World Art Day – how art can help ease mental illness and create change.

It’s World Art Day and SANE – The Mental Health Charity asked me to do a drawing to celebrate and raise awareness of how affective art can be to help with mental illness.

Art saved my life. Not figuratively, but literally. I was at the end of the road in 2010, after suffering my 4th severe break down. I was suicidal and told that there was no support for me. I then stood at a cross road, with a paint brush in one hand and a self distruct button in the other.

Then I just started to paint.

I am able to communicate with art, sort through painful memories and help create change for others by raising awareness regarding mental health and the stigma people like myself deal with due to having mental illness.

I encourage people to find a creative outlet this world art day, you won’t regret it.

Please support SANE and if you need help or resources follow the link to find out more:

http://www.sane.org.uk/how_you_can_help/fundraise/vote_for_sane/

Now I lay me down to sleep – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

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Now I lay me down to sleep

Art and Poetry

by Charlotte Farhan

Now I lay me down to sleep,

eyes wide open and thoughts a plenty,

to numb to even weep,

my mind full but my soul empty.

If I should die before I wake,

please know I tried with all my might,

but could not survive the heartbreak,

I have been waiting too long for daylight.


This art and poetry portrays the ordeal of intrusive thoughts which are brought on due to mental illness, specifically complex trauma, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and psychosis.

My intrusive thoughts have been dominating my life since I can remember. As young as 5 I recall laying in my bed and reasoning with myself, internally bargaining:

“If I die in my sleep, I wont know, I will just die and then it will be over”.

Scary things had always happened at night in my world, the dark couldn’t be trusted and nor could most adults.

As I got older my intrusive thoughts took on an internal shaming ritual, whereby ripping myself to shreds about how I looked, how I had acted or how no one loved me and I would be alone forever – hence why these thoughts turned suicidal. Repeating to myself again and again:

“you are fat, you are ugly”,

as if I were counting maniacal sheep – one named fat the other ugly.

Sometimes the thoughts can turn external and onto others, fearing you may hurt someone or even kill someone – not because you want to but because you fear you will lose your mind. I used to fear that one day whilst travelling to school or college that I would push someone onto the railway tracks. Visualising it was horrifying, playing it out scene for scene , watching others scream in horror and watching myself be carted away by the “men in white coats”.

With psychosis the intrusive thoughts are there but take on a hallucinogenic  dimension. In the dark seeing evil angels looming over me or small fairy like creatures guiding me to safety, another world would open up – but what if I got trapped there? What if I wanted to stay? Reflections in mirrors can cause dysmorphic appearances, my eyes would disappear into my sockets, skin looked to be hanging off my face and seeing other people as myself.

Traumatic experiences cause flash backs which take you back to your trauma and hold you there in order to relive the ordeal again and again. Or you try and recreate the trauma and imagine a new ending – all the while punishing yourself internally, blaming yourself for what has happened to you or for what others have done to you.

Medication can help but it can be so much worse if you miss a dose or have to come off your meds for whatever reason, as well as very unpleasant side effects. There are so many drugs I have tried over the years and the ones that worked best were always the ones which left me like a zombie during the day, which is fine if you wish to be a zombie and there have been times this has suited me, to barely exist. However when you want to survive and possibly even live you can’t compromise on the “being awake” part.

The important thing to remember when dealing with intrusive thoughts or if a loved one is experiencing them, is to take this seriously – it is like any other health concern, such as finding a lump or a cough that just wont go away. Intrusive thoughts are an anxiety driven issue due to:

“THE AMYGDALA CONSTANTLY SENDING US FALSE SIGNALS THAT WE ARE IN DANGER”

Fight or flight is triggered with the obsession (the intrusive thoughts) and then the compulsion (is the bargaining – the fear) and the cycle repeats like groundhog day. Many people suffer in silence with these feelings and become trapped in their own isolation created due to living this way. So if you feel this is you or someone you know – please know first and foremost:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

There is support out there for you and your loved ones.

Here are some helpful links:

Sane 

Mind 

International Helplines

END THE STIGMA!


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Like moths among the whisperings – Art by Charlotte Farhan

 

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Like moths among the whisperings 

by Charlotte Farhan

 

Anxiety can make one very small,

compressing you within,

it can keep you away like a mothball,

with depression as its conjoined twin.

The light draws us out,

but not for long,

however we stay alert – on the look out,

not sure if we belong.

We see others as butterflies,

fluttering with ease,

with their calm – we idealise,

where as we would be lost in a strong breeze.

When waking our hearts burst,

our minds race,

life pulling at us – being coerced,

forced to adorn our poker face.

We are like moths among the whisperings,

manoeuvring through the polite conversation,

like candles pulling us in – glistening,

so familiar – marking the end of our adaptation.


This painting and poem were prompted by a line in the Great Gatsby ,

There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardensmen and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

but the line “like moths among the whisperings” made me think of how it feels to live with anxiety disorders whilst among others who don’t. It conjured up this image of anxious people as moths and non-anxious people as butterflies.

The irony is that most of the people who visited the parties in The Great Gatsby were probably butterflies. However even there I am sure a few moths anxiously found there way around , maybe with some dutch courage to aid their cause.



 

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