I hear your pain. I had been doing duolingo - which required one to keep going, even if I didn’t understand a thing. I’m not exactly sure how much I learned with duolingo, but I did learn persistence. I did learn that just hammering things into your brain works.
You really have no idea where these other people are coming from. As a teacher (NOT a language teacher), comparing yourself to others is a bad idea. You have no idea where other people are coming from. In addition, they may just be bragging. Since I saw the test scores of students, I can tell you that many of them lie about how they are doing.
Also, some exposure to these visuals, in one way or another - could be very useful. I am guessing an artist background could help a lot! I keep hitting my head against my keyboard, because I don’t slow down and see the difference between the visual.
Also, at the beginning, I did not understand the difference between the Kanji reading and the vocabulary. I’m still not exactly sure I understand all of it, but I now realize the colors are different! (It took me a bit.) So, that slowed me down considerably where you are. Maybe that’s not the issue you’re having, but clearly, your brain is super busy trying to work on something, and hammering away will guarantee it breaks through! Maybe you’ll get other parts easier then others.
Hope that helps!