16/08/17 00.32 and 16/7 21.19
t’s late and I should be in bed but I picked the wrong book. I haven’t read before sleeping in a very long time, usually it’s novels and things that just switch my brain off; tonight I chose to make a start on Derren Brown’s ‘Happy’ – sorry for incorrect punctuation, the whole upper number line of my keyboard is broken so I am having to make do at the moment. I haven’t read much of it so far and don’t know if my brain has really registered it properly at the moment, what I have picked up on is that it’s all in my head.
I have removed a lot of my writings from this site because it’s mainly meant to be about my artwork and it was doing a bit too much having all sorts of random stuff lurking around. Following my last post I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I am my artwork. I keep a couple of video diaries; one in a closed group which is reserved for mental health only, the other is on my artist’s page and it’s meant to be about my work. Recently I have noticed more and more of a cross over – some people like this and others have un-liked my page and moved on.
My art is about my own experiences, perceptions, thoughts and feelings, no matter how skewed these can be. It is how I explore new ideas and try to come to terms with things. It is also a way of trying to find myself and grow as an individual human being. My mental health videos are about relating to others, I am hoping that in my own, small way I can help someone else, even if it is helping them see that they are not alone in their ways of thinking. I want it to be a progressive thing and as I evolve, get better and move forward, it will give encouragement to others to seek help, get to know them selves more and move forward.
I have found myself sitting in my pants on my sofa with a cup of tea and a pack of rolling tobacco next to me. My eyes are watery through tiredness, smoke and maybe a bit of a realisation. The mental illness and my way of seeing the world could all just be a construct in my own head. I am on medication and am by now dependant upon it; it stops the symptoms of Schizophrenia and allows me to live a normal life of going to work, going to my studio and seeing friends. The depression and anxiety come as they may and can be triggered by different things.
I am not saying ‘it’s all in my head’ as a way of minimising the symptoms or as a way of saying that mental illness isn’t real; it’s more that I am questioning my own perception of my problems and I am feeling that a huge shift in my way of seeing myself and the world might be beneficial to my happiness. The thing is that I don’t feel there is a switch I can click which will automatically change all of that for me, it feels like it should be a long road of getting to know myself, trying new things and taking the scenic route around the inside of my head.
I am not and will never pretend to be an A to B person. In my mind A to B while being the quickest route is always the less interesting. I like learning things for myself from experience rather than just doing what I am told with the reason of ‘because I said so’ or ’it’s the way it’s always been done’ as an excuse. I suppose in some ways I am stubborn. Tonight the main questions I have for myself are ‘am I afraid of being happy?’ and ‘If I change my outlook that dramatically will my art suffer for it?’ also ‘If I change will I suddenly become less interesting?’
Sadly no images of my past work still exist. I have had a number of computer failings over the years where I have lost everything and the web pages where I did have some work are also long gone. My work has always been a bit dark.
One of my favourite pieces was a set of three photograms, the process for this was just as important as the finished pieces…
I had felt upset about the UK going to war with Iraq; I am not hugely politically minded but it struck me on an emotional level that there would be a lot of suffering involved for the people living there. I have never visited Iraq so my own perception of the place was formed through what I was seeing in the media. I began by painting an A canvas in red, then I stuck on top related newspaper articles. Next I found a long list on the internet wit the names of dead Iraqi civilians; I began to stitch each individual name into the canvas using white thread. This process took hours and one of my studio friends asked me why I was punishing myself in this way. Looking back I felt guilty about all the suffering that was coming to them from us, in some way I was blaming myself just for being a citizen of my own country. I decided to stop eventually, cutting the strip of canvas I had used from the stretcher. After some thought I took it to the dark room and started experimenting with moving it slowly over photographic paper. I had seen some work by Wolfgang Tilmans around that time where he had done a similar thing. After developing the paper I found the dark strands where the light had been to be really visually appealing; in some ways they reminded me of the dusty remains of human beings, these small traces seemed to move like distant memories and could be swallowed up should they escape the paper by dark corners. I thought about the souls of the dead leaving the bodies and where they would go to next. That evening I took my work home and sat alone on the back step of the bungalow smoking a cigarette. The moon was full and bright. I realised that I needed to make one of these photograms into the shape of the moon – to me the moon in universal, something visible to all, something forging a connection between places and people. Making this piece made me feel better; it made me feel that there is something out there that everybody shares no matter what the distance or the situation.
The above work was made before I had a mental illness. Was living in a stressful situation and my escapes were my studio time and my job.
I don’t know what bothers me more - the fact that I haven’t made anything else since my illness that I can be quite as proud of or the fact that I haven’t really tried. Getting sick changed my whole life.
I remember that just after finishing my Degree in 2008 I had a few months of true happiness. I was living in Leicester, well dressed and never left the house without makeup on. I was a size 16, went to the gym, went running and felt that I had really accomplished something. I had a lot of good friends, the weather was warm and sunny, I had no mental illness and I was in a very stable place mentally. Some days I long to go back there, then I realise that I can’t. I am where I am now and the only way there is for me to go is forwards.
My current therapy is good; it is helping me learn more about myself and is helping me know which parts of my personality come forwards at different times. The problems I have when I like someone in a more than friends’ way seem to be dieing down, annoyingly this means that whenever I like someone I tend to fall into a bit of depression straight away. For me this is better than getting obsessed and making my self look like a real mentalist.
My problems with self care are still ongoing; I still smoke, I am still over weight, my hair hardly sees a hairbrush let alone shampoo and my house is still a mess. I am hoping that over time I will be able to change these.
I still get lonely. A lot of my friends and family are in serious relationships. For a long time I thought that once I had a studio space things would change. I would have somewhere to go when nobody was around and I could really start to invest myself into making art again. After a long wait it finally happened for me, I got a good space in a local studio and have started to make art and make a few more friends. The thing is that the big mental shift I had hoped would come hasn’t, I still get lonely and I don’t know why. I see people regularly a work and talk to friends on the phone or via Facebook every day. The feeling comes and goes, sometimes I even feel lonely when I am around other people.
The lonely side of my personality tends to come forward a bit more than I would like, quite often she brings negative and worrier with her. I can get into some states sometimes but my writing and video diaries seem to help in their own way of letting these emotions out when nobody else is around.
This evening I have been thinking about my own measure of happiness. I had a conversation with a friend quite some time away that has just sprung to mind. He was asking me how I would know if I was successful or not and what could I do to make me really happy. Today I feel that my measure of things is somewhat unrealistic. I would love to be well known for being a good artist and I do dream big. I would love to do new and exciting things all the time and to travel around making art, taking photographs and writing.
These things come within constraints. I am a regular person who earns a standard wage, I have bills to pay and I have things that I am saving for. I have a studio space to keep going and the cost of materials. Realistically speaking between all of this I don’t have the time or the money to get out there doing all of this stuff yet my measure of being happy is still quite high.
It is good for me to have these dreams but I also worry somewhat that I don’t study hard enough and that I am not putting enough hours into creative practice and marketing to get anywhere. I suppose a lot of the time I can be a bit afraid to learn new skills by myself; I want to go to photography and design classes however they cost a lot of money and more often than not I hit the end of the month and realise I have gone through my savings and that I simply don’t have enough cash to see it through. I tend to apply for courses now and again at my local college - I bottle it at interview time because I can’t afford to drop hours at work to do the studying.
On top of all this I have to try and go steady metal health wise. The depression and anxiety aren’t always present, sometimes I have a really good run of things and manage to accomplish up to six months without symptoms, other times they snap at me and lower the mood in my internal community. It can take a matter of a couple of weeks up to a couple of months for me to fully pull out of a bout of depression.
During my low times the house work can go untouched for up to a week, sometimes more and my fish don’t get the care they deserve. I am prone to over thinking and sometimes it can take the slightest thing on my mind for me to get insomnia. Of course being a creative quite often sees me up in the middle of the night writing, thinking about things, chain smoking roll ups and drinking either Roobis tea or hot chocolate.
My work is emotionally stressful. I have Laryngitis at the moment so my strange accent has been topped off by a really husky sound. Today I was in a bad mood and was a lot less patient with callers than I usually am. My throat felt swollen, I felt stressed out by the way they were either speaking or shouting at me, I just wanted them to give it a rest. It can be relentless and is a bit like being in Groundhog Day. I remember a couple of months ago, a well known regular called me a stupid c#~+. I try to cut her a bit of slack as she has learning difficulties but I still told her off nicely saying that it is rude to call people that – despite it being my favourite swear word I value politeness and don’t want to encourage her to be rude to my colleagues. Some of them are less tolerant of language like that and tend to put the phone down on her when she starts swearing.
All in all I have to try and be realistic. Maybe one day the hard creative work that I manage to get done where I can will pay off although I realise I have a long way to go with this. One of my university art teachers said that eighty percent of any artists work is going to be rubbish, however you have to make the eighty percent to be able to get the twenty percent of good work, he told me I would need to be making work constantly if I wanted to get somewhere.
Sometimes I feel that the time between 2009 when I graduated and the time now in 2017 where I am trying to get back into practice has been wasted. I had an abusive relationship, suffered and recovered from a mental breakdown, got myself back into full time work again and quite drugs for good. Through a lot of that time I have kept a journal and have moved onto video diaries over the last couple of years because it’s a bit quicker than typing things out or writing by hand. I also don’t really edit much so my journals either in video or writing tend to be a pure stream of consciousness rather than anything structured.
At the end of the day I want to keep dreaming big and keep following that dream. I hope I am lucky one day and well practiced enough at making my art to make it. I also hope that one day I will have worked my way out of having mental illnesses – I have invested a long time in various forms of therapy and do notice continual improvements. It might be a bit unrealistic to think that I will eventually be free from anxiety and depression but I do my best to try and overcome them - on some days I do my best to just cope and get through the day. I like to entertain the thought that what will be will be and what is meant to happen will happen; realistically speaking the universe wouldn’t care what happens to me however in some ways this belief keeps me going, it helps me to focus at times and makes me feel better on the low days.