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!