think I am inspired by my own difficulties and experiences… It makes me want to create pieces that help us to be more positive about ourselves,” Sabiá, 26, who lives with depression and anxiety, told The Mighty. “I think all the pain we experience can result in incredible art. Having a mental illness made my creations very real and sensitive, I believe. With my mental disorders, I began to use my illustrations as support and [a] tool for my recovery and overcoming.”

This illustration shows self harm scars for one particular reason that I will explain next, but I am sending love to all kinds of scars – from accidents, surgeries, violence or whatever. The special reason I highlight self harm scars is because I know there is a great amount of prejudice towards them. Many people judge marks of self-mutilation because they feel that we should not empathize with someone who caused it to themselves. As if we were only allowed to have compassion for accidental scars but for these people only repudiation is allowed. This is not true at all. To reach this extreme a person needs to be in a deep state of pain and suffering, which is enough to empathize with them. These people need to have their mental health terribly shaken to get to that point and anyone who has ever had mental problems how intense this can become. What I mean is do not be ashamed of your scars, no matter what the reason for them. They are a story told in your body, a beautiful sign that you can heal and that you have survived. Show your scars to tell the world that life goes on and take pride in how strong you are. You are a beautiful warrior ❤ #bopo

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In addition to creating relatable artwork, Sabiá pairs each image with her own experience or a message of hope. In her illustration of self-harm scars, Sabiá writes, “[D]o not be ashamed of your scars, no matter what the reason for them. They are a story told in your body, a beautiful sign that you can heal and that you have survived. Show your scars to tell the world that life goes on and take pride in how strong you are.”

SWIPE FOR MORE INFO ???? So I was watching 13 Reasons Why and I was thrilled with a few things. Leaving aside whether you liked the series or not, it tackles a theme that we need to talk about for sure. I’m very emotional and nervous talking about that – it is heavy, sad and horrible, but it happens all the time. People feel so much pain that they get to the point of taking their own lives. Mental illnesses and especially depression make us distort reality so severely that we feel like nobody cares about us and nothing matters anymore. I know because I had already felt that way. At one point in my life, I felt I had no purpose and that everyone would be better off without me. I felt such a void, an apathy where this idea of ​​vanishing did not frighten me. I was numb, lost and it seems like the only solution sometimes. Luckily, before anything else I managed to see a light in the darkness and I asked for help. I just put it out to my family and assumed that I could no longer handle it alone, I desperately needed guidance and support. And that’s what I got from many people that I’m now so grateful. So please, if you’re feeling like life does not make sense anymore, or are having any kind of suicidal thoughts, please get help right now. Do not isolate yourself, do not think that you should have to solve your problems yourself. You don’t, just breathe. Talk about it, say everything you are feeling, even the darkest thoughts on your mind. We are here to help each other and there is no shame in asking for help. I have been helped in the past to have the ability to help other people today as well. You are so important, so special and there is so much to do. I will leave lifelines numbers here from Brazil and the US, but if you know of any other support organizations, please tell it in the comments. And for those who know a depressive person, just be there. Pay attention, listen, watch them and never give up helping. One word could make all the difference. Be strong, be kind ❤ #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #youareloved #youarenotalone #life #art #inspiration #illustration

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“In a culture where people want to show only the best of their lives, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person struggling while everyone is happy,” Sabiá shared. Writing about her own personal experience, is just one of the ways Sabiá hopes to dispel this mirage created by social media.

“I speak of things that people do not want to talk about precisely so that these people feel included and see that we are all equal and capable.”

I have been doing therapy for 3 years and today I went to the session feeling extremely distressed because of a problem that I just seem to be unable to get rid of. No matter how much I try I still find myself stuck in a situation I would like to leave behind and I said all of this to my therapist. She said: “You have a hard time accepting when things do not go the way you want to and that is why you can not let go. You have to accept what is not under your control and move on.” After she said it, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was desperately looking for a solution or something that I should do to break free and the answer was simple: just accept. Sometimes we end up idealizing too much a situation, creating expectations that do not materialize and we feel so frustrated because we think that our life should be different. We’re discontented and we can’t accept reality because it is not what we wanted. We need to be at peace with things that does not depend only on our will. Accept what has happened and have faith that the universe is working the best for your happiness. Let go of the idea of ​​how things should be and embrace them as they are right now. Let it hurt, let it heal and let it go. #mentalhealth

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Sabiá’s posts have touched upon going to therapy, as well as her personal experience living with “panic syndrome” known as panic disorders in the U.S.

Describing her journey on Instagram, Sabiá writes:

I was always very sensitive but soon after I was diagnosed with Panic Syndrome the depression that already existed became very deep. I felt absolutely nothing, just an emptiness and a permanent fatigue. I was lying all day and the things I liked to do before did not interest me anymore. I ate very little and did not feel like talking to anyone. When I had to socialize with other people who knew I was depressed I felt they looked at me differently and I became ashamed, as if they found me a unbalanced/crazy person. I also felt a lot of guilt because I had many things to be grateful for and yet I felt such great sadness within me. Over time the medication was helping me as well as the therapy sessions and today I am a much stronger person and that phase is behind. I still have to deal with depression and anxiety in certain ways but today I control my mind and not the other way around.


Sabiá also hopes her artwork can help dispel some of the stigma surrounding mental illness. “There is also stigma with people who have mental illness, we are still seen as crazy or we are not taken seriously,” Sabiá said. “There is still a lot of ignorance. [O]ne of the hardest things is to know that we are going to deal with it for the rest of our lives and we can never consider ourselves totally healed, even if we are very well in the present.”

Sabiá hopes that those who see her art learn more about mental illness. People don’t choose to have a mental illness, she said, it’s a health problem like any other physical condition is. “Just as we have a sore throat and need medication, our minds can also become ill and need treatment. It is normal and happens with all kinds of people. I would like people to understand how serious and real this is.”

One of the worst habits we can have is to say negative things to or about ourselves. I know it’s not easy and I have to police myself not to do it. Often we do things like unleashing a compliment we receive from someone, pointing out our own “flaws” to other people, and saying/thinking bad things about us. Well, think of a dear friend you have in your life. Would you treat them so badly ? Do you point out their flaws and say they’re to blame for all the bad things that happen to them? Would you call them stupid, worthless, ugly or a looser? I do not think so, we wouldn’t do this to a friend. But unfortunately we are able to do this to ourselves. The good thing is that it’s up to us changing that! Start seeing yourself like a friend you love very much. Every time you are putting yourself down, think if this is how you would treat your friend. Be patient, kind and helpful with yourself, be your own friend at all times. Sometimes we need a new perspective to begin loving ourselves and friendship is a great way to do this ❤ #loveyourself

A post shared by Marcela Sabiá ???? (@marcelailustra) on

“I want my work to make people feel less alone,” she added. “May they be freed from the idea that they are strange, problematic, ugly and not deserving of love.”

For more of Sabiá’s artwork, follow her on Instagram.


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