via Borderline Art.
In the past 2 weeks I experienced a relapse and have been struggling with day to day life. Being so overwhelmed by emotion, feeling unable to move or speak. My ability to self analyse had gone, my perspective skewed and my continuous questioning of reality was a preoccupation.
Unable to take my own advice and “paint my feelings”, not able to put pen to paper to explore the thoughts swimming around my head. So I lay there watching time do its thing, with every tick tock acting as a reminder of my own failings and stagnant mood.
So a few days ago I slowly moved towards my paint brushes… Inspecting paints, finding colours and tools, making sure I did not invest too much energy for the fear of disappointment.
A blank canvas stared up toward me? Begging me to surrender myself, asking me a million questions at once. The void of white seemed oppressive and scared me back into submission.
I decided to go to my art room and look through my paintings in search of a connection to something, which I felt had seemed to have been lost. However I did not get to do this as I was distracted by a stack of unfinished paintings. Looking sad and abandoned, five paintings waiting to be brought to life but like me were stuck.
So I bundle the paintings into my arms and scurried towards my sofa, I got water and a large palette on the way. Managing to create a fort of warmth was my only real concern on such a frosty January night, determined I got the biggest blanket I could find (that I did not mind splashing paint on, as this was an inevitability with me) and I arranged the cushions into a area of ease and comfort.
Then in pure bliss I began to paint, not with any particular emotion but more a sense of ease and fluidity. I found that by concentrating on the colours and strokes of the brush I was “in the moment” being mindful and able to focus on everything I was doing as if I were in a trance or meditative state. As I was working on 5 paintings at once I did not even get to break my concentration as I had organised myself into a conveyer belt of art, continuously creating…
This is not always a possibility with my conditions but when it is there is this feeling that I am complete when creating art. As well as reaffirming that there is meaning in the action and doing of art. In the application of creativity you can arrive to conclusions and acquire clarity without any of this being involved in the image you create. This session which I managed to self medicate with in my hour of need was cathartic, the reality I was so unsure of became less important and the moments of focused clarity became the ideal and the goal which my mind has set its sights on.
My advice to everyone is that in order to silence the negative thoughts you must become proactive. Allowing the intrusive thoughts to swallow you whole will only lead to an immobile mind and body. This is not to be confused with the “autopilot” mind set, this does not lead to clarity and release, in fact it can be even more dangerous as it allows the mind to go through the motions without any awareness. Which some may argue sounds wonderful, but it gets you no where.
This is not a post to tell you all your problems can be fixed by art or painting specifically. This post is to tell you, I am struggling with it all, life in general but I am a fighter and sometimes a begrudging survivor but one all the same. There is no option but to keep going against the odds and for me sometimes picking up my paintbrush is all I can do to survive these cruel mental fragilities.
Here are the 5 paintings…
If interested in my art please visit my official website
Thank you for visiting
So it is a new year and with this comes the assumption of an internal reset button which one can press and start again. As far as notions go this is not a bad one if approached correctly with a positive attitude and an openness to whatever lays ahead.
I do not make resolutions as this kind of fait accompli put upon oneself is a recipe for disaster and failure. It does not allow for the mystery of the upcoming 12 months and what life has planned. So instead I set goals which do not have to be finished by 2016 but have to be started in 2015. I move forward with dreams and ambitions and make sure I do at least one thing I have never accomplished before. You may think I am just rewriting the new year resolution mantra and that it is not much different, however the difference is I do not “expect” things from myself, instead I imagine my future and am lead by my dreams and encouraged by my fears.
Last year was great. I became a published illustrator with The Wishing Machine which I am very proud of. Also I had 2 exhibitions one in Portsmouth and one in London, after 2013 I decided I would take a step back from exhibitions and concentrate on new collections. Myself and Sadie Kaye decided to take over the old ART SAVES LIVES and renamed it ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL. This meant I was Artistic Director and Co-Founder with Sadie.
I also joined forces with the talented Lisa Reeve and we are working together on a new book, a new online boutique selling handmade and recycled items as well as art from ourselves and selected artisans.
In late 2014 ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL was handed over to me and I became Managing Director along with my husband Mohammed Farhan and Lisa Reeve. Sadie Kaye remains Artistic Director but has taken a small step back whilst she concentrates on many other personal projects as well as her beautiful expanding family. We have decided to reinvent ASLI, with a new mission and plan. With ASLI set to become a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in early 2015 and already with a calendar booked up with exciting events, we are excited with our new venture.
NEW WEBSITE LAUNCH on the 6th of January – http://www.artsaveslivesinternational.com
This brings me back to my new beginning…
My plan for 2015 is to move forward and allow for my dreams to get even BIGGER!!
So with this in mind I better get started. No time to waste!
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.
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 disorder, is 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.
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.
TOP 10 WORST THINGS SAID TO A PERSON WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
“Don’t tell people you have mental health problems, they will not understand.”
” You always seem so happy, confident, well… I can’t believe you have a mental illness.”
” Everyone feels like this sometimes.”
” Why can’t you work in proper job?”
” Stop focusing on the past, negative, bad times…”
” Get over it!”
” You would be fine if you just went out.”
” Your illness is a state of mind.”
” Stop mentioning your illness it brings people down and makes you seem like an attention seeker.”
” I don’t believe in mental illness.”
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.
A project I have started and run as Artistic Director for Art Saves Lives International
“Painting is a means of self-enlightenment.” John Olsen
Today I want to discuss the physical benefits to art and having a creative outlet. I was diagnosed with Diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at the end of 2012 which turned my world upside down. Now, over half a year on and I am back to having doctors appointments and tests, as I have a condition affecting my legs and joints which should be diagnosed next week.
As one can imagine having these problems on top of my mental illness has been a struggle and challenge. Especially as this has been my busiest year to date for my art. With five solo exhibitions, several group shows, being in The Portsmouth News and becoming an artist in residence at ART SAVES LIVES, it has been wonderful. Not to forget the amazing support I have received from happy customers, gallery owners, mentors and my wonderful little creative army of fans on my social media sites, reaching over 31,000 likes and followers!!
During this whirlwind of excitement, success and gratitude I have been healing myself. I have lost 4 stone and dropped 4 dress sizes as well as many inches all over. I now have a clean living approach and try and eat organic, unrefined, unprocessed, fair trade whole foods. I exercise and concentrate on my therapy for my Personality disorder, Post traumatic stress and anxiety disorder as well as targeted exposure work for my agoraphobia. My husband and I are also trying for a baby, which due to my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a struggle.
All these things can bog a person down and make the “need” to create art seem an irrelevant task and one which should be put on hold!
This is not correct!!!
When feeling unwell, mentally or physically, when life causes undue stress and anxiety or when caring for others in these situations means your self care goes out the window.
THIS IS WHEN WE SHOULD CREATE!!
Current research is following a number of paths. Scientists measure the natural substances your body produces when you’re exposed to the arts. Others look at what happens when you are active in the creative process. Researchers are now investigating how the arts can help us recover from disease, injury and psychological trauma.
Art therapy can help improve various mental and physical symptoms including, reducing pain, anxiety, and tension. It can be beneficial to those who have mental disorders, cancer, post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), people who are bipolar, and a variety of other serious ailments.
Megan Robb, a certified art therapist at NIH’s Clinical Centre, says, “When traumatic memories are stored in the brain, they’re not stored as words but as images. Art therapy is uniquely suited to access these memories.”
I have discussed my mental health issues and how art has saved my life, if unfamiliar please follow this link. https://artistcharlottefarhan.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/art-saved-my-life-my-ongoing-struggle-with-mental-illness/
For people with physical disorders art adds meaning to life.
Art is especially important for people with physical challenges as they may not be able to participate in activities as they had in the past. It keeps the mind engaged and lowers stress and pain levels. A recent report from Finnish scientists showed that listening to music helps stroke patients recover both memory and focused attention.
It has also been studied and concluded that there are benefits to cardiovascular, stroke and diabetic patients. Art can reduce blood pressure and music can help irregular heart beats and creative writing can allow people to understand and face their life challenges better.
“By engaging in art, dance, poetry or music, people are likely to initiate processes that help them manage stress, reduce negative mood states and perhaps change behaviour that we know impacts cardiovascular risk and recovery,” ( Joshua Smyth, a psychologist at Syracuse University)
So my point is this, art can be a positive new direction which everyone can do a little more of in their lives. Be creative in whatever you wish, engage your inner artist, musician, poet, whatever you decide will only enrich your life as it has done mine.
I may get bad news with my biopsy next week, I may have good and bad days with my long list of ailments, but I assure you the one thing which shall never change is my need to create and my need to inspire you all to do the same.
I not only believe in the healing powers of art I also believe in the healing power of positive energy. I feel with all the challenges life throws at you, you have a choice in which to find a silver lining, a positive over the negative, a way to turn pain, fear and loss into an energy which is filled with positivity which you can pass on throughout your family, friends and community.
For all of you which may be suffering or caring for those who do, I send you all my love and support. You are all in my thoughts whilst I create my art.
I am artist in residence at ART SAVES LIVES http://artsaveslives.co.uk/
A not-for-profit arts organisation dedicated to providing free inspirational and inclusive arts experiences to engage disadvantaged and marginalised artists in the UK. Please visit the website and help us to improve peoples lives through art.
“There is no must in art because art is free.” Wassily Kandinsky
If you are interested in knowing more about my art, upcoming exhibitions or wish to know more about me please visit my website http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/ and if you would like to contact me please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For two nights only…..
On Thursday the 25th of July and Friday the 26th of July, this week! I am having my first ever London exhibition and you are invited to attend. It is organised by Art Saves Lives as I am a resident artist of theirs, here is what they said on the invitation “Brilliant young artist Charlotte Farhan is having her first London exhibition showcasing her wonderful talents at the sublime NSH ARTS gallery in MIle End”.
My art is inspired by my inner world. I explore different themes in my work such as Women & Femininity, Religion, Politics and Nature and it’s beauty. I have also started a new collection which I shall be showcasing in this exhibition and it is exploring my mental illness and the mind in general from an art therapy point of view. Plus there is at least one or two from all my previous collections.
Please come to view original visual art at a brilliant venue.
PLEASE SUPPORT! On for two nights only- one not to be missed.
We are supported by Community Options and have two wonderful guest speakers confirmed for the 25th- Ian bland, who runs a creativity project for Art Saves Lives called Credo and Philip Singh, who runs a council funded user led mental health support group… Part of a network of 33 groups in tower hamlets called SUN.
Nibbles and wine will be served.
To attend, please contact Art Saves Lives directly at email@example.com and state which evening you wish to attend either Thursday or Friday it starts at 7.30pm and finishes at 10pm
Here is the gallery website http://www.nsharts.org/index.html
Here is Art Saves Lives website http://artsaveslives.co.uk/asl-events-2/charlotte-farhan-exhibition
Here is my website: http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/
Thank you for reading and I hope you come along. If you miss it I shall be doing a special blog on the exhibition next week.
Have a great day! xxx