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MILAN, Tenn. (AP) — About 12 years ago Daphne Wallis was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.

From being in an abusive relationship to living in poverty to dealing with her mental health, Wallis was in a dark place — until she decided to create her own happiness through art.

“Creating something from nothing helps me know that fresh starts exist,” Wallis said. “It keeps me in recovery mode.”

Wallis started painting and drawing at a young age to take her mind off the negativity she faced in her life.

“I used it to vent,” she said. “I used it as a coping mechanism.”

Art was not something Wallis thought about doing professionally until 2013, when she sold her first piece. This was around the time she started experimenting with painting on wood.

She shared pictures of her work on social media just to show her friends what she was working on, and people started asking her for orders.

“I had prayed and asked God if he would send me somebody to help me with where I fell short,” she said. “If art is what he wanted me to do, then I would give it my all.”

Fast forward to 2017, Wallis moved from Mississippi to Milan so she and her friend Lisa Steele could open up Angel Water Art Studio.

When Steele called and asked if she wanted to start a business together, Wallis knew that was God answering her prayers.

“I have a motto: Don’t tell me why you can’t, find me a reason why you can,” Steele said.

Steele believed in Wallis’ vision of using art to help others’ recovery and wanted to be part of it. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she fell into a depression herself.

She decided not to let that overcome her and wanted to stand up for something, so she felt it was a good idea for her to go into business with Wallis, she said.

“Put your efforts into something that interests you, and come out with a good life,” Steele said.

Music and art are the light to her darkness

In addition to painting, Wallis writes and sings what she calls recovery music. Part of her process includes sharing her music and stories on YouTube.

Her video diaries show her entire recovery journey — the good and the bad.

“It shows me not on any kind of medication but depressed; it shows me frustrated, everything I was going through,” Wallis said. “And it shows me struggling with my mental illness at times.”

This was all at the beginning of her journey, and the videos show her searching for God. It shows God’s mercy and how he helps you no matter what your flaws are, she noted.

“I look back over the stuff and it keeps me going,” Wallis said.

The reason Wallis decided to put herself out there and make her videos public was to be an example for someone else.

“When I was looking for an example, looking for someone to guide me through . there was nobody,” Wallis said. “I felt like if I’m going to do this I need to share it, because I know that it’ll help somebody to see the process of recovery.”

The motivation behind everything she does is to help people with recovery — recovery from mental health, abuse, addiction or anything negative.

In the future Wallis dreams of creating a ministry called Angel Water Solutions dedicated to helping people recover with all forms of art.

She has seen loved ones get lost in mental illness and addiction and prayed for them to be saved, but she had to start with herself.

“You can’t help save somebody from drowning if you’re drowning with them,” Wallis said. “So I started swimming.”

Today, Wallis is positive and optimistic, but a few years ago she was far from it.

In 2006, she checked herself into a mental hospital and was at one of her lowest points in life. One day she was walking around the hospital and saw a board with a positive message written on it.

The nurses would write a new quote every day, and Wallis found herself excited to go back and read it.

“I was so depressed during that time,” Wallis said. “It was just like my entire being was giving up and shutting down.”

Those simple messages gave her hope that there were better days ahead.

Instead of looking to other people for motivation and happiness, she found it within herself.

When one door closes, he will open another

Steele got a promotion at her job and had to quit Angel Water Art Studio. Wallis was not in a position to keep it open by herself, and it closed the beginning of November.

“I’m tired but I’m hopeful still, and I’m so excited more than anything,” Wallis said.

Had this happened a few years ago, Wallis would have fallen into depression and not been able to deal with the situation as well as she is now.

Instead of focusing on the negative, she is choosing to think of all the new possibilities she has. She is still able to host painting parties at people’s homes, and she plans to expand her online business until she can open another studio.

“I realized you don’t have to have people to support you that are close to you — motivating yourself is the main thing,” Wallis said. “God will send people to support you.”


Information from: The Jackson Sun,