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/

Am I Real -Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

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AM I REAL?

by

Charlotte Farhan

The nature of reality perplexes most,

nothing can “be . . . ” and “not be . . . “,

so when I tell you I feel like a ghost,

please believe me.

Anything outside your mind can be unsure,

but how does something exist?

Does one have to have thunk it – to be sure,

of flesh and bone is all I consist.

Am I mentally constructed,

are my thoughts my own?

or possibly I came to this earth abducted,

or maybe I arose from my tombstone.

Is my conscious mental state related to my body?

for I see myself below,

separating self as I disembody,

left behind is but a puppet show.

 The earth is like water inside a fishbowl,

diminished in size and dimensions,

all unreachable as it slips into a black hole,

staring at my own reflection.


This piece of art and poetry addresses how it feels to be in a state of depersonalisation or derealisation. I experience both as symptoms of my anxiety disorders (OCD, GAD, CPTSD and AGORAPHOBIA) as well as my borderline personality disorder.

Find out more HERE

These sensations and feelings of being unreal or not being able to know what is real or not – have been causing me issues since I was a very young child. The worst times were when my voice used to speed up and I would hear myself speaking a million miles per hour, but others around me heard me speaking at a normal speed, or when I felt objects were to large or too small causing me to question all perspective, but by far the most disturbing is when you feel like an illusion, like a left over imprint.

As someone who has a degree in philosophy and who has studied philosophy for over 10 years now, “the theory of mind” was and still is one of my favourite subjects within philosophy. It has simultaneously helped me to accept that none of us truly know what reality is, as well as further perplex me and leave me questioning everything even more.

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There is not a lot of understanding when it comes to these disorders, often when people do not understand something or have not felt the things being described – it is easy for them to dismiss. However – why would anyone assume their reality is the same as another? There is evidence that we all experience the world differently without having any kind of mental illness or neurological damage.

How am I to know what you see… and how are you to know what I see…?

When I am touched does it feel the same as when you are touched?

When I eat do I taste the same flavours and interpret the textures the same as you?

Do I see the world as a “glass half empty kind of place or half full”?

Do I think the same thoughts?

The list goes on and on…

It is never as simple as “reality is reality”.

So question these ideas more, never judge another persons reality to be wrong or fake and remember that 1 in 5 people will have a mental illness at some point in their lives and some of us will have it for life.

End the stigma and learn how to better understand others and their reality.


IF YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE THE CONTACT FORM PROVIDED:

 

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.



 

For any further information on my art or poetry lease fill in the form below:

The struggle with the unseen

My illness – The struggle with the unseen

Having any unseen illness is a struggle and for obvious reasons. Some say mental illness is not a physical illness which I strongly disagree with, how can the brain not be physical? Having had severe psychiatric illnesses since the age of 11 would make some assume I would be well adjusted by now or even that I must know my own illness through and through. These are all incorrect assumptions.

The fact is my life has become more of a struggle with age. Being 30 now has made me want to take charge more than ever but to my surprise it is proving far harder than I would have imagined as my younger self. As a young teenager I did not understand and just felt out of place and suicidal. Then as an older adolescent I just became reckless and would put myself in dangerous situations. My twenties became a decade of denial, I did not want medication, therapy, hospitalisation or even to really admit my illnesses to my friends. I drowned my emotions and masked symptoms and behaviours with alcohol and drugs.

However, mental illness does not just disappear in fact it spreads like an infection and causes more illness until the infection is so severe the body crashes and there is no other option but to admit defeat and seek medical attention. This is what happened to me at 28 and has been a uphill struggle since. Although this has made my life more difficult it has not stopped me having a successful marriage and a progressing career.

 What you cannot see – By Charlotte Farhan As a Borderline I spend an intense amount of time suppressing emotions. People often say to me after I have had an outburst, “I did not realise you were feeling so emotional and unwell, you looked fine to me” This is due to the combination of having had to be strong and resilient through major abuse and trauma as a child as well as being ridiculed and scolded for displaying extreme emotions as an adolescent. So I developed an emotion regulation strategy. This painting is of the emotions people don’t see. My art is here to break down and challenge stigma as well as educate.

What you cannot see – By Charlotte Farhan
As a Borderline I spend an intense amount of time suppressing emotions. People often say to me after I have had an outburst, “I did not realise you were feeling so emotional and unwell, you looked fine to me” This is due to the combination of having had to be strong and resilient through major abuse and trauma as a child as well as being ridiculed and scolded for displaying extreme emotions as an adolescent. So I developed an emotion regulation strategy. This painting is of the emotions people don’t see.
My art is here to break down and challenge stigma as well as educate.

A detailed list of the unseen illnesses I suffer from

Here is a list of my unseen mental illnesses the definition and severity. The list is done from the most severe to the least. As well as identifying which illness (untreated) led to another.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, serious injury, or threats of imminent death. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms, such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyper-arousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event

  • Borderline Personality Disorder – is a cluster-B personality disorderis a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. Impulsive behaviours, self-injury, experiencing severe mood swings, feelings of emptiness, and intense anger.

    Depersonalisation Disorder – is a mental disorder in which the sufferer is affected by persistent or recurrent feelings of depersonalization and derealization. It is classified as a dissociative disorder and an independent neurotic disorder. Feeling disconnected from one’s physicality or body, feeling detached from one’s own thoughts or emotions, feeling as if one is disconnected from reality, and a sense of feeling as if one is dreaming or in a dreamlike state.

  •  Agoraphobia – Anxiety about being places or situations from which escape might be difficult or in which help may not be available in the event of having a panic attack. Situations are avoided or endured with marked distress, many require a carer or companion.

  • General Anxiety Disorder – is a neurological anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry

  • Panic Disorder –  is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring panic attacks. It may also include significant behavioural changes lasting at least a month and of ongoing worry about the implications or concern about having other attacks

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.

  • Diabetes – Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.This is because the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough insulin, to help glucose enter the body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance).

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)  is a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of female sex hormones. This may lead to changes in the menstrual cycle, cysts in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, fatigue and chronic pain.

  • Anorexia Nervosa (Restricting type) – individual does not utilize binge eating nor displays purging behaviour as their main strategy for weight loss. Instead, the individual uses restricting food intake, fasting, diet pills, and/or exercise as a means for losing weight.

  • Chronic Erythema nodosum – is a type of skin inflammation that is located in a part of the fatty layer of skin. EN results in reddish, painful, tender lumps most commonly located in the front of the legs below the knees. With chronic pain and tightening of the skin.

  •  Depressive Psychosis – refers to a major depressive episode that is accompanied by psychotic symptoms.

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The Struggle

With these unseen illnesses it is hard to explain on any given day why I can’t do what I need to do, or why some days I am able to do these said things. As someone who as had these issues longer than not, I am unaware sometimes that people take me at face value and as I appear “well” or “normal” to a certain extent people can often disbelieve if told or just can’t understand as I am not in a straight jacket, rocking in a corner, dribbling or fit into any other misconception or stereotype people have about mental illness.

So this can prove to be very distressing in our world. As a survivor and someone who will not give up, I am left with only one option and that is to share my story, educate and break down these rigid ideas of what mental illness is. Mental illness does not mean you cannot have a life, friends, family and a career. However it does mean you may need to alter your opinions on what social norms you wish to follow or like myself hope to create a diversity in our society that will accommodate us all better. Such as attitudes towards work, money, health care, relationships and appropriate behaviour. These are all areas which may need to be reinvented and philosophised to draw the best conclusion for your life.

You will still be met with certain attitudes and archaic beliefs.

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TOP 10 WORST THINGS SAID TO A PERSON WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

  1. “Don’t tell people you have mental health problems, they will not understand.”

  2. ” You always seem so happy, confident, well… I can’t believe you have a mental illness.”

  3. ” Everyone feels like this sometimes.”

  4. ” Why can’t you work in proper job?”

  5. ” Stop focusing on the past, negative, bad times…”

  6. ” Get over it!”

  7. ” You would be fine if you just went out.”

  8. ” Your illness is a state of mind.”

  9. ” Stop mentioning your illness it brings people down and makes you seem like an attention seeker.”

  10. ” I don’t believe in mental illness.”

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Final Thoughts

Living with my unseen illnesses everyday is just a fact of life. I don’t feel bitter or unlucky. All I wish for is that the world would see us and accept us. We are here on this planet and we deserve a voice and consideration. My wish is to stop negative associations with unseen illness, to break down the separation between mental and physical illness, to allow people the freedom to speak of their illnesses in social and work settings without the fear of stigma and unfair treatment.

My unseen world is not unseen because of shame or fear. It is unseen because many choose not to see it. It is unseen because people don’t listen and it is unseen because I gave up explaining. However now I am not giving up, I shall explain and speak up and I shall not hide the truth. This will not change things over night but it will be my change, my contribution. I am a warrioress and my fight has just begun.

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The Agoraphobic Artist – My Story

MY STORY

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My story of Agoraphobia starts when I was 16 years old. Only recently discharged from an adolescent psychiatric hospital and having wanted and attempted to die for almost 5 years, (including standing in front of an oncoming train, but being rescued by a very brave train guard) I had survived and started to believe that it was a cruel, never ending punishment. However I was struggling with so many things and was having very vivid hallucinations and believed that I was indestructible.

Then at Reading festival in the year 2000 just after I had graduated from secondary school with almost nothing to show for myself as I had been in hospital for most of my GCSE’s, I went with the attitude that life was a massive joke and I was the punch line. There I met my (now) husband Mohammed, I was in love instantly. I even told my friends I would end up marrying him, they (as usual) thought I was insane, in most medical opinions I was. Sure enough I started dating Mohammed and he was and still is everything to me.

Having never had a kind, loving male in my life, having been abused by my Father and then abandoned by him and having been raped by a classmate when I was 15 (hence the break down and hospitalisation) I had found my prince in shining armour. Mohammed gave me and still gives me more than enough love to compensate for my Father not loving me and being treated the way I had been by boys and men. Mohammed truly saved me from taking my own life when I was a child. A gift of life he gave me and I was not about to waste this gift!

So after wanting nothing more than to die, I now had swiftly changed perspectives, I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to leave Mohammed, not for one second! This I have later found out is due to my borderline personality disorder and something which we have as suffers which is called black and white thinking (also known as splitting).

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Everything suddenly felt unsafe! The world became scarier than ever, everything was potentially going to kill me, kill Mohammed and separate us. Slowly but surly I became withdrawn and anxious and developed Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I had gone from someone on the highly at risk register to someone who was preserving my existence with such an attention to detail that it was taking over my life and caused mine and Mohammed’s life to become harder and harder. We were kids, now living on our own and we were in over our heads. After almost being sectioned in an adult psychiatric ward in Guildford at 18, I decided I had to keep my mental illness hidden as much as possible, this also fed into my reclusive behaviour and soon enough I was not going out on my own, then only once a week with Mohammed to do the weekly shop and back.

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This continued for a year, then when I was 19 I found ecstasy, a class A drug which allowed me to do things which I would never be able to do, it gave me back my flip side, my fearless side. Just 2-3 pills and I was able to counterbalance my heavy anti-psychotic drugs and fear, so that I could be like my friends and hide my torment and struggle.

I wouldn’t go out, especially without Mohammed and then orchestrated my life so that it was not an obvious problem. But soon, I was put on heavier medication and became like a zombie for a year and didn’t move really, let alone going out. I was starting to create my own world.

 

A spoon full of sugar - By Charlotte Farhan http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
A spoon full of sugar – By Charlotte Farhan
http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

Then just before my 21st birthday I suffered a complete psychotic break from reality and broke up with Mohammed. I convinced myself that I was holding him back and that I was not good enough for him and wanted to become my other self, my reckless other side. I couldn’t make sense of anything and felt out of control. This led to a year and a half of heavy drug use, dangerous behaviour and living life as a fearless crazy person. I changed my identity, hide my illness, made friends out of enemies and had no regard for my future, just instant gratification, the thrill of being on the edge again.

However, one day I looked at Mohammed (who I was still very close friends with and who I still loved like no other) and I realised for the first time in my life that he was my future, my partner and my family and that in order to be with him I had to confront everything.

Formidable Love - By Charlotte Farhan  http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
Formidable Love – By Charlotte Farhan
http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

Mohammed and I got back together in 2006, although understandably he made me work for it, I had to prove myself and I put everything I had into winning Mohammed back.

After 6 months of being back together, I started feeling the panic coming back, the fear that I would die and not get to live this life with Mohammed. So I started withdrawing again from the outside world and sometime in 2006 I went out for the last time on my own.

My agoraphobia got worse in 2010, I moved to Portsmouth and within a few months of being in the city, I decided that maybe I could start working on my exposure work for my agoraphobia, so one day I decided to take a few letters I wanted to post to the post box a few meters outside my front door, Mohammed was indoors and I felt I could do this!! As I walked to the post box, I saw a man walking towards me, I didn’t really pay attention as I was on my mission. Suddenly I caught his eye and I realised it was my attacker who had raped me when I was 15, I felt all my blood escape my body, my heart stopped, I started sweating and hyperventilating, I turned on my heels and ran to my front door, thumbling around, franticly trying to turn the key, I fell through the door and couldn’t catch my breath and vomited all over myself.

PTSD - By Charlotte Farhan http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
PTSD – By Charlotte Farhan
http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

I felt this was another cruel joke which a sinister God was playing on me. I knew this man lived in Portsmouth, but it is a massive city and did not think this could happen. My world came tumbling down around me and I felt trapped and frightened.

This led to me not being able to go to a “normal” university as I couldn’t attend classes, even with supervision or assistance. I was then told by The University of Portsmouth I was to unwell to study and had to leave. I took this as a massive failure and as I could’t work either I felt I was nothing.

This is when I turned to art (Art Saved My Life) and am now an artist who works from home. I started at the end of 2010 and now am a professional visual artist, illustrator, art mentor and I am an artist in residence as well as being a massive promoter of art and it’s benefits to aiding and managing mental illness. I also raise awareness and break down the the stigma of mental illness through my own art.

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It has been almost 7 years since I last went out alone, I am still able to go out with Mohammed, my Mother and a few safe friends, but this is only to certain places and it has to be all pre-planned with warning.

I do all this from inside my home, without leaving the house and it is a struggle everyday. I am still receiving medical treatment for my mental illnesses and am working towards a future when I can just pop to the shop across my road to get a pint of milk. People take for granted these little things which no one would think is a massive ordeal for some. I long for my independence and for freedom from my own prison. I take one day at a time. I am the sort of person that has evolved through all my trauma and pain to believe that we have no excuses, I have days when everything hurts me like I am covered in burns and other days when I can inspire over 36,000 followers and live out my dreams. All I know is that I am blessed to still be alive and to have the people I have around me and I will do everything in my power to help others like myself through art, change the world and I can only do this if I am alive, here and fighting the fight for us all.

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Thank you for reading my story.

All my love, Charlotte Farhan xxx

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