This website started out with the intention of being a blog (rather than just an art journal series), but life and illness got in the way and I created the content I was ready and able to create, as and when the urge took me. But now, after about 18 months in therapy and with around 3 months (aaah scary) to go, I am starting to find the energy, the drive, the motivation, to write. So you may find yourself confronted with more writing from now on. That’s not to say the art journal will stop, it truly has a life of its own and I dont think I could stop if I wanted to, but I now have more energy, and my mind is calmer. And writing is starting to happen. So I thought I’d start with a short piece on who I am and why I do what I do. Something I was incapable of at the start of this journey, so I am proud to share the following with all of you.
I am an artist, writer, mental health advocate (expert by experience) and self-styled destigmatisation warrior. I am a human. I am an enigma; a walking contradiction; the simplest and most complex puzzle all at once. I am a fighter and a survivor. I have experienced abuse, neglect and exploitation. I have been vulnerable as an adult and a child. I have been a high risk mental health patient and am on social services’ register as a vulnerable adult. I am currently considered unfit to work and live on disability benefits. And I feel like a constant failure.
Yet according to my therapist I am an intelligent, insightful, passionate, strong and articulate woman. He reminds me weekly that I have I have a BSc and PhD in Psychology and a string of As and A*s at A Level and GCSE. And my response to that is generally “but that wasn’t me, that was superwoman” I, real me, can’t do any of those things and didn’t do any of those things. I am a weak emotional wreck. And he reminds me that it is possible to be both and that I am not a “weak emotional wreck” but that there’s a part of me that got left behind – the emotional part, and she’s still a child, and she still has tantrums and she can’t control herself and she needs lots and lots of help. And 29 years of telling her “you’re too clever to feel/act that way” stunted her emotional development and she split off from the rest of me. And in fact, he constantly says that I am more emotionally underdeveloped than half of the people he sees because my intelligence masked and invalidated my emotional world. This is a concept I fought with him over for the first few months of therapy “I understand so I should be able to” was my mantra “the fact that you understand is irrelevant to whether or not you have the skills and right now is getting in the way of learning them” was his.
For 29 years I lived a double life, I stepped in and out of many roles. The As, the degrees, that was Superwoman, not me. And she wasn’t allowed to have feelings. On some level, I was always aware that I was an actor in my own life, but superwoman got tired, really, really tired. And my life slowly drifted apart.
And then I entered therapy, where we realised that superwoman needed to be stopped, slowed down, allowed to rest. And little me, emotional me, needed time, and love and attention and to be able to grow up. And my unique therapeutic journey has always been on the balance of this dialectic – “you can’t solve emotions with intelligence, you aren’t stupid because you are emotionally dysregulated, and you need and deserve help, not punishment.”
This work hosted on this site charts my journey from diagnosis through treatment.
I also run a Facebook page, where, as well as my own work I share articles, memes, stories, and all sorts of things I find interesting, inspiring or helpful.
I share because it is healing for me to do so; I struggle (less now than at the beginning, but still very much so), to notice, recognise, name and describe or label my emotions. Free writing and drawing gave me the creative outlet to start to understand and be understood.
All the work on this site is single draft, free writing and/or drawing. It has generally been made during or as close to the emotional or conceptual experience as possible. Hence for the most part I sacrifice perfection or artistic form for emotional expression. I am proud to say that not a single drawing in the art journal series was pre-planned or drafted prior to the “final” version you can see on here.
My method is simply to hold a pen or pencil and feel. And just see what comes out. And my art journal sketch series and my free writing are exactly that. The raw and unedited musings from the mind of a person going through a journey of intense psychological change.
My aims…. to offer an insight into the mind of a person with a fragmented identity and multiple overlapping mental health diagnoses (I’ll write about all of those another time), going through the process of discovering herself, and perhaps (I hope) to make others with similar experiences feel less alone.
I feel like when I started, I was an acorn, now I’m a sapling with deep, strong roots, and by the time my story is over I hope to be an ancient Oak tree with many children swinging from my branches.