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Art saved my life – my ongoing struggle with mental illness

“Art can permeate the very deepest part of us, where no words exist.”
(Eileen Miller)

internal thought - By Charlotte Farhan


I have suffered from mental illness since I was a pre-teen and have struggled to cope with very strong emotions and at times have not coped and have had to be admitted to hospital. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder and Post Traumatic Stress disorder after I had a break down and was hospitalised for my own safety after a serious traumatic event when I was 15 years old. In hospital I was introduced to art therapy and found a release and a way to express my inner turmoil which was so hard for me to voice to the doctors and nurses. My art therapist worked very closely with me and was able to see my pain and understand the language I had developed to communicate through my art.

Our Tree By Charlotte Farhan

I have struggled with these illnesses on and off for my entire life that I can remember and am now 29 years old and still suffering! Now the illness affects me in different ways. Instead of the dramatic full throttle emotions of self destruction and not wanting to help myself, now I am unable to leave my home without someone else, I have severe anxiety and have developed an anxiety disorder which affects all aspects of my day-to-day life.

Art has saved me more than once and when I had my third breakdown in 2010 I decided to find salvation in my art and creativity. I had to face the reality that my mental illness had stopped me from being able to attend a full time university and now was affecting my ability to get a conventional job. I had to make a decision for my future. I could not let myself slip even further with this realisation. My doctors, support workers and psychiatrists had no answers except for drug treatment which I have refused since I stopped all my medication in 2004. So I sat on my bed feeling hopeless and defeated. Then as if the Universe was trying to tell me something I came across an on-line gallery asking for artists to submit, as they were starting up a new website. I had to submit six original pieces and an artists CV and the decision would be made within 48 hours.

power of growth by Charlotte Farhan

The next day I decided to do it! I put everything I had into creating art which not only reflected me but also as a creative challenge to myself. I finished my six paintings and submitted them and waited for the longest 48 hours. Then finally I got an email confirming I had been accepted and that I was now an artist. I then thought about this title, this irony and how my life had led to this point. I then invested all my time in launching my career and creating a portfolio, CV and a social media presence. As well as this I took the decision to start my degree with the Open University and to do the subjects I had always wanted to do, now I am in my third year of my part time degree, a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Psychology.

Two and a half years after I submitted to the gallery I am doing well with my career and the future is certainly something which I know I can influence and I have some very positive days. I am now with 2 galleries, I have exhibited in a group show and have two exhibitions booked for this year. I have sold over 25 paintings and have over 19,000 likes on my Facebook page. Yes I still have very bad days! Yes I have lost lots of friends because they could not understand me or empathise! Yes I still have a long way to go! But I can also say I have a lot more ‘good days’! I have gained some new amazing friends because of my art and found my true friends in my immediate circle! And most of all, yes art saved my life!

“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humour and style and generosity and kindness.”

(Maya Angelou)

That day By Charlotte Farhan


For more info on Borderline personality disorder please visit:

And for Post traumatic stress disorder:

For info on Art Therapy:


Obstructive - By Charlotte Farhan Suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder is an ordeal on the best of days. BPD can cause obstructive behaviour due to it being a wildly misunderstood illness. This has lead me to hide my BPD from physicians and at times begrudge therapy, medication and leave mental health services. From the age of eleven I have obstructed treatment and then craved a cure, feeling abandoned and hateful towards the continuous changing of physicians and facilities. My art is here to break down and challenge stigma as well as educate.

Obstructive – By Charlotte Farhan


16 replies »

  1. You beautiful, beautiful soul. Art has saved me too. I live with depression and in my darkest days i find myself going into frantic artist mode. I don’t try to make it pretty, just splurge my soul onto canvas. It helps a lot.

    As for losing friends, been there too. It is hard and painful. I sincerely wish you all the best. Good luck, stay safe and keep up the awesomeness.

  2. Wow, that’s a very courageous post. Yes, art has helped many people and we should be forever grateful to its amazing healing powers. I know many artist friends who suffer from depression… you’re not alone! Stay strong! And stay positive! And keep creating your amazing art.

  3. I will be 64 soon and have struggled with chronic depression severe, bi-polar and anxiety syndrome. I was able to work and function. My meds take the edge off and episodes are less frequent and less dramatic. Sometime the best medicine is plain stubbornness and refusal to allow ourselves to be owned. Take pride in your artwork . It is a sign you are winning the battle ! You may enjoy blog I follow – A Friend to Yourself.

  4. Your work is so beautiful, I’m so glad for you that you found painting and it’s healing qualities. I found it a life saver too, it soothes my soul and I can go off to my own little dreamy world. Take care.

  5. Hey, your life story is amazing ! I’m in the search of my future, too, I’m 29 and live with depression, anxiety, and social phobia. I have my dark days, and my not-so-dark-days, but most of the time I’m stable.
    Well, thank you for visiting my blog, I will contact you in the future for help in translations … thanks a lot.

    • Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and leaving your lovely comment. I wish you all the best with your struggles. Yes please do let me know if you need any help. Take care and am pleased to have connected with you.

  6. Sorry to hear of your history of illness – been there myself in my own small way, although it didnt quite produce anything as beautiful as your work !

    But then wasnt it Picasso that said “art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life” … some of your portraits kind of put me in mind of him.

    Anyways – take care and keep on creating !


    Savereo John

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