Proving unseen illness in order to survive.

I have to open myself up again, for the powers that be.
I have to retell it, relive it all.
I have to prove my illnesses and disabilities, whilst fitting in the predetermined boxes – designed for some of us to slip through.
I have fallen through the lines, the pages, told “there is nothing we can do for people like you”.
“You’re too ill”.
Jumping through hoops, running up hills – against the torrential down pour of sociatal expectations.
All this is done whilst the 1%, the bourgeoisie, the privileged watch on, as they stuff their faces with our human rights.
The media uses us as scapegoats, for the ‘outraged’ to demonise us, with the misinformation they are brainwashed by – we, the ones at the “bottom”, we bring it on ourselves.
Illness is equated with laziness, disability is questioned as being unmotivated.
The seen, the unseen and no details in between.
My work is unpaid and thankless, the sick leading the sick.
I don’t want this feeling of being less than, for being unable to fit into an imaginary “type”, conjured up by able, privileged puppet masters, pulling strings, herding the “deserving” humans into their boxes, and the undeserving to their coffins.

If you can’t be crazy here, then where? – By Charlotte Farhan (upcoming book excerpt)

If you can’t be crazy here, then where?

The first time I arrived at Woodside, it was 1999, mid-summer and I was 15 years old. Woodside was an adolescent psychiatric hospital and I was being admitted as a patient. The hospital was across acres of land, an old Victorian asylum with luscious towering trees, derelict buildings, secret gardens and courtyards and the odd facility still in use, like Woodside, an elderly psych and a lock up for criminal psychiatric patients. It was other worldly, away from everything, well not everything. The hospital was next to Chessington World of Adventures and every so often when the wind caught the sound just right, you could hear people screaming as they rode the roller-coasters, whilst having the time of their lives, it was ironic and very unnerving in such a spooky setting.

When I stepped out of the car the feeling of dread hit me. This was it! I was being abandoned here, without knowing what to expect and so far from that place which was supposed to feel like home, a safe space; maybe this was the safest place for me. The adults I had seen recently seemed concerned that I was a danger to myself.

I stepped into the reception area and noticed a girl sat there. She had very fine curly blond hair tied in a pony tail with loose curls frizzing around her head like a golden halo, her body was painfully thin, and she didn’t seem to be safe with herself either as she too had visible scars. She sat there tearing up a piece of paper, with pieces floating to the ground like sad confetti, I wondered how long she had been here, why was this sad girl so sad. Before she was escorted into a room she gave me the most dejected smile I had ever seen.

I was called into a room, it looked like the interview room I had been in a couple of weeks before, when the police took my statement. Inside there was a large two way mirror a video recorder and a man sat in a chair writing some notes. Sitting down nervously in front of the man I noticed he was probably in his late 50s, with more hair growing from his eyebrows, ears and nose than his head. With no smile or warmth, he said:

“Why do you think you are here Charlotte?”

This question was difficult for me to answer because in answering it I would have to say certain things out loud which were too hard to face, so I simply replied:

“I don’t know”

The man looked at me with one eyebrow raised and omitted a faint exhale of exasperation, I felt the floor fall out from under me, I felt worthless and realised that here, wherever this place is, I wouldn’t be understood either.

“I am Dr Sevett and I am the head psychiatrist here, at Woodside. Please make sure you use your time here wisely Charlotte” he said abruptly.

I had been at Woodside for just under a week, most of the other inpatients were either shy, un-welcoming or needy. I was introduced to a patient called Natalie, a chubby girl with frizzy brown hair, pulled back into an untidy top knot. Natalie was smiley and seemed to be more adjusted than most. She offered me a cigarette, I was excited that we could smoke and jumped at the opportunity. Natalie led me into the grounds at the back of our building, which consisted of an open manicured lawn with a clustered corner of old oak trees. Natalie sat us down in the centre, which felt odd as I was more an outskirts kind of girl, but this seemed natural to her and her confidence comforted me. As we both inhaled our first puffs of nicotine and poison, Natalie leant into me and said:

‘so, do you want the low down on whose who in here then?’

I nodded silently.

‘that girl over there is Louise, she’s an ED girl and you don’t want to get on her bad side’

Natalie said this with dramatic eyes to further her point.

‘ED girl?’ I asked

‘ED. Meaning eating disorder’

Natalie said with a tone that suggested I should have already known this. I didn’t have the guts to tell her that I was also an “ED” girl. Looking over at Louise I could tell that she was withholding food, although some could still be fooled due to the amount of clothes she was wearing.

‘Who is that next to her’ I asked, as I recognised her as the girl from reception with the sad confetti.

‘That’s Chrissy, she’s also an ED girl’

Lucy and Chrissy sat there under the trees as if they were perfectly placed china dolls, however, I felt the glare of Louise’s stair as she sussed me out.

‘Over there is Cane, annoying, but harmless, he has the mental age of a 10-year-old even though he is 16, so that’s why he acts the way he does, you’ll see.’

Cane was a tall and heavy set, about 6ft – he only wore tracksuits in garish colours. His mannerisms were erratic, and his voice boomed throughout the grounds.

‘That guy over there is Alex, he’s 18. He shouldn’t be here, they will be moving him to an adult facility. He has schizophrenia, so he can be very intense.’ Natalie said this with a cautious tone.

Alex stood in a door way of an abandoned building next to woodside, he looked like a Victorian gentleman, he had vampire like skin, almost translucent. His eyes were wolf like, a silvery grey which were brought out by his jet-black hair. He was tall, and his body was slender like a ballet dancer, you could see his muscle definition – he was strong.

“Over there is Jenny, she is weird but the sweetest – she doesn’t speak to anyone, so don’t be offended.’ Natalie smiled as she described Jenny.

Jenny was sat on a bench and appeared to be drawing in a notebook, she had dark sleek shoulder length hair, her skin was Mediterranean looking. Jenny had bare feet and her toes were painted a sparkly purple which twinkled as she wriggled them in the sunshine.

‘why are you here?’ I asked Natalie with hesitation

‘I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I self-harm a lot – but not as much as I did, you?’ Natalie pulled at her sleeves as she said this.

‘Something happened to me, an incident. I was ill before but this, what happened, it broke me and now I want to die – so they put me here.’

A few days later, I entered the day room and saw the nurses un-stacking chairs and placing them in a circle, it wasn’t for our daily group therapy. as we had already done this, as we had done every morning at 9am, so this confused me. We were asked to all take a seat.

“Hello everyone, we are calling today’s emergency group for Jenny, because Jenny refuses to go to School”, a nurse said in her best patronising tone.

This confused me further; school? We were in hospital, why would she have to go to school?

“Jenny, why don’t you want to go to school today?” the nurse asked

Jenny was sat on her chair with her knees up under her chin, her arms were folded in front of her face resting on her knees, with only her exceptionally large doe eyes peering through her hair and over her arms. Jenny didn’t reply.

Nurses, Doctors and some of the patients started to discuss Jenny as if she weren’t in the room. Jenny appeared to be getting smaller and smaller and I could feel the anger inside me get bigger and bigger, before I had time to think words just burst out from my mouth:

“Why does Jenny have to go to school, why are you making her feel bad for being ill, when being ill is why we are all here, leave her alone”.

I felt exposed, I had revealed myself. The doctors were looking at me with disbelief, the nurses looked disapprovingly, but the patients seemed elated. I looked over to Jenny and she was transfixed on me, like a puppy.

Later that day whilst in my room I decided to crack open my prison like window as the humid air felt constricting, but the window was stuck. I began to rattle the window angrily, but before I could lose my cool I saw these beautifully delicate long fingers appear and with complete ease lift the window open. It was Jenny, she stood there in my room like a beautiful ghost. Natalie had told me that Jenny didn’t speak to anyone. Which is why when Jenny Said:

“Thank you, Charlotte”.

I was both startled and honoured.

Jenny and I sat on my bed that afternoon and talked for hours, we chatted like old friends, we could have been “normal” teenagers if someone had just heard us, without knowing our situation and new address. The hazy feeling had left in those moments, I was me, in my mind and my body. With Jenny I was no longer a spectator of these strange events, I was here, and I was with Jenny.

Waking up in my new permanent state, terrified; not knowing where I was, what had happened and why. As my eyes ripped open, ready to escape what they had seen, my heart relocated to my throat, my blood rushing to my legs in preparation – detachment was settling in, nothing was real, including myself. The sun forced itself onto me through my window, not allowing me a second to pretend that that everything I knew was wrong and nothing would be the same again. The sunshine seemed to mock me with its warmth and promise of growth and better days. The birds and their song were not delightful, but instead loud and domineering. The noise of rustling leaves grated on my nerves like finger nails on a chalk board. The truth would slap me in the face and pin me to the bed, I was here, Woodside; I was labelled crazy and damaged, left and abandoned.

There was a knock at my door and before I could even utter a sound a chipper voice said:

‘Charlotte are you awake?’

I unfortunately knew that I was, so just shouted:

‘COME IN’

The door flung open, it was nurse Carry – skipping in with a beaming smile. With a look which matched her personality, wild curly hair, a sun tan which suggested she took long holidays in exotic destinations, or possibly she had just fallen into a vat of orange paint. Her clothes were bright, and she wore as much sparkle as possible, she spoke with a high pitched chirpy voice, however the thing I noticed first was her kind eyes.

At Woodside Carry was my firm favourite, her bubbly, approachable nature was exactly what I needed. A sugar-coated human, which I had little experience with in my 15 years.

‘Charlotte, the nurses need to speak to you, can you come to the office as soon as you are dressed’

I sat up slowly like the living dead, nodding at Carry and then placed my head in my hands as the world was already too intrusive.

‘don’t worry it’s just a chat’ Carry said softly.

But, I was worried; the other nurses, therapists and doctors, the “professionals” were fascists, they were stereotypical of who you would imagine working in a Victorian asylum. I walked to the nurse’s office which was a glass enclosure inside the day room, so that the staff could keep a close eye on us, the patients; or at least to reprimand us – not necessarily to keep us safe. It was an obvious divider between us and them, “them” being the ones who think they are sane and us who are deemed feral loons. Although, if they had been through what we all had, what I had; would they still be on the other side of the glass? Never had the expression, “people in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones” rung so true to me.

I knocked on the door and a very stern, yet attractive woman answers, it’s nurse Isabelle. As she opens the door the smell of her musky perfume hits the back of my throat, leaving the taste of floral alcohol on my tongue. The sound of normality from the conversations of the other nurses pass through my ears, reminding me of life before.

‘Charlotte come in’ Nurse Isabelle says with distain.

I sit on a swivel chair and feel the unsteadiness jolt me back into reality. Nurse Isabelle looks me up and down with her mouth grimacing, as if I were some smelly mongrel she found in the gutter and was now responsible for. She made me feel dirty, a feeling, along with shame – had become residents in my self-belief.

‘We wanted to have a word with you, with regards to your appearance. We feel that you are dressed too provocatively and that it is becoming a nuisance for the male nurses and doctors and distracts them. Also, you are inviting unwanted attention from the male patients’.

As Nurse Isabelle finished her onslaught of misogynistic bile, I knew then, at 15 that my gender “the weaker sex” would be forever complicit in how boys and men used me, regardless of facts, consent or my age. The clothes in question were regular clothes that most teenage girls wore in the nineties. An off the shoulder, strappy top, jeans – hardly X-rated material.

I continued to sit there, as nurse Isabelle told me how to improve upon myself, exerting her privilege and condescending me with every word that left her lips, I sunk further into my dissociation. As I felt myself float above my body I could see Jenny sat in the corner, staring at me with her big eyes, full of concern for me. Focusing on Jenny’s gaze I allowed the dishonour to wash over me.

Over the next month Jenny and I became inseparable, we had our own inside jokes, we wrote notes to each other everyday to read before bed. Jenny wrote weird and wonderful short stories for me, about the characters who spoke to her, that none of us could see. Her sense of humour was bizarre to say the least, however, I loved it. Sometimes Jenny would find dead insects and would make them the tiniest envelopes to delicately put them in and would give them to me as gifts. She called me her baby beasty or sometimes Sharon, drawing pictures for me of strange vampire like creatures which always had the same eyes. We washed each other’s hair, we took turns to lay on top of one another to feel the comfort and weight of another person, we were everything that we needed.

One day after creative writing therapy Jenny and I sat on the steps outside the reception area. It was another ironic sunny day at the funny farm, the smell of cut grass, the light of mid-summer and the sound of life beyond the grounds. The care free laughter and excitable screams of those at the amusement park adjacent. Whilst I sipped a can of coke and Jenny ate a melted chocolate bar, exasperated I turned to Jenny and said:

‘God, I’m bored, aren’t you?’

Jenny looked at me and nodded and then, in a funny posh voice said:

‘This place is driving me crazy.’

We both looked at each other and couldn’t stop giggling.

‘Let’s see how far we can go.’ Jenny whispered.

‘Where’ I said with a baffled expression on my face

‘Over there’ Jenny pointed to a field beyond woodside and the lock up ward. I had no idea what was beyond that point.

Once we got there we realised it was a corn field, it glistened in the sun like a sea of gold, as the wind moved through the corn it created waves. We had already gone further than we were allowed. Jenny found a small hole in the wired fence which we both managed to squeeze through. We were both badly dressed for the occasion, Jenny was barefoot, and I was wearing a long bohemian skirt, I had to pull the skirt up to around my waist, so I could walk through the field without getting caught by the stems of corn. The field seemed never ending, it dipped into a valley, and at the bottom was an imposing oak tree. When we reached the tree, it was even bigger than we had predicted, it engulfed the light. We collapsed in a heap among the roots, which looked like octopus arms, the earth was cool and peppered with acorn shells. Jenny and I stayed there until the sun set and felt as if we were free from our pasts, our illnesses and them – the ones who wanted to keep us here.

Once we walked back from the corn field and approached the entrance to woodside, I could see Nurse Isabelle waiting at the door with a face that brought on the feelings of being a little girl who was about to be scolded in front of her friends. Nurse Isabelle grabbed Jenny from beside me, as if I were a monster. She began to rub Jenny’s arms as if she was a small child who had just got out of the bath.

‘How could you do this to Jenny?’ Nurse Isabelle screeched.

I felt the need to die, the need to end the pain from being the “bad child” or the “crazy girl” who puts others in danger. I have never looked fragile, as a tall girl with broad shoulders certain assumptions are made. I have always been described as strong, confident, resilient and mature. None of which I have ever felt to be me, so, it was easy for people to scapegoat me when compared to someone outwardly fragile.

‘Do what, what did I do?’ I screamed franticly.

I knew Jenny couldn’t defend me or speak up, this made me look guilty. Nurse Isabelle took Jenny inside, leaving the door to hit me in the face.

A week later I was in my room listening to Tori Amos on my CD player, whilst writing in my feelings journal – something my psychiatrist had me doing. As I doodled a heart with knives piercing through it, bloodied and damaged; the door opened, and Alex was stood in my doorway in his dressing gown. He had no expression on his face, he looked robotic, lifeless. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and in turn I stood up and went to close my door – before I could even take a step forward, Alex started to undress. Walking toward me, he opened his gown and revealed his naked body and erect penis to me, it was as if he had pulled out a knife and I knew I would die. Alex grabbed me and pushed his weapon into my groin, disbelief became detachment. How could this be happening again I thought to myself, a “safe place” the doctors said; was this my fault – I was the common denominator. Before Alex had a chance to go any further a male nurse walked past and saw what was happening, the nurse calmly walked over to Alex without even acknowledging me and escorted Alex back to his room. No one ever brought up this incident again, however, later that week locks were fitted on our doors.

My body didn’t feel as if it belonged to me anymore, it was a shameful vessel of trauma, the reason I was here in this strange place, was because I was damaged goods and left behind to be abused further, a level of hell I did not know existed, until then. Ans little did I know that the levels of hell could get deeper and darker.

Several weeks later whilst sitting in the day room, I was staring out of the window, watching the season change. Cain walked over to me and started telling me sexually explicit jokes, he was childlike, which made me feel I could get rid of his advances easily. I stood up and went to walk away, Cain grabbed me and pushed me to the floor, his weight seemed to expel all the air from my lungs. Whilst giggling like a little boy Cain began to undress me – the room started to spin, and my body went limp, flashbacks filled my mind, confusing past and present.

Cain was pulled off me, he had me pinned to the floor and was about to rape me. But, was it my fault. Was this because of me, the questions repeated in my head.

It had been 3 months since I arrived at Woodside and autumn had arrived. In a state of denial and rebellion, my behaviour changed. I became reckless, no longer listening to the “adults”, I began allowing myself to be used by male and female patients, whilst manipulating the vulnerable ones myself, getting them to smuggle razor blades and diet pills from the outside to me. This was now survival. Jenny was my only reason for living, which the doctors took a dislike to, trying to separate us at every opportunity.

One Friday afternoon Jenny and I sat outside the main door to Woodside, watching the doctors leaving for the weekend in the “real world”, back to live amongst the “sane” people. We noticed Dr Sevett, or as we liked to call him “Dr Death”, was walking toward us.

‘Oh God, what does he want?’ Jenny muttered from under her cardigan which she had covering her nose and mouth.

‘Charlotte, we need to see you’ Dr Sevett called over.

Jenny grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly and said:

‘Remember they don’t know us, we know us’

I smiled at her and squeezed her hand back.

I walked into Dr Sevett’s office and sat down in front of his grandiose desk, Dr Sevett looked down at me over his glasses and said:

‘Now, Charlotte, we have a problem. We feel you are too disruptive to other patients here at Woodside’

I could feel the rejection before it even left his mouth.

‘We are going to terminate your time here, after next week’ he said in a condescending tone.

I started to tap my foot repeatedly, anger rushed through me.

‘why exactly’ I asked through gritted teeth.

‘Well, you cause problems for other patients’ he winced as he said this.

Alex and Cain came to mind, as well as the doctors who complained about being distracted by my “provocative clothes”, and how they thought I was bad for Jenny.

‘I’m ill too, you know’ I said whilst fighting angry tears.

‘maybe too ill’ Dr Sevett said.

My entire existence felt as if it hung in the balance, Dr Death was sentencing me to a life as the “crazy, hysterical girl”. I wasn’t being asked to leave I was graduating from this bedlam with a higher chance of stigma and prejudice and a high possibility of suicide. It was clear to me then, I was not allowed to be the victim, I was only allowed to be the problem.

As I got up and went to leave I turned to Dr Sevett and said:

‘If you can’t be crazy here, then where?’.


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Losing Control – By Charlotte Farhan – Creative Writing

Losing Control

The mechanics within my mind make a clunking sound, grinding wheels against each other, like fingernails on a chalkboard – the sound vibrates through my ears making my eyes weep. This pain occurs intensely, it’s sensory – losing control of reality.

Am I machine? Or is this mechanical device planted inside my head? Confusion bubbling inside, like a kettle steaming and churning, spilling over.

Reality seeming far away, too far to reach. Having found it before – I can find it again. Did I ever “have” reality? Was it something tangible, that I could touch and claim for myself?

The thoughts fizzing in my brain, as if someone has shaken me up like a soda can – eventually opening me, to explode.

My faculties are dimming, my sight is heavy and my limitations are apparent, there is no resolve in this paradox.

Soon my eyes start to close, lucid dreaming begins. Seeing myself step out of my body as if it were a costume, walking toward vagary.

Is this now my reality? Or was reality something I left behind?

Consciousness is waning, leaving me like an empty vessel.

The realisation that control was never in my possession – my last responsive thought before darkness.

 


 

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Somewhere Among the Clouds – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Somewhere Among the Clouds - By Charlotte Farhan
Somewhere Among the Clouds – By Charlotte Farhan

Somewhere Among the Clouds – By Charlotte Farhan

Somewhere among the clouds
my mind reflects back at me
creating faces in moments
telling stories with whipped cream
floating overhead they enshroud
changing colours of our family tree
searching for every branches atonement
shadows engulf my daydreams

Somewhere among the leaves
I am laid down to rest
foliage surrounds my anatomy
craving the light from beneath
rustling below my knees
knowing I am dispossessed
with the numbness of apathy
as the earth moves underneath


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Growth – Art and Short Story – By Charlotte Farhan

Growth By Charlotte Farhan
Growth By Charlotte Farhan

 

Growth – A short story by Charlotte Farhan

 

Hope was a young woman who carried around sadness, as if it were a suitcase of old belongings she had lost the key for a long time ago. Hope wanted to be free of this baggage that weighed her down each day; wishing she could take flight as if she were a bird heading for warmer weather.

One day Hope felt a pressure in her head as if something was trying to escape, it pushed at her temples and made her ears pop. The feeling was excruciating and left hope feeling overwhelmed and scared. Suddenly something was in her mouth, it had made its way up her throat and was now sitting on her tongue as if it were a pill waiting to be swallowed. Instead she went to the mirror apprehensively and opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue, to her disbelief a perfectly intact leaf sat there, she reached into her mouth and carefully took the leaf out to examine. It was an ordinary leaf, from a tree or plant and it was a glorious green. Hope was very much perturbed by this turn of events, feeling very tired suddenly and still suffering from an intense headache, the only thing left to do was go to bed.

Upon waking the next morning after what felt like a years worth of sleep, Hope opened her eyes and could only see green; she wiped them and blinked repetitively, hoping it was just a dream. As the green came into focus she realised that she was surrounded by branches and on those branches grew leaves like the one she had found in mouth the night before. Hope was unable to move as she was in so much disbelief regarding these events before her. In an attempt to move her head in order to sit up, she felt trapped; her head was heavy and felt as if it was tied to her bead posts. Hope reached into her bedside cabinet and blindly hunted for a small hand mirror she knew was there, finally she found it and opened it up to see what was holding her down. When hope looked at her reflection she did not trust what she could see; it was surreal. Hope had somehow – overnight, grown branches out of her head, there was no blood or pain and the tree looked the healthiest she had ever seen a tree to be.

Hope was able to free herself from her bed and navigate her way to her bathroom, she washed her face and brushed her teeth, rustling around as the leaves touched. It was a struggle to get dressed as her head weight pulled her down – if she was not careful, but eventually she was ready to go outside. Hope lived in the middle of nowhere and had acres of land beyond her garden. This was a relief to Hope as the idea of seeing anyone right now filled her with dread as she didn’t know how she would explain her appearance. The aim she had in mind was to go to the woods and see if she could find a matching tree and maybe this would bring about some sort of explanation.

Hope ducked under her door frame and stepped outside into her garden, she looked around and the world seemed the same, nothing obvious had changed so she proceeded down her path to her gate. As Hope closed her gate and looked back at her little home she felt a sense of loss but couldn’t put her finger on why she felt this way. With no further thought she walked toward the woods and was determined to find answers.

The trees looked dense and there was a darkness – that you would think would fill you with fear, however it was inviting. As Hope approached the edge of the trees, she stopped and heard a noise and felt something moving about “up there” on her head, in her branches. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out the hand mirror she retrieved earlier and took a look to see what was going on. It was a beautiful bird, sat there looking at her; before she could think of what to do the bird started to sing. The most beautiful of melodies came out of this delightful creature, she felt calmer and prepared to carry on. Thinking to herself:

I shall name the bird Journey.

Hope and Journey entered the woods and manoeuvred their way through the trees, trying not to get her branches tangled with the foliage. Inspecting each tree she passed, looking at each leaf desperately trying to find answers to her predicament. All the while listening to Journey sooth her with song. Suddenly she heard a new tune and it was complementing Journey’s. Once again Hope got her hand mirror out and glanced to see what was happening. Another beautiful bird was sat up there harmonising with Journey. Now hope thought it only fair to name this bird too:

I shall name this bird Duality.

Hope, Journey and Duality continued on their path searching and singing together in perfect harmony. Suddenly a clearing appeared, it was a circular clearing with one lonely tree in the middle, it was huge and looked to be well over a hundred years old. It was so big you could build a small home in its trunk. Hope continued towards it and could see something glistening in the sunshine, it was hanging from the tree. As she approached it another beautiful bird flew down from the other tree and it too had something dangling from its mouth, it was a key. Both items were keys and before she could process what was happening the bird dropped the key into her hands and took a perch in her branches. Hope compared the two keys and they were the same except for their colour – one being blue and the other pink.

what could this mean?

Hope thought to herself.

The third bird joined in with the singing and looked at home with Journey and Duality. Hope put both keys in her pocket with her mirror and started to inspect the tree before her, the leaves were the same as hers, the branches were identical and the aroma was a perfect match. But how and why had this tree which naturally grew from the ground, also grown from Hope’s head and what were the keys purpose. This thought was so tiring and complex to understand, as nothing seemed real or based on the natural order of things, so Hope surmised that if and when she needed to know these things, they would unveil themselves to her in good time.

The third bird seemed to complete the harmony so exceptionally, the sound was enchanting, it made Hope feel less weighed down by her past and her sadness, it elevated her to a place which felt unlike any other, it was as if she had found her home. Not the kind of home she had left behind earlier, it was not that of bricks and mortar it was the sense that home existed inside her – meaning that she was always home and this feeling made Hope feel whole.

 Hope suddenly had a thought and said:

I shall call this third bird Transcendence.

This name felt fitting as this is what she felt upon meeting this bird and hearing the symphony this trio had created made her feel that she had gone beyond ordinary limitations. Hope sat beneath the tree and lay against it, with her branches touching the other tree’s, weaving herself into a comfortable position. Journey, Duality and Transcendence began to sing a slower melody, lulling Hope with a lullaby, soon she was asleep and the sun set. As Hope slept her branches curved around her creating a blanket of leaves and all three birds nuzzled into Hope and one another.

When Hope woke up the next morning she was alone and she felt different, she raised her hands to her head and all she felt was her hair and beneath it her head, simple skin and bone. It was a relief that she had returned to her normal state, however she was sad to loose her friends, Journey, Duality and Transcendence. When she stood up and turned to the tree she had laid under all night, she was shocked to find a door. In front of the door were three little parcels made out of leaves, one was filled with nuts and berries, the second was a cup shape with water and the third was a little growing bud, ready to be planted. Hope ate the berries and nuts, drank the water and carefully put the bud in her pocket, which is when she remembered she had two keys, she pulled them out and went to the door – but neither worked which perplexed Hope very much indeed. Then she had an overwhelming feeling that this door was not for her and she felt strongly that the blue key was the correct key, so she hung it on the door knob and decided to return home.

On Hope’s journey back she started to ponder what this all meant, knowing that her life had been filled with pain from her past she wondered if this was a wake up call from some kind of higher power – such as the force which aligns us and keeps the earth spinning, the sun rising and setting and the tides drawing in and out. Was it a window into the in between, with the duality of body and mind had she found the centre, the answer to – what are mental states and what are physical states? Had she experienced a mental state which took her to another world where trees growing out of heads, bird friends, keys, magical trees and little doors were the norm. Or were these things physically there, tangible and part of the order we know to exist, just undiscovered? Or possibly she had transcended, moving beyond physical needs and realities.

Before she knew it, Hope was at her gate and could see her little home which when she left yesterday she had felt such loss, today she felt excited to return home and be amongst the things she knew to be real. Once Hope had opened the gate and walked up the path she was met by a small trinket box with three beautiful feathers beautifully attached to it, as if they were a gift tag, she knew these patterns they were from her friends; Journey, Duality and Transcendence, this made Hope smile and she knelt down to open the box, inside was a tiny note which read:

Plant the bud, watch it grow – in dirt and darkness, watch it burst through to reach the light, tend to it, water it and even when nothing moves know that growth happens from within and one day you will have a tree which will nourish you with fruit and bring you shade when weary. This growth is part of you physically and mentally, it is your journey and being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge you have transcended from your past and hold the key to your future.

Hope felt a tear fall from her eye and she felt such relief, she reached into her pocket and got the pink key and placed it around her neck as a reminder of her lesson, she then hurried indoors to fetch her gardening tools so she could plant the bud. When she returned outside her three friends were all splashing away in the bird bath, chirping with delight. Hope knew this was the beginning of a new adventure and that there was no turning back.


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Jenny’s Suicide Gave me a Reason to Stay Alive – By Charlotte Farhan

That day – 14 years ago, was seared upon my memory, Mohammed and I had decided to do our Christmas shopping and my mood was merry and our arms were tired from our bounty of goodies we had bought. Mohammed had been a bit subdued, but I had put it down to being tired from a heavy weekend partying, which had seen me turn 20. Little did I know Mohammed had been selflessly keeping a traumatic secret that weekend. We bundled into my Mothers apartment, chatty and full of smiles, feeling the childlike magic of Christmas in the air.

Then my Mother and Mohammed became very serious and both turned to me, they sat me down and said they had bad news, but not to worry as they were both there to help me. My heart sank and I knew my world would change after whatever they were going to say was said. My Mother took a deep breath:

“I am so sorry darling, but Jenny has died, she has killed herself”.

The world narrowed and I felt an immediate panic, my feet leapt me into the air and ran – I ran away from the news, halted at the front door and collapsed, my heart had just shattered and nothing made sense anymore. Not able to catch my breathe, the tears engulfed my eyes and the loss consumed me. Then I started to scream with all my might.

Jenny and Charlotte in 1999 at woodside psychiatric adolescent unit.
Jenny and Charlotte in 1999 at woodside psychiatric adolescent unit.

The night before Jenny had called me, we had been putting up the Christmas tree and I had waffled on for a bit about how this year had been hard (as usual) but the next was going to be a good year, that her and I would continue to get stronger, that the evil Dr’s who had separated us and tried to deem me a “bad influence” were going to be so gutted when they realised how amazing we were. We had so many plans – once Jenny was old enough, she would move in with me and Mohammed, we wanted to travel around Italy, we wanted to be artists together. Jenny had told me that night that she loved me, she was so proud of me because of my strength and ability to fight, she also thanked me for helping her, for giving her a chance and for loving her so much. I thought nothing of this kind of talk, as this is how we spoke to one another. Thinking back to the conversation, Jenny had been so calm, she had seemed so content and ready.

Jenny in 2001 at our apartment in Guildford.
Jenny in 2001 at our apartment in Guildford.

Jenny and I met in a psychiatric hospital for adolescents in 1999, she had only just turned 14 and I was almost 16, Jenny did not speak to anyone and she carried a cardigan up to her face at all times, you could only see her beautiful big eyes. We met on my first day whilst I struggled to open my window in my room, which only opened 3 inches, but it was a very hot summers day and that little crack of air was all I wanted. Struggling away suddenly Jenny appeared at my door, she glided through the room barefoot and with complete ease lifted my window up, I thanked her and then she left the room in silence. Soon after this an emergency group meeting was called – which is when we the patients have to have a group therapy session, but the focus is on one patient and a “serious” issue pertaining to said patient. Basically a group telling off and shaming ritual, this one was my first and it had been called for Jenny.

We all bundled into the main communal room and grabbed a chair and formed a circle. The head psychiatric nurse started the meeting and told us it had been called because Jenny did not want to attend school sessions, which were for 3 hours a day. Already I did not understand the big deal and why they were making this girl, who did not speak – feel bad about the fact she couldn’t face classes that day. So I continued to listen to the judgement cast upon her and then we were asked what we thought? For a moment I hesitated and thought about my status as the “new kid” and if it was wise to make myself so visible. However as my nature is to say what I think regardless of the danger or social norms, I eagerly raised my hand. The nurse asked me to tell the group my thoughts, telling them how ridiculous and strange this was, that this felt like punishment and shaming, that Jenny was clearly unwell – otherwise why would she be here and that missing 3 hours of school was not a big deal and that everyone should just calm down and let her have the day off. The doctors and nurses were not impressed, but Jenny’s eyes sparkled with appreciation and the other patients got very excited by my “fuck you” attitude and after a little more deliberating, the conclusion was jenny could stay off school that day. Later Jenny came to my room and she started speaking to me, I was the only one at first, but this was the beginning of our love, our friendship, our romance and sisterhood.

The news of Jenny’s suicide was and still is so painful, she was and is the only person who truly understood what it was to exist in that world with me, who knew me as myself, with no pretence and no manipulation of the truth. We had our own language, we wrote fictional stories to one another about misunderstood beasts, we washed each others hair, we would be tactile (which I find so hard to be), we had private jokes and our love for one another was gloriously dysfunctional and both sick and beautiful, we were everything we ever needed. The doctors and nurses thought that due to my conditions that I was a danger to Jenny, but her parents knew otherwise, they understood their daughter and the relationship we had. Eventually I was thrown out of the psychiatric hospital due to “bad behaviour” and yes you read that right, a teenager with serious mental illness and a risk to themselves was chucked out of the “safe place” that this hospital was suppose to be. Jenny remained at Woodside and we were separated. Luckily her parents let her stay for long weekends (which you had off when an inpatient) and once I moved out of my Mothers at 17, Mohammed and I had Jenny stay at our home regularly.

My beautiful Jenny a few month before her death.
My beautiful Jenny a few month before her death.

Jenny left me a suicide note and a poem that she had wrote for all her closest friends and family, this letter I now read on her birthday and on this day – the anniversary of her death, lighting her a candle, listening to our music, getting lost in our memories and the what ifs. Jenny keeps me alive when I am at my most suicidal, she has even visited me as an hallucination during psychosis when my mind is uncontrolled by rational thoughts and my ability to stay safe is minimal, she is there, either as herself or as a black cat. Life is so fleeting and as long as I have Mohammed this world will have me in it until I draw my final breathe, this life I live is for Jenny, and for those two little girls who found each other in the wreckage.

Poem by Jenny left in her suicide note
Poem by Jenny left in her suicide note

 


If you would like to know a little more about me and Jenny, here is a piece I wrote a while ago which is the story of when we ran away from hospital together – Our Tree – By Charlotte Farhan 


If you are struggling and wish to seek some help for your suicidal thoughts or have too lost a loved one to suicide and are struggling with grief, please use these contacts below.

Sane – Mental Health Charity – UK

MIND UK

International Suicide Hotlines

Clouding of Consciousness – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

Clouding of Consciousness by Charlotte Farhan
Clouding of Consciousness by Charlotte Farhan

Clouding of consciousness,
adaptive defence kicks in,
my mind is filled with fogginess,
thoughts start to fade into rottenness,
no longer within my own skin.

I left me so I could survive,
muted and distorted,
reality and make-believe collide,
identities become contorted,
memories remain unsorted,
personalities I must contrive.

The world becomes bottomless,
no up or down,
just godlessness,
walking through a ghost town,
life is now preparing to shutdown,
parts of me are now autonomous.

There is no sense to be made of this,
autopilot is safer than being discarded,
why would it be better to reminisce,
instead let me be transported,
away from that place still haunted,
throw me into the abyss.

Dissociation has to exist,
without it we would not have been revived,
our pain and abuse dismissed,
leading so many to suicide,
washed away with the tide,
so some of us remain inside.


 

If you would like to get in touch… please leave a comment here.

Everyone is Watching – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Everyone is Watching - By Charlotte Farhan
Everyone is Watching – By Charlotte Farhan

With this unseen malady,
the world is set to a different frequency,
faces move past with only apathy,
when they can’t fit you into a box,
intelligent, irrational, focused, erratic…
you seem a paradox.

Knowing people question me,
life feels scrutinised,
under the microscope,
wishing to be disguised,
not made to walk this tightrope.

Being able to be free,
not continuously analysed,
a participant, not an absentee,
hearing my voice,
without having to be patronised,
without having to prove my disabilities,
they love to give you the third degree,
have I not proved my invincibility?

We the stigmatised,
are not your problem to fix,
not here to be tamed and civilised,
neither will I be cured by your crucifix ,
“God only gives us what we can handle”
is this a joke – a chance to poke,
superstition and dogma we must dismantle,
instead with these ideas they provoke.

Everyone is watching me,
no longer left alone to recover,
my life is not something you can disagree,
they want to rip it away – uncover,
these things you can’t see,
no one would want this,
so with this plea,
stop watching me.


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Link your life has changed me as a writer, an artist and as a survivor.

Link your life

It is as if I have always been part of #LinkYourLife, it is a community – a home away from home. Upon waking each day I log in and visit my fellow link your lifer’s in our virtual world, where we open ourselves up in all our differing ways. With almost every subject you can imagine being woven into words and art, so that we can share ourselves in our most vulnerable and honest of ways.

This place would not exist if it were not for the forever giving and talented Shawna Ayoub Ainslie and Shareen Mansfield who together have opened their lives to allow us to share ours.

 

Link your life has changed me as a writer, an artist and as a survivor.

 

Link you life

As a writer:

Even though I have always enjoyed writing and have done so since being very young – keeping feelings diaries and having done creative writing therapy, I was never “a writer” but after lots of consideration to what I wished to do with my life and especially putting my education to good use, eventually deciding to add a year to my degree and change my direction slightly, having already completed my Philosophy and Psychology portions I still needed 120 credits to get my honours, so I decided to do creative writing, which I am now about to start my final year in.

Link your life came about during my first year of creative writing at university and allowed me to connect with fellow writers of all walks of life and credentials, which is the way I like it – as I do not believe a writers abilities are due to education, it is something within, but having a variation in any way is always better when in a community. Being part of this alliance of creatives was exactly what was needed to boost my confidence when sharing my written works. It was like an extra curricular group – an extension to my studies and very much helped me in finding my voice.

As an artist:

When I first started being a professional artist (in 2010) I fell quickly into the trap of “what art will sell best” kind of mentality which is for some, like myself – stifling. If you are not a commercial artist the art world seems closed to you if your art is not comparable to those in home department stores; people want generic art for generic places, things which look pretty and decorative. There is nothing wrong with this and it has a rightful place, however I am an outsider artist who fell into the commercial trap. So I hid behind flowers, landscapes, cityscapes and beautiful women – if you looked closer you could see my truth, but I was afraid it would be too honest for some so kept it back. The need to get uglier, darker even was a personal struggle for me as an artist – as my truth was not all flowers and beauty, it was much murkier than this and I knew it had a place but I couldn’t trust this until becoming a member of Link Your Life as my rawness had not come out yet – until opening up within my writing. The two are entwined – I paint with words; I create dialogue with visual art.

As a survivor:

The most significant consequence to being a member of Link Your Life is that it prompted me to do something which needed to be done for such a long time, it opened me up in a way that allowed me to vocalise my story of being a victim of child sexual abuse, rape and sexual violence and had survived this trauma. Before Link You Life I was not even able to write the word RAPE, it was so ugly and triggering that I was trapped in my communication and recovery. There are still words I can not articulate about my abuse and rape however the weight of shame is less when discussing this. Shawna and Shareen have both allowed me to feel safe in sharing as they have also done, sometimes you need to be guided by those who have suffered as you have, as they truly understand the impact this kind of sharing has on yourself and others. Even though I am in the grips of illness due to these things which have happened to me, the relief to be surrounded by such brave survivors who allow for such truth sharing is the most rewarding of gifts that Link You Life has given me, I am forever grateful for this.


 

This post is in honour of Shareen and her birthday xxx

shareen-birthday by charlotte farhan

Between States – Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

Safe Place - By Charlotte Farhan
Safe Place – By Charlotte Farhan

Between States

Closing my eyes,
seeing emptiness, however endless,
hearing sounds of days already had,
voices of lonely goodbyes.

In cornfields we escaped,
laying in beautiful memories beneath future possibilities,
Time is only relevant to my existence,
numbers, hands, faces – clocks stop.

Pendulous over my metaphorical cliff.
Blue surrounds me,
mist kisses me as tears precipitates,
waves crashing below.

Dreaming takes forever,
passing hours – drifting.
Life tries to wake me with flickers of light,
clasping tightly at the reigns of this delusion.

The breeze carries a scent with it,
brushing my hair against my face,
familiarity sinks into the pit of my stomach,
I know this place.
This residence has no name,
no directions given, or maps written.
Stepping through a cerebral maze,
with the house getting further away.

This world between states,
of mind and power.
My consciousness hesitates,
not wanting to let me go.

 


 

Between States - By Charlotte Farhan
Between States – By Charlotte Farhan

Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

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