I’m celebrating the anniversary of my blog. It feels great to have been able to maintain it for a year. The blog is actually older than a year but somehow I’ve managed to lose the older posts. Some of them I still have but I can’t repost them in chronological order, which is driving me potty. It’s like when Kerry back at the office tells you who your secret santa is- Kerry these things are supposed to happen a certain way. It’s not fun losing track of your work, getting locked out of accounts, and suddenly finding your posts are capturing some of the worst of experiences of your life and even make you feel uncomfortable. I had to find a strategy for posting regularly that would give me enough time to reflect on what what happening whilst creating work. Gone are the days where I’d keep other people company and wait for their woes to end so that I might share a few of my own, now I state the case whether people are listening or not. It reached a point where I would post something and I would get attacked in any number of different ways, not to mention something dreadful or plainly ridiculous would take place after I’d posted. I would end up scratching my head: I have to communicate somehow but am I making this worse for myself? Posting on the 1st of each month gave me the opportunity to gain perspective and suits me. It also allows for a bit of fun to leak back into the situation before I post.

I’m in a position where I’m challenging the treatment I’ve received and I’m simply being dismissed, if not plainly ignored or lied to by people in authority. I’m being lied to by doctors, nurses, the police, and people in other professions. Getting authorites to adhere to their own policies is a tough task. I just had to make a complaint to see my medical records when they had not been sent to me seven weeks after after the request was made, way longer than the 40 period for supplying a data subject with their information. There is only so much room for error that can be allowed before someone not only seems to be incompetent, but that their actions are adversely affecting your life. Of course the NHS is an institution I celebrate even if there is misunderstanding and negligence. I gained a sense of how bad this could get a long time ago but feeling helpless is one of the most destructive emotions you can experience.The truth is you are not helpless. Even in your own small way you can take action. Helplessness turns you against yourself, it weakens your resolve, it devalues what’s important to you. Now I’m having to communicate what’s happening in my work which really isn’t something that I want to happen all the time, I have other things to talk about. Laughter is the best medicine so they say and disabling the stigma of mental ill health sometimes requires seeing the funny side. Or making fun of people who stigmatise.

Managing the long term effects and implications of discovering that individuals within authority are capable of such things is hard. Everyone sees stories like this in the media if they haven’t directly experienced it themselves. You might have had bad experiences of authorites along the way but complaints rarely get anywhere. Eventually you come to terms with it. I don’t need to trust individuals in authority because trust has nothing to do with it and trust was lost a long time ago, all that matters is that the work is done properly. It has reached a level where individuals within authority mistreat me if not directly threaten me with such impunity that I have to pre-empt what might happen and take precautions. I limit my interactions to such a degree that even in casual circumstances I don’t associate with anyone in these fields if I can help it.

I would love to work towards advocacy and in a small way my art contains an element of activism, but I have to work so hard just to manage my own experiences that I don’t imagine I will get to the position where I can help others any time soon. A number of years ago when I was enduring horrific depression as a result of this treatment, I faded into nothingness. I couldn’t interact with the outside world any more. I couldn’t manage my own health, safety or welfare, and individuals in authority refused to address my concerns and reports, colluding with each other to do so. I couldn’t see anyway forward and I made suicide attempts repeatedly. Now I interact with the outside world and no amount of threatening behaviour is going to change that. I’m prominent in the sense that I engage with the world around me- I am visible . I’m hard to miss to be honest. I will never be marginalised through my class, gender, race, or mental health status.

Day to day I focus on combating the victimisation I’ve experienced. This has taken years to gain a grasp of and a little bit of ingenuity. Casual interactions where you’re supposed to commit to what someone else wants need to be ruled out. A person who contributes nothing to your life in anyway, shape or form doesn’t require much consideration. If they make a point of telling you their ill intentions or boasting about their ill intention to others, then make a point of ignoring them. You occupy the same space as they do and they don’t own it. It’s quite funny to watch someone whose boasted about their ill intention towards you ask for your attention and you flatly ignore them. In public no less.

Ruling out scenarios where you can get hurt is empowering, it gives you confidence. Getting organised to tackle discrepancies and inaccuracies that not only inconvenience you but have long term implications is hard work and takes up a lot of time. A utility company that decides to over charge you is a normal everyday experience. Providing the right information so that they can correct the error is the normal response. When several weeks later they haven’t been able to correct the error after providing the right information in a variety of different formats as per their request and you’re getting to position where you’re going to have to make a complaint, you might think this is just a bad utility company. However the inconvenience and energy it takes to address it, to ignore threatening bill letters when you are paying off the over charge and they won’t correct the information, takes your focus away from managing your life. This is an example I’m sure most people can relate to, but not everyone believes this exact same thing can happen in institutions and authorities. I now make a very specific point of keeping track of nearly everything and I keep multiple copies because I can’t afford to get locked out of accounts, to have my post go missing, or take it easy when it has been demonstrated to me that if I just go with the flow I will suffer greatly. Keeping track is one of the most effective things I have been able to do in addressing victimisation. I have an element of stability at the moment and whilst disruptive events do happen I’m able to take stock in ways I haven’t been able to previously. It’s giving me strength I didn’t know I had. It’s a very tense time for me as I try to move on from these events, sometimes it’s as if I’m being deliberately hindered in doing so.

Defining my creativity through my experiences and delving further in visual culture more widely, it has been difficult to maintain the distinction between my personal life and my art, but where would I be if I had not created art based upon my personal life? Growing up I engaged in collage, drawing, painting, story writing and poetry. I was not a quiet child, I was quiet because I was told to be. I wanted to sing, to make music, to dance and perform as well. Consistent instability and difficulties made these activites vital, but culturally they are severely undermined. The difficulties I would experience in my social and professional life instilled in me that the arts were more valuable. I could record, express, challenge and reflect upon my experiences regardless of how chaotic and precarious my life was becoming. Performance of character exists within the work, every day interactions require that you be yourself. Integrity requires that you draw upon what it is you have experienced in order to be authentic. I appreciate theory in a multitude of ways, but when an experience becomes life threatening it’s your lived experience that dictates.

Mental health is of course physical health and vice verser. When you can not eat because you are stressed you become physically ill , you lose the energy to manage your stress and what ever it is that’s stressing you out. It’s one thing to do your best to manage your interpersonal relationships, it’s another when you are being asked to tolerate the intolerable. When a relationship is stressing you out the point that you don’t want to eat, then the stress has to be managed in a different way. The risk of not colluding with others is great, but the cost of doing so greater.

Voice hearing is a common experience, but one that is rather ill managed within the mental health field. I had no concept that I was hearing voices until I was in my late twenties when a psychologist suggested that my thoughts were voices. The term ‘voice-thoughts’ is a difficult one to break down. Up until that point I had probably interpreted just three words as potentially being a voice in my life time, and they had caused me no bother whatsoever. Speaking about this further with mental health professionals they interrogate you to the point that you feel as if you’re going to have an argument if you don’t agree with them, in which case you’re going to be labelled disagreeable. Feeling suicidal is not the same as hearing a “voice” telling you to kill your self, if someone in authority suggests that it is a voice then a patient might end up experiencing something to that effect. The fact of the matter is a voice is something you hear when another person in the room opens their mouth and sounds comes out. Thoughts are not voices. I was instructed quite a few times that if I “heard voices” when I was out and about then I could pretend I was talking on my phone whilst “challenging the voices.” I don’t do that. I definitely don’t need to have fake conversations on my phone with my thoughts whether I’m indoors or out. I can’t think of a more ridiculous suggestion to address a “voice hearing” experience. If I were to collude with the notion that my thoughts are voices and I needed to challenge them in public by pretending to speak to them on my phone I might get into a spot of bother. Art then becomes something that can break down an unhelpful suggestion. It also relays the right information, that I might not necessarily agree with your interpretation of my personal experiences, and that what you’ve concluded in itself doesn’t make sense.

I am working on a short photo series at the moment and collages, which I will add to my portfolio shortly. I will be back on the 1st April!

It’s Just Around The Corner.

Greetings. It’s the first of February and really – I can feel spring in the air already. Flowers have started to blossom and there has been many an afternoon spent with blue skies overhead. I’m working across several projects at the moment and progress is much slower than I would like, but something about having spring just around the corner fills me with that extra bit of energy to keep pushing forward.

Christmas was great, but there were a few things here and there that created more stress than I would have like over that period. I was attacked in the street near my home on boxing day. I managed to get away from the person unscathed but it was frightening. Typically if a complete stranger starts on me I just keep walking and they run out of enthusisam, but this guy decided to follow me. I reported it as you would but I felt quite shaken up for a couple of weeks and I’m making a point of not being by self when it’s dark out.

That brings me back to trauma. I’ve lived with the impression that trauma isn’t something that happens to everyone, or maybe it’s a little more subtle in other individual’s experiences and so they don’t really register it as trauma. My own experience feels brutal, it’s also often not seen as being valid and in some ways it’s ignored as something that happens to lots of people in contradiction to the point above, but then some how I am refused the right to feel any particular way about it. I do understand these persepctives up to a point, I’m probably guilty of it myself, but actually the point I wish to make is that I have no intentions of continually enduring trauma. Maybe that is the difference I wish to make to my own life that people who are strangers or even familar to me aren’t quite willing to accept. There are links within trauma, patterns and connections that I’ve been aware of since I was little, and I see those links play out long before they actually do happen.

As much as I felt I knew a fair bit about the real world as I was growing up, my awakening in my mid twenties was a genuine shock. As the monsters get bigger and their ties and threats become more apparant, you realise you’re just one person and it can be very difficult to come to terms with the nightmare you had as a child unfolding before your eyes. Especially when you’re trying to put your mascara on in the morning. I have so much I want to say, so much I want to do, but I no longer feel like I’m running out of time. It takes as long as it takes and with Gods grace I’ll get a bit more done tomorrow.

I’m indulging my love of film and theatre more and more. I’ve seen a couple of films this month that have stuck out for me. Firstly I saw The Gentlemen directed by Guy Ritchie. I’ve been having severe attacks when I go the cinema over the last year, it could be a mental health thing , it could be some form of epilepsy, but it means going to the cinema is a bit of risk and I really have to battle through if it happens because home is a long way away if it does. I wanted to see The Gentleman, I’m a big fan of Guy Ritchie’s earlier films Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, so it was a risk worth taking.

Watching a film about Toffs is like getting a humbug stuck in my throat. I mean I get it- they have cash. If I’d had the talent (*Winks*) and the good fortune to become a fashion designer it would probably be Toff cash I’d be relying on, if they’d actually had any interest in my pedigree and so on, which is part middle class English I’ll have you know. The thing is I’m much more at home with the concept of hard graft and I have actually grafted in my life time, so loads-a-money and making zlich effort gets on my tits a bit. I’d decided to go and see the film so I was in it for the long haul. I do love a Guy Ritchie film. You have drugs, violence, crime and the carnage that ensues as the King of the Jungle tries to maintain his empire. There’s the loss of lives that matter and lives that don’t, depending on who you are affiliated with. My own run ins and sobriety after my drug use as a young person means I’ve met a few characters like this myself, obviously with the kind of naivety young people have for the world they’re entering into, despite the fact they have actually seen Scarface. There was a point where I had a really hard time watching films on this subject matter and then I got over it: it would be much better to see a film about this kind of choas than to actually enter into that world itself. The gloss, glamour, tailoring, cigars, school-run-tanks, and £50 notes confetti does get your pulse racing but then you leave the theatre thinking “rather you than me.” I really enjoyed the film.

Very recently I saw Troop Zero starring Viola Davis on Amazon. It’s a film about a young woman who hopes to become part of an incredible opportunity offered by Nasa to a girl scout troop at a school in South America. Viola Davis works for the young woman’s father and begrudingly decides to help her earn her place in history. It’s an incredibly funny film that made me want to be a kid again and I can’t think of any other film that has made me feel that way in a long time. Viola Davis has to face her own nemisis and the young woman has to face hers too. The rivers, swamps and small towns of Southern America have the kind of charm an aligator has, but I really felt for the characters of this film and I kinda wanted some chicken that had exploded all over the barbecue. It’s a really great film about the debt we have to one another, and if you don’t cry then you need a check up.

I may have found myself a studio space so I’m very excited about that. I’ll be able to figure out how I’m going to manage my work across platforms because I am particularly fond of Folksy and Society6, and whether I need a one stop shop for my works. I desperately need to start selling at fairs so hoepfully that will come through soon too. It’s exciting: there are ideas that I can’t keep up with, teeny weeny budgets that enforce creativity when you’re day dreaming, and the topsy-turvy events of daily life just to keep me on my toes.

Finally my social media links have been set to private just to ensure a basic level of security. My portfolio remains open as does this page here on WordPress. Please feel free to connect if you wish. I will be back on the 1st of March. Have a great month!

A Positive Turn

Beat me,

Shout and yell.

I’m a tough cookie,

I’ve been through hell.

I forgive all

Who take my kindness

For weakness

Except you, I guess.

Control me,

Excuse your ignorance

For a child of three

Who became a king.

The little girl

Who separated right from wrong,

Who said no more,

Who fought to be strong.

It would take a king

For you to listen.

I wear no ring.

My throne, my rights.

I sit here,

I am not your queen.

My life, my story.

A future never been.

***

As I wrote last month I wanted to post on the 1st October. A lot has happened since I last posted and I feel a crucial change happening in my life that might change the direction of my art work completely.

I recently rediscovered my love of pixel art which I remember from being young. I feel as though I’m reaching an age where enough time has elapsed to overcome the difficulties I’ve faced. I live in a new space and as time moves on I feel more settled, stable and secure. What is particularly important to me right at this moment is that I am able to decide what I’m willing and not willing to tolerate. I have some ideas of how this might be reflected in my art work. I’ll be visiting craft fairs over the winter and making things in time for spring.

I’m looking for studio space over the winter too, moving beyond my dining table and desk to make art making easier, but I’m also focusing on photography more. I want to reflect upon a feeling of comfort, calm and trust that is new to me, something I feel in my gut and which might be the result of the work put in.

I will post on the 1st November. May you have a brilliant Halloween!