Life and Death – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

Life and Death - Charlotte Farhan

Life and Death – Charlotte Farhan


 

 


Life and Death – Charlotte Farhan

Death plagues my mind
with unexplained solutions
the reconciliation
is not within reach
life is filled with plans
for executions
this fear
you can not unteach.

We are told it is a circle
something
not to deny
wishing to be immortal
never to utter goodbye.

We place flowers
at gravesides
waiting
only hours
natures Jekyll and Hyde
for their heads to bow
as they die too
which we allow
still unable to undo.

Life mocks us
with every breath
as time passes
our mind bargains
with Gods and promises
to disburden
dead and ominous
silence prevails
the lost consciousness.


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Waiting for a sign – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Waiting for a sign – By Charlotte Farhan

 


Waiting for a sign – By Charlotte Farhan

Signs are like spoken word
pictures form sentences
letters are transferred
meaning is given
through penmanship
or even when blurred
the beginning of us
the metaphor of genesis
or the theatre of the absurd.

When waiting for a sign
one knows what to look for
the mind conjures meaning
without knowing or seeing
which is hard to ignore
constructed from nothing
like an imaginary being
or with warnings
such as folklore.

Stabilise the interpretations
surrounding images with words
linguistic messages
can appear as
two lonely song birds
harmonious relations
between sight and sound
so that signs
can be undeterred
in our expectations
of communications
when unheard.

 


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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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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.


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Halloween and the stigmatisation of mental illness

It is that time of year again – All Hallows’ Eve.

Halloween is upon us and has been all weekend, it is a celebration, a ritual and a chance to party with friends, adorning costumes and different personas for one night. With the nights drawing in and winter fast approaching it reminds us of the dark and in turn the dead.

However Halloween has become a mass capitalised practice, with shops and establishments enticing you with their decorations and latest gimmicks from the beginning of October. Making plans for this one night affair becomes about popularity and with the addition of social media – a costume contest is held with hashtags and a one-upmanship mentality.

Although this is not the scariest thing about Halloween, in fact the most frighting of attitudes and beliefs come out to play during this festivity and that is the representation of mental illness and the mentally ill. With depictions in horror films, on TV and in literature – as well as costumes depicting “psychiatric patients” or the idea of insanity being cool or glamorised.

As some one who has sever psychiatric conditions and who has had these since being a child, my thoughts on this subject are something I wish to be heard on, hoping that listening to someone who is actually mentally ill, who has been hospitalised in genuine Victorian asylum buildings in the UK, as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward, that in hearing me you will understand that my suffering, trauma, illnesses and identity is not something you get to “have fun with”. You don’t get to put it on for the night and then take it off without hearing me tell you that this is causing me and people like me to be demonised, you continue our persecution and discrimination. Whimsically you step into a piece of clothing which represents people who have been killed for their disabilities, locked away and forgotten about due to their illnesses, and tortured or experimented on because they behave and think differently to the perceived average person.

Having been stigmatised and labelled as dangerous to others, as a person who is violent or unstable – a person to be feared, a monster. I myself, have believed these things to be true, having allowed myself to be shamed into submission, thinking that in fact I am a scary, crazy villain. So I hid from it, allowed myself to be silenced, accepted family and friends stigmatising me with their fancy dress and in their language when watching horror films. Listening to people discuss my situation as frightening, something which scares them so much they can’t watch.

In the depictions of mental illness within horror films and on TV sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself, in a girl who is screaming manically and bashing her head against walls, or rocking herself in a corner or strapped down sedated in a hospital bead. I have lived these experiences, I still do sometimes. The rocking myself is a self soothing, allowing me to keep myself safe.

Yes I have done this in the dark, on a psychiatric ward – yes it was scary.

But not for you! For me!

When experiencing psychotic episodes I have smashed my head repeatedly against walls, on tables anywhere I could. As I rarely remember my psychosis or at least only fragments of it, I can not tell you exactly what I was thinking – but I can guess with almost complete certainty that it was to stop the intrusive images, the voices, the flashbacks, the pain… It was not because I was possessed or dangerous to others it was because of my neurological damage due to early childhood trauma. Which again is not scary in the spooky horror sense when explained, it is in fact a medical condition and symptoms.

Being in a psychiatric hospital is not a horror fest or a sensationalised attraction to experience. It is like any other medical facility, it is there to treat people with illnesses in a focused in-patient manner. Yes the Victorian buildings were scary and yes me and my in-patient friends would tell ghost stories and scare ourselves whilst walking through the abandoned buildings and grounds – but we didn’t think we were the monsters, we knew we were thought of this way by the outside world.

(West Park Hospital in Epsom is where I was an in-patient for 6 months in 1999)

However we had seen real horror, most of us having survived childhood molestation, violence, and emotional abuse. We knew we were only really a danger to ourselves, hacking away at our own flesh daily, burning ourselves with lighters, putting ourselves in danger as vulnerable people, not eating, taking substances to excess and attempting to kill ourselves often. We were the scariest thing around – to ourselves, but are we really people to be feared? No – we are people who have been vilified in order to hide the realities of true horror, which happens everyday in plain sight, by people you know, people you forgive and people who you look up to. Our ideas disturb the status quo and our sadness gets in the way of the idealistic idea of living a happy life. We make you uncomfortable – because deep down you know we are not different, that you could become ill or have a breakdown. Your neurology is not bullet-proof. We are not made of weaker stuff.

So I ask you to think about the depiction of mentally ill people at Halloween, I ask you to challenge your thoughts on what we look like, act like, or are capable of. Think of the backstory of a character and realise just how un-scary someones emotional distress, neurological condition or neuro-divergent ideas are in context. Think how you may make someone you know feel – who has mental illness, when you dress up as a deranged “psychopath”. Don’t contribute to this stereotype and the discrimination it allows to continue.

(These images are of graffiti myself and other in patients did in abandoned rooms during our stay at Woodside adolescent unit at West Park Hospital in Epsom, England in the summer of 1999 – during art therapy sessions. These photographs have been taken by people who site these as disturbing images of “crazy”impatient scribbling. I see them and remember letting out our pain, me and my best friend Jenny (who took her own life years later), of us together – expressing ourselves through art, this is NOT a horror movie scene or anything sinister.)

Neuro-divergent me – A Poem by Charlotte Farhan

Neuro-divergent me

 

There are parts of my brain,

people call sick,

inside things can’t configure – to the accepted standard.

There were times when fitting me into a box,

was a main concern.

Or blame – who’s left her out too long

too often, too little.

How about inside,

thoughts, dreams, the others in here?

Feelings which overwhelm,

sensory information begins to concentrate,

like compressed gas in a cylinder.

Pain is all that can be felt,

physical surges through my spinal cord,

to my brain – the host.

Being born with this disposition,

having an environment devastated.

Parents – the same chemistry

Clueless in their own damnation

However happily participating

in their haphazard irony.

Not typical, not normal,

they said and continue to claim.

“she’s weird, she doesn’t look me in the eye”

they whisper whilst backing away.

Thought of as rude, too direct,

judgements made habitually,

privileges left unchecked.

My cognition brought into question,

By those who never had to confabulate.

The world is not odd to me,

as it is all I can see,

you need to cure me.

Not trusting my words and memories,

abusing me,

leaving me.


when I close my eyes - by Charlotte Farhan

When I close my eyes – by Charlotte Farhan

 

Art and poetry by Charlotte Farhan.

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God and Mental Illness – Happiness is not a reward; it is a state of mind.

 I was tagged in a stigmatising post today which read:

“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they have.”

And then they qualified this with:

“Did you know that the more we keep complaining about the things we don’t have, the more God keeps sending us worries to complain about..”

Quote by Charlotte Farhan

This is NOT helpful on so many levels, and I shall tell you why:

Firstly, happiness is not a reward it is a state of mind which can be affected by so many things, let’s say someone thinks someone else’s life is amazing but thinks that person is ungrateful because they are depressed, how does the person casting judgement know how the other suffers?

Do not judge people as you have not walked in their shoes.

Secondly, what if you have no stability, love, family or what if you are alone due to being on the outside of society with no rights due to your disability / ethnicity / gender / religion / sexual orientation.

Or due to being rejected by your community, friends and family? What if you have no food, water or shelter? Are you then ungrateful because you are depressed / unhappy with “what you have been given”?

Does God (who is considered all knowing, all loving and all powerful) then decide – that YOU are unhappy with what has been given to you to deal with in life and then decide to add more to your burdens? And this also suggests that you only have the unhappiness you have – because you were ungrateful. Not because life is cruel and unfair, but because YOU asked for it.

Lastly, this kind of rhetoric is so damaging, it shames people, it makes the most vulnerable people on this planet feel further isolated and judged for their misfortune or illness. It makes people with mental illness who are also believers of God think they are responsible for something they do not control, making them feel less able to discuss their issues with their community.

I am a Deist which means I believe in God, but I do not believe in God as a man sitting in judgement of us all, intervening on a whim to help people in their day to day lives but leaves out famine, poverty, war, child abuse, rape, natural disasters etc.

I believe in God as a word to describe our existence and the universes existence. As a Deist I rely on rational thought and logic, not on dogmatic beliefs. However this does not mean I judge those who do, my husband is Muslim and I was raised French Catholic, but I do wish to discuss the harm and mixed messages which arise within religion and spirituality with regards to mental illness. This is all I am doing here.

So all I ask is that next time, people think about what they are writing and posting out to the world on social media, think of those you judge with your post or those you may isolate.

Offer empathy and love, as this is the only thing which brings us all together.


Albert Einstein quote by Charlotte Farhan

Albert Einstein quote by Charlotte Farhan

Why I stopped selling my art for a year and the commercial suffocation which killed my creativity

Just over a year ago I decided to take down all my art for sale on my website and removed my art from galleries. This was not due to not selling work or a moody tantrum, this was in fact thought out over some time, which was needed as my mind was riddled with questions such as “will this sell” and “is this going to be popular with customers and collectors”. The part of me which was now in charge of my creativity was also doing mental spreadsheets and customer surveys.

The Broken Willow - By Charlotte Farhan

The Broken Willow – By Charlotte Farhan

Now I am not saying this is not a way to sell art, as there are many successful commercial artists who take to art as they would any business. However this is not for me, I am not driven by money and my philosophy is very anti-capitalistic and personally I dislike any art which is made in the hope of selling for obscene amounts of cash.

The arts have been growing more elitist and individualistic since the 20th century, which historian Walter Benjamin called “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” The commodity of art and creativity is now a marketable idea and product to be sold on mass, even though the world we live in is in no way accommodating to the life of an artist, unless you are the lucky few (which is mainly white, middle/upper class men) then you can not replicate the same success as any outlet which churns out art prints of generic tastes to be sold at your local department store. Visual art is taken for granted in our world, imagine the world without it? Removing these visuals from our surroundings would be an extreme shock to our senses, yet we do not value it enough. Art becomes a throw away item, something you donate or sell at a carboot sale or even toss in a skip.

Emotions Take Over - By Charlotte Farhan

Emotions Take Over – By Charlotte Farhan

My husband and I are by no means rich, we are actually under the living wage by quite a bit in the UK, which is why the pressure arises in me at the idea that the only thing I can do well and do from home due to my disabilities was not going to feed us or house us on a regular basis – making me believe that myself and my art were worthless. Which left me hollow and without purpose, so as with everything in my life, this became a question of survival.

Tackling mental illness, sexual violence, capitalism, war and being an outsider artist in general meant that automatically my work would not be considered commercial or be the kind of art that the general population wish to put in their living rooms. Nonetheless this is not of any concern of mine, as the artist my purpose is to create, the rest is not up to me. Over this year many of my followers and fans have asked to buy my art or asked where my art is on sale, but still I did not give in. The journey was not over as I still could hear the faint voice of capitalism whispering in my ear.

With this in mind the idea of selling art became something which actually started to terrify me, the thought that if I started again the muse would leap from my mind, with nothing left to nourish me. So I continued on my quest for my cathartic creativity. Which is what led me to reexamine my roots in art – the reason I had begun and the reason it had saved me from hurting myself for so many years. I remembered painting and drawing as a child when my world was falling apart around me, with no adults to guide me; my art was a comfort and allowed me to express feeling which my young brain could not process with language. Furthermore art therapy had saved me when I was in psychiatric hospitals or therapy, never did I think of “selling art” at these moments, there were no thoughts just creativity exploding from me in every direction with a “fuck you” attitude to match.

Then I thought of the other experiences with art which had suffocated me and led me to become silent. Such as secondary school when my teacher decided her and I had a “personality clash” and that I was just a disobedient child who would not concentrate on the topics at hand. Which is hard for me for many reasons. In class a blank piece of paper would be set down for me, with an objective given, such as to draw a still life of some sort – my mind could not confine itself to the simple still life set out before me, other things would appear in my vision and these would have to be incorporated, different colours emerged which others did not see. Which is what drove my art teacher mad, she would get so angry at me and I just could not understand? This was my best and favourite subject and my way of communicating but it was shut down and I stopped trying and taking part.

My Burial - By Charlotte Farhan

My Burial – By Charlotte Farhan

When later in life I decided to go to art college at 17, having only been out of hospital a short while, the intensity of my emotions and coming from an art therapy environment did not merge well within the confines of academic art. This time I had learnt from previous experiences that my voice was too loud or too raw and with the social pressures of adolescents, which made me want to conform so as to be seen as “normal” and not the crazy girl, I simply muted myself and my creative voice. Which meant yet again the teachers found me difficult, leading me to leave after a year.

With this retrospective, the mission was clear and simple; my work needed to come from the place which has been unheard and abandoned for so long. It is not pretty or comfortable, but it is my genuine voice and my message to the world – with the aim of helping others who like me have been pushed down and silenced.  During my year off from the headache that is consumerism, my mind was able to redevelop the meaning behind my journey as an artist. It is true that for me the message in my work is far more important to me than if it is “sellable”, which meant that finding my voice was the most important aspect for my exploration thus far.

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Now I am ready to sell my work again and put my work back in galleries, Knowing that the selling is a bonus and the galleries allow my art to be seen and my message to heard by more people. There is now no whispers asking me consumerist questions and there is no compromise to my philosophy. Now I am secure with my art and purpose which means my muse has returned.

If you ever find yourself in this predicament as an artist (of any discipline) then I would recommend a similar period of time away from the suffocation that is our capitalist, consumer driven world, find your roots in your work, work towards your purpose and do not compromise this for anything.

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How I long to walk carefree in the rain – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

This painting and poem is inspired by the feelings and emotions which are experienced whilst suffering from agoraphobia.

How I long to walk carefree in the rain - By Charlotte Farhan

How I long to walk carefree in the rain – By Charlotte Farhan

 

How I long to walk carefree in the rain – By Charlotte Farhan

 

There are days when all I want is rain

the cathartic washing of the soul

with every droplet easing my pain

lost, I continue in this black hole.

Staring from my imprisoned windowpane

I imagine myself taking a stroll

allowing the wet the chance to explain

why the sudden downpour, makes me feel whole.

Walking obliviously again

my mind becomes a rapid sinkhole

thoughts collide escaping the membrane

like rocks passing through a buttonhole.

Looking outside with a sense of disdain

feelings of insanity take control

the need to escape taps at me again

my umbrella is left without a role.

How I long to walk carefree in the rain.


How I long to walk carefree in the rain - By Charlotte Farhan

How I long to walk carefree in the rain – By Charlotte Farhan

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The Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition – focusing on ableism, disability, access and overcoming.

 

I am so honoured to be one of the Judges for the Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition alongside Karrie Higgins, Professor Dr. Kwame Brown and Jacqueline Cioffa.

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Find out about the other judges of this very important competition by clicking the link: Meet the Judges for Able in This Diverse Universe

Able in This Diverse Universe Essay Competition

So how and what is this all about?

“Established essayist and word-mage Karrie Higgins invites you to participate in a nonfiction writing competition on the themes of ableism, disability, access and overcoming. All submissions fees benefit the training and care of Noah Ainslie’s future Autism service dog, Appa. This competition will also serve to raise awareness of invisible illness and ableist bias.

Noah’s neurodiversity often manifests as sensory overwhelm. He has been learning coping mechanisms for six years, but still visibly struggles when it comes to conforming to neurotypical standards. He is high function on the spectrum which means he doesn’t “look like” he’s disabled. He is subjected to ableist expectations, often very aggressively and in public.

With Appa’s help, Noah will have access to the public spaces his anxiety prevents him from entering. More importantly, Noah will have a companion who loves him for who he is and does not judge his inability to conform to ableist public standards. To learn more about Noah, visit his GoFundMe page.”

Thank you from Appa and Noah.

Thank you from Appa and Noah.

Follow this link to enter the competition:

https://honeyquill.submittable.com/submit/50077

To enter this competition, please use the following guidelines for all submissions.Your work should be:

  • nonfiction
  • no more than 2,000 words
  • in PDF or docx format
  • without identifying information in your document as judging will be blind 

All entries are require a $15 submission fee which will directly benefit Noah and Appa. You are welcome to enter as many times as you want.

This competition will run from December , 2015 – February 29, 2016. Winners will be notified March 31, 2016.

The winning essayists will receive $250 cash, and publication on Karrie’s website, A True Testimony. Second and third place winners will also receive awards. 

Four Paws for Noah

Four Paws for Noah

Please get involved with this!

You can:

enter the competition

donate to the GoFundMe page

share this with friends and family via social media or email

This is such an important cause and the issues we are asking you to address, affect so many, including myself.

I am also in the process of getting a service dog for my agoraphobia and PTSD.

I live in an able world where I too have been rejected and expected to “fit in” or expected to accept defeat, so please for people such as myself and Noah, support this with an open heart and mind.

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Thank you for reading xxx