It was 2015. I was a sophomore in college, still feeling the sting of leaving my life behind to start somewhere new. I'd pass the time by watching Netflix marathons curled up in bed, eating my meals alone, scrolling through Tumblr to fill the empty hours. Tumblr became a home for me, as it was mindless and didn't require much effort. I remember seeing an account called the The Artidote pop up on my dash. It was full of artistic drawings, quotes, and content that, at the time, I didn't give a second glance. I was trapped in my own thoughts and didn't let anyone in to pull me out.
The Artidote kept popping up, though, and I kept seeing the posts every once in a while. I took it as a sign from the universe–I’m superstitious like that–that I was meant to explore this a little more; I could feel myself gravitating to the stunning art that was spilling onto my news feed.
The Artidote (combining art + antidote) is an online community where original artwork and beautiful visionaries meet, a platform to heal, bond, and empathize with others–even if they're on the other side of the globe. It unofficially started in 2014 when creator Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra began curating art and words in a way that was unique, specifically on Facebook. He has a knack for finding quotes, whether they're from a world-famous author or a random Tumblr user, and matching them up with the right piece of art to create the perfect balance, as seen below:
“Tip of the day: You’re so hard on yourself. Take a moment today. Sit back. Marvel at your life: at the grief that softened you, at the heartache that wisened you, at the suffering that strengthened you. Despite everything, you still grow. Be proud of this ✨” -HERTweetx
Reading quotes like that sends chills down my spine. It makes proud of how far I've come, and people all over the world started to love the work that Jova was doing, too. In 2015, after gaining a considerable amount of recognition, he gave his work an official name–and the Artidote was born.
Jova knows that up-front, in-person conversations about mental illness aren’t easy, so he came up with a different way to talk about our struggles: through art that shows raw human emotions. He uses the phrase "MENTAL HEALTH OVER EVERYTHING" to encapsulate the importance of putting your mental health first, even if you’re not completely ready to open up; it is fine to go one step at a time. Through pictures, words, social media, and a combination of all of those things, thousands and thousands of people have found solace in knowing that they’re not alone in their struggles. Jova has a gift for curating breathtaking artwork and aesthetics, often pulling original work from Instagram and Tumblr accounts that don't receive too much attention–and he always credits the talented people behind the magic.
The Artidote became a safe haven for me. I was yearning for some kind of human connection without the pressure of face-to-face contact, something to push me forward on the bad days. I began to understand that I wasn't the only one who felt completely broken. This community of artists and visionaries guided me, arming me with what I needed to start taking care of myself. Believe me, the pieces didn't magically begin to slide back together, and I'm still learning how to love the skin I'm in, flaws and all. It's a slow process, but I'm forever a work in progress, shifting and shaping myself into something new every day.
Some have called Jova a “keeper of secrets”–perhaps that’s the best way to describe him and the close-knit community he single-handedly formed over Snapchat. Jova created a Snapchat account encouraging Artidotees, as he calls them, to send snaps and open themselves up to help from others who also value mental health over everything. He asks three key questions when people send in Snapchats to be made public on the account: where are you, what time is it, and what's on your mind? The conversations have blown up, with complete strangers becoming friends as secrets are spilled and support is given in the blink of an eye. News outlets around the world have given the Artidote the attention it deserves–check out these articles (or as Jova calls them, success stories):
Artidote: The social network antidote | Arabs are turning to Snapchat to share their struggles with mental health | Here's How Snapchat Helped Save a Girl From Committing Suicide
The Artidote has become a virtual safe space for survivors–and anyone else who wants to talk, too–to heal and grow with one another, an environment where no one judges you for what you’ve gone through or what you’re going through now. Your experiences matter, and sometimes, seeking advice from kind strangers over the Internet is the medicine you need. And that’s okay.