I’ll be getting giddy on my IG stories about it, tagging lots of people on FB and twitter too. I’ve started now, so I’ll #KeepTalkingMH Form the gritty stuff at MH Confrences to the simple ideas of wellbeing and community at this Print To The PeopleSocial event.
Please share, or tweet me, come & learn something about yourself! For tickets & more info click this link
Nameless, hairless, she floats in my bedroom. Blue fade of sea or sky and a yellow ark of thought and hope.This was a piece I made after an angry body (FAV17) of work and alongside a body of work I can’t face( yet to unwrap it, document it or write about it, it will take up so much energy I have been avoiding it for 2 years) This passive half figure is painted on a piece of marine ply, left over from a degree show, it sat outside for 5 years before I decided to prime it and paint on it. Circles are symbolic of many things, planets, moons, cycles, revolutions, behavioural loops. There is something comforting in their roundness, symmetry and completion.
My first attempt at painting figures was in a pink and blue phase, I restricted my pallet for a while because it felt comforting. Colour is weird, in all my art school education I never sat with a colour wheel and tubes of paint or ink to see how it worked. I have this overwhelming feeling of someone saying “Those colours don’t go. Flesh isn’t pink. You’re not a artist, why are you painting? You have no taste, your opinion is invalid, you’re wrong, you don’t belong.” Painting in colour has the weight of social anxiety, patriarchy, victim status and classism all rolled into one. The weight of my lack of confidence and a dick. I think I’ll feel that way until “the greats” and the “masters” are viewed through a lens of authentic accountability. Where we are taught about dismantling oppression and rape culture alongside the behaviour or actions of artists and their practice. It feels like it’s happening in cinema.
My upbringing is gritty, uncomfortable. After 5 different high schools I learnt I was safer as a social butterfly, being in art school taught me further how to quietly slink into situations and camouflage myself, heritage, lived experience, to become palatable. An accent that cannot be pinned down to a county and an uncanny ability to make others at ease, desirable, to fluff their ego gave me the power to be non threatening. Leaving the relative comfort of the institution left me with little to camouflage or slink into, I no longer had a framework. For countless other reasons, the final straw in a lifetime of abusive relationships, I fell down and it took an team professionals and my strong willingness to work it out to get back up.
So who the fuck am I?
It doesn’t matter because in a year I won’t be her anymore. It doesn’t matter what I am to you because I have to do me, I’m accountable to no one professionally which is scary, but it means I’m determined to make my actions match my intentions. Stepping out of behavioural loops to become a new kind of other, the evolution of post 30 magic. Using my super powers for good. Yeah fuck you ACEs! I’m writing because I’m in positions of powerlessness and that is something I find wholly disturbing. Summer holidays are frustrating, for many that’s true, the extra parenting alongside self regulation and containment without the usual vents and space to purge the sludge that builds up, it’s dangerous. Mum Mode can get ugly. The anxiety that grows isn’t dispelled so easily and I get that “lust to get shit faced” a yerning for escapism that I no longer use.
One of the places I love to go is currently out of bounds because the building work has caused a smell that I have to work through. The thing about PTSD is that, it’s brain damage, even now I’m totally on top and in control, I know how to stay safe but something that I haven’t touched, smelt, or seen since before having EMDR therapy can totally derail me for a moment. Someone can use a phrase that sends repulsion through my body but smells and textures are something else. So the distinctive smell of plasterboard and warm pine dust in the confined space of a loft in summer isn’t something I have encountered for a long time and I have to do a hell of a lot to stay grounded. To calm the 10 year old in me thats utterly alone and powerless.
There is a plant, I haven’t seen for perhaps 20 years, it’s delicate fussy tendrils thumped me right in the chest a few weeks ago, damn my love of house plants! I don’t stop to gets its name, it’s out there in the delightfully modern trendy places and I know it’s attached to a bad experience so long ago that all I can put my finger on is it felt like a whole lot of nope. But this is it. This is life after. This is the future. I recovered enough to responsibly push my own boundaries and stay in control. My recovery was learning to safely feel emotions, having left them for the comfort of dissociation reconnecting was tough but I had some good help. Finding I had a voice to speak about them, acknowledging my super powers, those delightful gifts left over from living in fight or flight, means I have to authority to brush aside the imposter syndrome and kick the ass of those doubtful feelings because what I’m doing now matters.
I recently got to listen to a seemingly kind man about how he felt design was more worthy than art, painting for oneself, about emotional response is selfish he thought, to take someone else’s idea and make something useful was far more virtuous and worthy of space in the world. Psht, yeah well in a capitalist, patriarchal, privilege kinda way I see why you might think that. By being hugely self indulgent and quite courageous I can tell my stories, voice my experience and make someone else a little less scared to talk, a little bolder in ideas of breaking behaviour loops, changing my family culture and coming forward post abyss, post abuse, saying words out loud is just good practice.
Why bother? Why bother being in a world that is full of boys clubs, full of cis white male depictions of female form? Why paint and exhibit? What’s the point? It’s very selfish, it’s my self care, my way to stay in control, I paint to talk and talk to paint. Exhibiting gives me a unique soap box to shout from. I have begun to talk without my work, describing recovery as a Family Mental Health Activist at conferences, but Im still focused on using the space I used to slink into to remove my camouflage and talk about the ugly, to use the art space to educate the professionals from government agencies alongside the public about domestic abuse and mental health recovery, BUT WHY? I’m not alone, unfortunately my experience isn’t unique, if I talk about my experience in order to educate those working in preventative or recovery fields, maybe it will shift the trajectory of other 10 year olds experiences. The more I talk the more I see I’m not alone, we start to band together to to support one another #survivorculture
Colour still feels weird though.
Who The fuck am I? Ask my paintings in 10 years, they might know.
#MumMode I’d love to be brutally honest but I’ll tone it down, to keep me and my little family safe. I don’t blog or use social media anonymously. My family isn’t nerotypical & our struggle isn’t a secret, but the details are masked. There is a picture of Dynoboy and I alongside the mention of difficulty in an interviewby the NSFT about FAV17 with the local paper a year ago. My mum mode is fully acctivated, were almost half way through the summer holidays, in a few weeks I will be running on reserves.
I’m still reluctant to share his image on posts freely, I have a strict internal venn diagram about when it feels right to and when it’s not appropriate, the caption alongside makes a huge impact too. The context of my painting and activist work and the audience I’m sharing it with bring huge connotations that could be miss read because I haven’t strictly underlined where we sit on the domestic abuse and mental health map (there is no such map that I’m aware of) Recently networking a hypnotherapist asked “What’s your background?” my flippant reply was “all trauma”. I have since learnt to say “Artist and Family Mental Health Activist”. I’ve been incredibly angry and frustrated recently because I know our truth. It’s so full and loaded but I have to be contented that I KNOW.
It makes me uncomfortable, parents sharing their children’s unwanted behaviour online, it comedy relief, sure or is it – help I’m a victim if my child! When it’s negative behaviour, there is a vulnerability that’s so frickin obvious it makes me sad. Sometimes it’s comical and how we get through it, parents being in the same boat, I get that. Maybe it’s about balance, maybe I’m just hypersensitive or maybe not down with the times. I’d be heckin pissed if my childhood deviance was chronologically laid out and my struggle shared without my creative input.
I’m sure I used to do it too, I know I’ve thought about it, I know there are images of me fed up with him in the back ground but I’ve never openly shared the bigger natative. What makes me uncomfortable now is the line that gets crossed where the parent is advocating for their child with overexposure of the struggle. It’s totally different when it’s in private groups, for example parenting social media groups have strict guidance on what to share within the group, in order to keep the families safe. These spaces often hold those who are in crisis, which is often messy af. I see it a lot from autism speaks type parents, the autism community is fighting back with it’s own voice, Kirsten Schultz wrote a compelling open letter to The Mighty about it.
Being a neurodivergent young person isn’t easy, being their parents is tough too. Sometimes it’s like having a much younger child. Sometimes it’s like living with a much more mature person in an adolescent shell. Yes having teenagers brings its own struggle but if someone is off loading to you, DO NOT SAY “oh that’s just normal for their age.” Any way I’m just here to say that parenting is hard.
Parenting Extra is HARD.
School holidays means the responsibility of laying out structure and routine is primarily on the one person who stays home.That’s me, it means the times I get to be just me, to meet friends for life giving coffee and chats is less. More planning has to be done to keep my own routine of weekly therapy and support in place. To get in the studio and leave when I’m ready doesn’t happen. An appropriate child care situation literally doesn’t exist. It’s all about containment. My identity has to hold on for a while, I have to just hold on in there and keep on keeping on, and that’s OK, because this is so much better than it ever has been.
I don’t want sympathy or applause. I just want to share because I know I’m not alone and I know you probably know a family in a similar situation. So go have a cuppa, send a message of solidarity, let them rant. Forgive them and reschedule plans if everything went wrong or plans where broken. Don’t judge what you can see, because you can’t see it all. It can be chronically lonely for parents and support is hard to come by, if it isn’t a burden on you go see them, bring dinner, go to the park with them. This stuff is priceless.
Repairing damage from previous relationships for us both and assisting the growth of a wholesome young person is my responsibility, it’s a privilege I share with a trusted few.
On the right there is a picture of me, my name and some words about me.
FeedBack Mental Health conference Shedding the Light on Loneliness and isolation, the last one was in Lowestoft this time we are in Thetford.
This is the vulnerability bit of what I’m doing, just the word domestic abuse near my name is unnerving, I’m not going to publically underline my whole experience because, well, we’d be here a while. I haven’t got the energy to correct others assumptions either way, my vast experiences come under this umbrella heading. There is still a little part of me that is scared of getting in trouble for being honest. Im dealing with it, every day. Everytime someone lets me know how i’m helping them to overcome their own challenges it fuels the courage I need to keep talking.
Growing up surrounded by masked monsters it was inevitable I would unknowingly inherit some of their traits. As I gear up to talking at another mental health conference I have to balance what I write and say publicly to avoid becoming vulnerable to the tempers of abusers that squat at the very edges of my world. I understand why they are frightened and how that makes them dangerous. I’m not here for them. My responsibility is to keep my family little safe and to be happy. Im doing, talking, making, writing for me. I do what I need to do to be happy, which in turn makes my family happy, that is what matters to me. I tried pouring from an empty cup and it almost destroyed me.
I was unaware of my mental health needs, of the significance of my own traumas. I couldn’t see. It’s impossible to be accountable for your mistakes if you’re too busy avoiding or denying them. I was an empty cup that couldn’t protect my son,
that is the monster I became.
An empty void where he needed a containing safe place, emotionally unregulated when he needed stability. You can only parent what you know though, unless shit hits the fan so hard you have to change your approach or lose everything.I had been a reactive intuitive parent. I became depressed and non responsive. That is scary. I understand where my responsibility starts and ends in this story. I do that often by inspecting how I feel, often with an ugly visual. I will continue to talk and visually explore the difficult parts of parenting and mental health, under the domestic abuse umbrella because it helps me to continue to make sense of it. I often draw myself at different ages, through different events, waves are a predominant motif that helps to convey different emotional states. When I talk about emotions it helps to have the sea as a reference. Very early on in my recovery I drew women battling sea monsters. Now I realise the monsters aren’t mythical and I can’t drown them, but I can be safe. What I’m discovering more often is that by being equally
vulnerable and courageous,
helps others do the same. To hear a similar story and see a positive outcome soothes us, makes us feel less isolated in our circumstances and less alone in the world. Feedback Mental Health conference “Shedding the Light on Loneliness and Isolation” is a space that I can use to promote the tools I used to recover after crisis and re build throughout our recovery. I built a village that serves us beautifully, because we are enough to be cared for and loved. Abuse can make you unable to believe you are valuable and worthy. I hope buy showing my ugly others will feel less ashamed and more able to seek help and