Alice X. Zhang · @alicexz

11th Oct 2017 from TwitLonger

Peter Capaldi and a personal story. #WorldMentalHealthDay.


So there I was sitting in NYCC Artist Alley as I do every year, signing my prints, talking to customers, minding my own business... I turned around and Peter Capaldi, the Doctor himself, was standing behind my table with a smile on his face.

I lost my footing, fumbled the print that I was holding, clutched my heart... y'know, very dramatic fangirl stuff. But my reaction wasn't because I was having a fluttery Whovian fainting spell (that was a factor, it just wasn't the ONLY factor.) I mean, it wasn't even my first time meeting Peter. No... what had struck me was the extraordinarily kind REASON he was there.

A little backstory. I've done work for Doctor Who for years, and because of that was able to meet Peter a few years ago, at the NYC premiere of his first episode (I gave him and Jenna Coleman a print, more on that here, I believe it's also covered briefly in the Season 8 World Tour documentary.) Anyway, in our brief convo Peter told me he loved and studied art - I would always remember about him, that he had a real, true appreciation for artists and their work. Later he even tracked me down and mailed a beautiful letter and drawing he'd done ( Just goes to show the kind of person he is.

Fast forward to current day at NYCC. I'd heard from a couple of people who stopped by my table that Peter was at the con this year, along with some other cast members. One fan told me she was going to be at an autograph session with Peter the following day, and offered to tell him I was in Artist Alley. I wondered idly if he would remember me or my art from all those years ago. I gave her a business card with my table number on it and honestly forgot all about it.

That is, of course... until he actually showed up.

When I saw him I knew instantly what had happened and... I can't even begin to explain what the gesture MEANT to me. The fan had told him my table number, and not only did he remember me, but he CAME. ALL. THE. WAY DOWN to Artist Alley just to say hi... like, for those of you who haven't been to NYCC or a massive con like it, Artist Alley is a nightmarishly crowded place, as far as I know celebs hardly EVER walk the con floors... for someone like Peter being who he is to have actually trekked through the whole convention center, bringing security to get him through the massive crowds, putting in the effort to come find me...

You guys... I can't tell you what it meant to me. I'm tearing up just trying to explain it here. For him to do this just to show appreciation for my art... he showed up, casually sat down behind my table, went through all my prints, praising everything he could see... he talked about how my work was important and in the spirit of the show, going on and on, took pictures with me, wrote me a long gorgeous message on one of my prints... hung out for like 20 minutes while crowds surrounded us gawking at him...

Please understand, he didn't need to do any of it. There was absolutely nothing in it for him to take time out of his extremely busy day to show me this kindness. But he DID, and at this time in my life it meant more to me than he'll probably ever know.

I've never talked about this publicly, I very rarely talk about personal matters anymore on social media, but since today is #WorldMentalHealthDay and to try and express the importance of this incident for me.... Last month, I was hospitalized for an anxiety attack and diagnosed with clinical depression. I have been struggling with it for the better part of a year and only recently sought professional help. I was ashamed to admit how deeply, desperately unhappy, and last month reached my lowest point in recent memory... severe depression had creeped up, caused me to make many bad decisions, and worst of all sapped me of nearly all my artistic motivation. Art which used to be so important to me all my life felt POINTLESS, I struggled to create anything at all and I became someone I didn't even recognize. You simply don't know what mental illness is like until it happens to you. Without the help I got and the support of certain close friends I would've never even made it to the con this year.

And even then... the night before NYCC started, I could not sleep a wink. 1AM... awake... 3AM... still awake... at around 7AM, after six hours of trying to sleep, knowing I desperately needed rest as I would have to work 10+ hours at the con the next day, I began to cry. I can't do it, I thought to myself. Why did I even THINK I'm in any condition to do this convention. Why should I go, nobody cares about my art anyway, the people I love despise me and think I am weak, lazy, and are better off without me... toxic thoughts that have plagued me for months started to come back. I cried and cried....

And then I got up. And I'm so glad I did.

It feels silly to place such weight on a brief encounter with a person I don't even really know. But when I've struggled day in day out for months and months to care about my artwork, about anything at all... Peter Capaldi's small kindness and support of my work meant the WORLD to me. I cried again, but they were happy tears this time, which hasn't happened in a while... When I've felt worthless for months, he reminded me of how so many people have loved my art, told me that I brightened their day... so I had to write this. To tell every single person that visited me in Artist Alley this year, and to each of my fans and wonderful friends who have never wavered in their support... and of course to Peter, as I could not tell you this in person.... thank you from the bottom of my heart. I won't forget it. And I want to tell anyone else who has ever struggled with depression or other mental health issues what I am trying to remember every day myself: what you feel is real, and you are important, loved and valued. You are NOT alone.

“In 900 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important.” — The Doctor

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