Ableism and Fertility – When online support groups turn against the vulnerable

Last Friday I woke up in my usual state of anxiety and dissociation, having spent what seemed like a life time of nightmares that night – when I had finally focused my mind on the day ahead my heart felt heavy and my mind was attentive to the fact I am infertile due to many factors and can not receive fertility treatment or adopt. The root of my issue is that I suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which developed in my early twenties after battling with anorexia and bulimia chronically for 8 years resulting in hospital treatment, ignoring my diagnosis due to embarrassment – as it made me feel a lack of control over my body my condition worsened. Having battled (and still battling) disorder eating and withholding food this news made me feel “fat and lazy” especially upon reading the information available on my illness – the stigma associated with PCOS is shocking, the symptoms of high testosterone in my body made me feel embarrassed as I started to grow unwanted hair – my self esteem was already in tatters so this was the last straw. Due to ignoring this diagnosis I developed type 2 diabetes just before I turned 30 and then my life as a woman trying to conceive changed forever.

Whilst feeling severely depressed and alone at the end of last week,  I turned (like many people) to a support group on Facebook called PCOS Tribe UK which having been a member for a while even though I had never posted, seemed a great place to find some support, so whilst shaking with adrenaline and seeing lights flickering over my eyes I wrote a post:

 

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I understand this was a very vague post, but not knowing how or what to say this felt like a way to open the conversation up as I was feeling so unable in myself and struggling with communication. Within seconds I received a reply and was hopeful that it would lead to some support and empathy with people who were also experiencing these difficult things. At first all seemed good I received this:

(For the privacy of these women I have made their identities unknown – as this is a private group and I would not wish their personal medical circumstances to be displayed without their consent.)

 

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Upon receiving this initial comment I felt a sense of relief that a dialogue had opened up with someone on this subject, also very much appreciating the:

“but maybe your circumstances are different than mine”

This felt like my opportunity to explain my situation further. Before I could even contemplate what to write the sound of notifications rang in my ears as my phone received new replies and comments on my post. Quickly my relief turned into more anxiety and my mind started to fog, the lights got brighter and my body and mind were sending me clear signals that I was under attack, so the defences went up.

 

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The first reply here is patronising and assumes they know my circumstances before I have even had a chance to explain and as I am sure you can read, her sweeping of my differing circumstances under the rug is in fact very silencing. Assuming we have been through the same thing is also a very big mistake when discussing these issues – I appreciate what she was possibly trying to do, but it was misjudged, so whilst trying to find a way to eloquently reply, of course the other lady was still being very kind and empathetic, which made me continue:

 

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On another screen on my phone I was desperately trying to write a reply which stated the reasons to which personally conceiving a baby is just not in my future, wanting to explain why fertility treatment has been denied to me on the NHS and why adoption is impossible when you have sever psychiatric disorders and physical disabilities, but the notifications kept coming and my anxiety as well as impulse control was pushing at my temples, making me feel obsessive and compulsive with rapid thoughts misfiring, it was painful physically as well as emotionally overpowering.

 

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As you can see my response is short and frustrated, it may have come across rude, but I have not got the same social abilities as “neurotypical” people, so direct is how I communicate especially when under pressure. The women were of course still trying to be helpful and there is no doubt in my mind that they were offering this advice in kindness. However so much of this is misguided, privileged and ableist as well as factually incorrect. Women kept stating to me that the ONLY way you could be certain you were completely unable to conceive is if all your female reproductive organs had been removed? This of course is not at all correct as there are many reasons why a woman can not conceive from physical illnesses as well as socio-economic reasons. Also as a woman who can’t have children it is never helpful to have other women push their success and fertility down your throat when they have not afforded you the time and courtesy to explain exactly why your inability to have children is a fact.

 

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(the reason that my image and name is blanked out is because these were taken on the group (PCOS Tribe UK) owner’s phone/computer and were put up on her Facebook profile – which I saved as I was removed from the group before I got to screen shot everything, may I add this is the only one she blanked my name and picture from, all the rest disclosed who I was in a public setting disclosing my infertility and medical issues)

This particular screen shot and comment of me hurt and made me feel mocked and dismissed. Apparently it was only acceptable of me to take advice on trying to conceive, NOT acceptable however to seek help in accepting that I shall not get the chance to have children due to my health and circumstances. Is it so wrong to have tried everything in your capabilities to conceive and seek help but still be denied or unsuccessful and then seek help in the acceptance of this? The only reason I came to the group was to seek help from women who for whatever reason could not have children – never thinking that I would be shamed for seeking this. It felt like for this woman, me seeking acceptance and help with this was an attack on her or the “wrong” thing to do as a woman.

My responses were apparently not acceptable and deemed abusive. But it was acceptable to suggest to me that I ask a friend who may wish to have an abortion if she would carry her child fall term for me to adopt?

The bombardment continued:

 

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I was abrupt – yes! But rude – no, you can see I am trying to explain myself and my disabilities but it is going so fast. Still desperately writing my explanation on another screen hoping that when these women understand my position they will know I was not being rude. By now the tears have begun to fall and my mind is experiencing tunnel vision.

Then the lady who replied to me first – who was kind and empathetic posted a comment, unfortunately I wasn’t able to send my reply as the admin had stopped all comments, as you can see from the red alert. I wanted to thank this lady for her kindness. And was still trying to reply to her first comment and explain myself.:

 

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Desperately I said several times on peoples replies “I am neuro-divegent” or “I have neurological damage I can’t process information that quickly”, hoping this would alert admins to my situation, hoping for some assistance but unfortunately I got this final reply from an admin and then was removed from the group:

 

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The decision and action taken by the groups owner and admins, was so upsetting, in disbelief of my removal I started a new explanation and wanted to post it on the groups wall to explain myself in the hope admin would see their error of silencing a woman just seeking support who couldn’t keep up and explain themselves in time due to their neurodiversity and disabilities. The other issue which caused me great distress is the fact the admins saw me pleading in regards to my disabilities and my inability to process this information and communicate at the speed neuro-typical people do. That instead of making this group and support accessible to me they deemed me a trouble maker who had only come to this group to cause arguments? Which may I add is an odd conclusion to make so abruptly and without hearing me out – however as a person who suffers from mental illness I am used to this kind of stigma. So I screen shot the reply I was trying to write which is when Facebook told me I was not able to post in the group anymore (hence why it is faded):

 

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But this was never seen and that was it I was banished. Left crying and feeling even more alone – like a freak, a troublemaker. Seeking some help as I was feeling very vulnerable and out of control and as someone who can not leave the house most of the time – panic set in and the fear of having a psychotic episode which could lead me to hurt myself was terrifying. Whilst trying to focus I reached out to my FB friends, family and followers as they are such wonderful supportive allies and know my situation, I wrote this:

 

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As soon as this status went public I started to receive friend requests and message requests from several different women, naively I thought they were sending me these requests to support me after what had happened. Unfortunately I was mistaken, the owner of the group was the first and as soon as I accepted her friend request she commented on my status:

(As this is a public post and this woman “Jane Mann” wrote this on my public post on my public profile no ones identity has been blanked out.)

 

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As you can read “Jane Mann” still misses the point entirely and still thinks it is acceptable to treat me this way and wishes to silence me further, and does not accept any criticism of her group. As this is on my profile my friends, family and followers become very protective of me and help tell Jane to back off. I then block Jane.

More women sent me (and anyone who commented on my status) abuse and friend requests, after this one of my friends sends Jane a message telling her in no uncertain terms to leave me alone – I did not ask for this to be done (although very grateful) however I do not know what Jane Mann expected when she made herself public on my profile.

Then the messages begun – I did not accept most of the requests however I did with this lady:

 

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As you can read she is very angry with me and my situation. This woman thinks I should be able to disclose my disabilities up front with no issue and if not – then that is my fault, which is of course a very able privileged view point. Also stating that because I had not posted before that this meant I was suspicious? She also questions if this (wanting to conceive and raise children of my own) is actually something I truly want, because I didn’t just shut up and accept advice which was actually not relevant to me as I CAN NOT CONCEIVE, but was never given enough time to explain exactly why this is so! Also she suggests I am a liar because I said these women “attacked” me, but doesn’t understand that feeling attacked by a large number of women overwhelming me with information at an unrealistic speed for me to keep up with is also a valid description of being “attacked” they of course did not pounce on me literally they attacked me figuratively through their ableism and dismissing my disabilities. I felt attacked! This very angry woman also says “if you had posted correctly” then apparently I would have been helped, I was unaware that there was a correct way to post – if I had known I certainly would have not joined the group or posted as this is too restrictive for me and confusing. As stated before – that morning there was no way in which I was able to write a long post explaining every detail of my infertility, physical and mental illnesses, disabilities, neuro-diversity and circumstances, not only because I was unwell but also due to the unwanted stigma that my circumstances can cause. Also her focus is on the number of women, I said “about 15” – for me this included all responses however I may have counted some people twice due to certain people posting more than once, in the confusion this is very possible – a valid argument against me – no!

This got nastier and nastier as this woman messaged everyone who had commented on my status or liked it – harassing people all because of this situation. Then this woman took it upon herself to go to my non-profit /charity organisation FB page Art Saves Lives International (ASLI) and do this:

 

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(since this attack either the woman or Facebook have removed this review)

 

Not only was this a step too far and nothing to do with ASLI as I was never in the group PCOS Tribe UK representing ASLI – I was there as Charlotte Farhan. This went on and on and she disclosed my infertility and medical issues here on this page. Not my public profile which anyone can access – not my public art page on Facebook which is just me. No this woman attacked this page and gave a fake review of an organisation which she had never heard of, all because I was unable to explain my disabilities and circumstances in the PCOS Tribe UK group in a satisfactory and speedily manner in order to receive advice I did not ask for or need by ableist privileged women.

My friend and a member of the ASLI team received a threat of physical harm and her art page on Facebook was attacked by these women:

 

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I received more the next day:

 

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Then my husband was alerted to Jane Mann (the owner of PCOS Tribe UK) sharing my information on her private profile as well as allowing people to discriminate against me and a friend after my mental illnesses and disabilities had been confirmed, this was in an album on her profile named “Evidence” along with screen shots of me in the private group disclosing all my issues:

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Calling us mentally unstable – which myself and my friend who sent Jane Mann a message (no one else did) are, as we have sever mental illness, which we stated – ridiculing us is ableism.

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Calling me a psycho – ableism and stigmatising against my very real and debilitating psychiatric illness.

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Yes we do! We don’t get it due to the state of the mental health care in the UK on the NHS. This is an ableist slur and stating how it is sad we need help is stigmatising and discriminatory.

None of this needed to happen, this was avoidable and hopefully these women – especially the owner and admins will learn how they need to check their privilege, especially their able privilege as well as understanding that fertility is not only to do with your reproductive organs, that there are many women like me who are given a small window until they reach 35 (depending on their area) who if they do not fit the correct criteria are denied fertility treatment. For me due to my 5ft 11inch frame and difficulties getting down to an unrealistic BMI in under 2 years when my diabetes was so out of control due to my  pancreas shutting down – was just not possible. Then the women would say “well get a second opinion, see a fertility specialist, get fertility treatment”, which my husband and I can not afford as we are a one income household as I can not earn money due to my disabilities and we have very bad credit. As for adoption – well I do not meet the standards as my disabilities and mental illness would mean (by their assessment) that I could not adequately care for a child. I do not dispute this as I am unable to care for myself.

Due to these factors my goal now is acceptance and realising that life without children can be fulfilling and meaningful, at the time I realise grieving for what will never be is essential. My husband and I have already lost a pregnancy when i was 26 years old – just after our first scan.

There is no malice in this article just awareness and my experience being put forward, hoping that this will mean other women like me will not be silenced or shut out because they do not fit into the socially constructed ideal of being a woman and having children. I would like to thank the women who came forward to me from the group PCOS Tribe UK who offered me support and help even though they were scared of the group owner and admin removing them, there were 5 women but two wrote sensitive information which may disclose their identities so I chose not to put them here:

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*Revision – I would like to clarify that I do NOT deem all members of this group as ableist, privileged or patronising. I am only referring to the members I had experiences with which were ableist and privileged. I am certain that this group is full of wonderful women from all different perspectives and circumstances, my issue is only with the page owner, admins and the members who attacked me after being removed. I know most women who commented meant well and did not understand my situation due to my vague post. I have not written this article to detract from the “good work” this group does for other vulnerable women, but felt it essential to put my experience across and since doing so have received a lot of feedback from women within the group and out of the group who have experienced similar issues in regards to my experiences and who have also experienced ableism. I wish all these women the best and hope they have happy healthy lives (even the owner, admins and members who harassed me after being removed). I hold no hate in my heart – I only wish to highlight the issues women like me with disabilities and who are neuro-diverse experience – my voice is valid and I shall not be silenced. 

For anyone reading this who is still unaware or confused about ableism or able privilege then here are some helpful links:

What is Ableism? Five Things About Ableism You Should Know

15 Crazy Examples Of Insanely Ableist Language

Stop Ableism Inc. / Arrêter L’Ableism Inc.

10 Ways to Avoid Everyday Ableism

DISABLED WOMEN AND REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE

Women and Girls with Disabilities

 

Thank you and if you have any comments of feedback please fill out this form:

Art Saves Lives International Posters designed by Charlotte Farhan

As the Managing Director of ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL creating merchandise for our new online store (which will be launched early next year) is a fun project for me to take on.

We shall be selling posters, postcards, greeting cards, art prints, music, arts and crafts, T-shirts, stationery, books, online-courses and we hope to stoke items from artists around the world, so you can by from the artist through us! So as this is my baby, I decided to take the plunge and start creating.


 

Here are 3 NEW posters I have created the artwork for:

ASLI Poster By Charlotte Farhan

 

 

Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.
(Plato)

 

ASLI Poster By Charlotte Farhan

 

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

ASLI Poster By Charlotte Farhan

The animated bug has bitten pop culture. It makes me feel happy and free. When you don’t act seriously, you can make up your own rules.”

(Nicki Minaj)

 

More artworks to come very soon…

We will also be doing competitions for artists to enter their designs to be featured on our merchandise.

If you are not familiar with ASLI and our mission and aim then check them out at http://www.artsaveslivesinternational.com

ASLI infographic by Charlotte Farhan

Remember when we at ASLI talk about artists we are talking about all disciplines within the arts…

Such as: visual artists, photographers, writers, poets, dancers, performance artists, thespians, graphic designers, crafters and artisans, musicians, singers, cartoonists, fashion designers, film and documentary makers, journalists, bloggers… basically if you are using your artistic and creative self to make a difference we are talking to you!

ASLI infographic by Charlotte Farhan

If you have any questions about ASLI or wish to get involved please fill in the form below or contact us at artsaveslivesinternational@gmail.com

ASLI WEBSITE BADGE

 

The devil finds work for idle hands – Painting to Escape Negative Thoughts

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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.

Hiding Beneath the Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan

Hiding Beneath the Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan

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.

Isabella No2 - By Charlotte Farhan

Isabella No2 – By Charlotte Farhan

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.

Isabella No3 - By Charlotte Farhan

Isabella No3 – By Charlotte Farhan

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.

The Poetry of Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan

The Poetry of Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan

 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…

Omar No2 - By Charlotte Farhan

Omar No2 – By Charlotte Farhan

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

Charlotte Farhan Art

Thank you for visiting

xxx

creative-minds

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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Breaking through during waking – An Exhibition by Charlotte Farhan

Amman At Dusk By Charlotte Farhan

A week ago today I was half way through my first solo two day exhibition at NSH Arts in London, Mile End. I was feeling very excited and felt very blessed that the evening before had gone so well and how wonderfully I had been received. My exhibition was organised by Art Saves Lives an organisation which I am a resident artist for in London. The exhibition was my largest yet with 26 paintings.

Artist Charlotte Farhan

Artist Charlotte Farhan

The Venue – NSH Arts – London

The Space

“A classic Georgian House the east end of London, 439 Mile End Road has been refurbished to offer a versatile set of spaces intended for exhibition of 2D and 3D installations, music, theatre and study. The scale is defined by the domestic setting – but the possibilities are dramatic – including opera and indoor/outdoor exhibitions.”

Nick Hugh the director was so helpful and operates his venue and organisation with a relaxed professionalism which is calming for the artist and audience.

For further details please visit NSH Arts website

http://www.nsharts.org/index.html

Organised by Art Saves Lives – London

“Art Saves Lives is a not-for-profit arts organisation dedicated to providing inspirational and inclusive arts experiences to engage marginalised and underprivileged young artists in the UK. We offer our artists a plethora of multi-media visual arts, performing arts and film opportunities to unleash their artistic potential and transform their lives.”

Mr Dean Stalham – Company Director, organised my exhibition and promoted it. Dean was amazing and I am very grateful for his help and dedication.

http://artsaveslives.co.uk/about-us-2/team-asl

Miss Sadie Kaye – Artistic Director, offered continuous moral support and aided me through out my creative process all the way from Hong Kong, as always I am very grateful.

http://www.sadiekaye.com/

Please show your support for Art Saves Lives and check out their site

http://artsaveslives.co.uk/

  Exhibition Poster - created by Art Saves Lives  http://artsaveslives.co.uk/

Exhibition Poster – created by Art Saves Lives
artsaveslives.co.uk

Here is my exhibition for all those who could not attend and for those who are just finding out about my art. I hope you will feel as if you were there.

Breaking Through During Waking – An Exhibition by Charlotte Farhan

My vision for this exhibition was a collection of my best work which represented my journey so far. From childhood memories, life stories and events, with political and religious comments and parts of my inner self which begged to be exposed and exploded from my mind on to canvas.  My work is always reflective and is meant to provoke discussion and to reflect positive energy from colour.

Alter Ego (self portrait) By Charlotte Farhan

Alter Ego (self portrait) By Charlotte Farhan
This is my only and first attempt at a self-portrait. I also reflected my alter ego instead of my outer known self. My alter ego is a moody, dramatic and negative nightmare with no care for the world or their place in it.

Amman Cityscape (down town) - By Charlotte Farhan

Amman Cityscape (down town) – By Charlotte Farhan
From the collection ‘Jordan (the Hashemite Kingdom)’ 2012 A naive abstraction of shape and use of engaging colours to represent the feelings and expressions the city gives.

Anxiety - By Charlotte Farhan

Anxiety – By Charlotte Farhan
This is a depiction of anxiety. The 5 symbols are the main neurotransmitters involved with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are associated with decreased activity of serotonin, dopamine and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Norepinephrine (NE) and Epinephrine (adrenalin) can be overactive and are the hormones and neurotransmitter which allows us to have the “fight or flight” response to stress.

A Spoon Full Of Sugar - By Charlotte Farhan

A Spoon Full Of Sugar – By Charlotte Farhan
Medication is as easy to get hold of as candy. People are being medicated and loured in by false advertisements and ideals towards states of constant happiness. Being locked into a system which is designed as a business, not an organisation for the welfare of human kind.

The Way You Make Me Feel - By Charlotte Farhan

The Way You Make Me Feel – By Charlotte Farhan
From the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2013 This represents the healthy acceptance of my body with the love of my husband and myself which has been an on-going struggle throughout my life. Being healthy is beautiful whichever shape you are.

True Colours - By Charlotte Farhan

True Colours – By Charlotte Farhan
From the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2013 Our inner feelings are often masked and not shown. This is a reflection on our inner voice and true feelings.

Rainbow Street (Amman) & Amman at Dusk - By Charlotte Farhan

Rainbow Street (Amman) & Amman at Dusk – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman at Dusk – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman, is a city which reminds me of how strong I am and reminds me of the adventure and diversity which exists on our planet. I have faced many fears to visit this amazing city in Jordan where my husband is from. It is a spiritual home where I found an inner peace on my second visit in 2011.
Amman, Rainbow Street – By Charlotte Farhan
“Rainbow Street” is in the historic area of Jabal Amman, Jordan. This is the home of the artistic community located at the heart of Amman’s oldest neighbourhood. An inspirational and energetic vibe is felt here.
Silence is Oppressive - By Charlotte Farhan

Silence is Oppressive – By Charlotte Farhan
Fear of telling a secret or confessing to feelings of despair or self-loathing can causes the silence to rule over you repressively. Our mind and body holds these feelings and thoughts and buries them in our memory to preserve how much our mind can deal with at any one time, dictating our thoughts.

Le Consulat, Montmartre, Paris - By Charlotte Farhan

Le Consulat, Montmartre, Paris – By Charlotte Farhan
This is from the collection ‘Ma belle France’ 2013 A naive impression of the famous cafe in Montmartre, Paris, called Le Consulat. In the background you can see the Sacre Coeur.

Genderless Love - By Charlotte Farhan

Genderless Love – By Charlotte Farhan
Love is genderless! Our culture and most cultures associate love to have different natures and to be felt differently by the opposite sex or that a same sex relationship has limits, boundaries and shame. Love is genderless, it is limitless.

Candy Girl By Charlotte Farhan

Candy Girl By Charlotte Farhan
This is a comment on the consequences of the over exposure and sexualisation which children are subjected to in our media. This directly has a negative impact on self-image and healthy development, self-image problems such as shame leading to depression and anxiety.

She is a Warrior - By Charlotte Farhan

She is a Warrior – By Charlotte Farhan
I like to think of myself as a survivor or more accurately a warrior. I have fought battles and defeated negative armies. I like the visualisation that my inner warrior is in control and can defeat negative thoughts instantly.

Dualism - By Charlotte Farhan

Dualism – By Charlotte Farhan
An expressionist representation of physical and spiritual dualism, from a philosophical view point. I asked myself what is spirit?

That Day - By Charlotte Farhan

That Day – By Charlotte Farhan
This is an expressionist piece reflecting the sadness and isolation experienced after a devastating trauma and how “that day” is frozen in time forever.

Memories - By Charlotte Farhan

Memories – By Charlotte Farhan
Trees have played an important role in many of the world’s mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages. My trees symbolise life and death and in particular the death of my friend Jenny who lives on in my art as a tree.

Paris at Dawn - By Charlotte Farhan

Paris at Dawn – By Charlotte Farhan
Paris is where my family are from and is where I spent so much of my life. I am proud to be French and will always enjoy and feel the need to paint my city

Misused & Abused - By Charlotte Farhan

Misused & Abused – By Charlotte Farhan
A political statement about the role religion plays and how it is used to accuse and vindicate our beliefs towards who is to blame for poverty, hunger and war.

A Gift From You - By Charlotte Farhan

A Gift From You – By Charlotte Farhan
From ‘The Flower Collection’ 2013 A gift that is given of beauty and nature has been used for centuries and its meaning is endless. The language of flowers, called floriography, was a form of communication in which flowers were used to send coded messages, allowing the expression of feelings which otherwise could not be spoken.

Feeling Love - By Charlotte Farhan

Feeling Love – By Charlotte Farhan
This is from the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2012 A mixed media piece which symbolises the feeling of being loved unconditionally.

Divine Authority - By Charlotte Farhan

Divine Authority – By Charlotte Farhan
I grew up as a French Catholic and went to Roman Catholic convents and schools in England. A concept and dogma was a faceless authority of all good and bad to me as a child. It has led me to another spiritual path of deism but the authority is still felt and engrained.

Freedom Over Life - By Charlotte Farhan

Freedom Over Life – By Charlotte Farhan
This explores the controversy surrounding suicide. This is a representation of my beautiful best friend Jenny who I met in an adolescent psychiatric ward, she committed suicide after suffering from severe mental illness and being hospitalised for years. Jenny’s medical condition caused her to make a choice. As devastated as we all were we all understood and felt no anger. Jenny is free now.

Earth - By Charlotte Farhan

Earth – By Charlotte Farhan
This symbolises the notion of “mother earth” and how nature can immolate gender association and how we anthropomorphize nature.

PTSD - By Charlotte Farhan

PTSD – By Charlotte Farhan
This is a reflective piece. It is painted in a naïve style. This represents the image my inner child would paint to explain the emotions attached to this condition. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe condition that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events.
With Flowers in her Hair - By Charlotte Farhan

With Flowers in her Hair – By Charlotte Farhan
From the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2013 Women have been associated with the physical side of life our role has always been described as being ‘closer to nature’. Women have been affected by the devaluation throughout time and this is reflected in our images and media, this is an image to empower and readdress the positive.

X Rated - By Charlotte Farhan

X Rated – By Charlotte Farhan
A women climaxing and feeling extreme pleasure and lust. Women are still thought of differently when thought to be sexually liberated. Negative associations and expectations are placed on women.

Fabio Tedde

Fabio Tedde

During my exhibition the fabulously talented pianist Fabio Tedde played his music. Fabio’s music set the scene for a relaxed evening.  Pleasure for the ears and the eyes was our collaboration.

Here are some videos of Fabio Tedde for you to listen to 

You can also visit his website

http://www.fabiotedde.com/en/index.php

Fabio Tedde playing at Charlotte Farhan's exhibition at NSH Arts

Fabio Tedde playing at Charlotte Farhan’s exhibition at NSH Arts, London                  Photography by Charlotte & Mohammed Farhan

The Wonderful singer/songwriter Lánre also sang three amazing songs and the one she picked especially for my exhibition, was this song called “inspiration”

Lánre – Inspiration

Lánre - Singing at Charlotte Farhan's exhibition at NSH Arts, London. Photography By Charlotte and Mohammed Farhan

Lánre – Singing at Charlotte Farhan’s exhibition at NSH Arts, London.                Photography By Charlotte and Mohammed Farhan

 Lánre is a beautiful women with true soul which runs deep and pleases the ears with a delightful ease and passion. A rising star who has a long and bright future ahead, watch this space because Lánre  is coming!!

Fabio Tedde & Lánre performing together at Charlotte Farhan's Exhibition at NSH Arts, London Photography by Charlotte and Mohammed Farhan

Fabio Tedde & Lánre performing together at Charlotte Farhan’s Exhibition at NSH Arts, London
Photography by Charlotte and Mohammed Farhan

Internal Thoughts - By Charlotte Farhan Donated to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, in association with Art Saves Lives

Internal Thoughts – By Charlotte Farhan
Donated to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, in association with Art Saves Lives

GUEST SPEAKERS

Community.Options.Meet.The.Team

We also had inspiring guest speakers and were supported by Community Options with Ian bland, speaking about the organisation and who runs a creativity project for Art Saves Lives called Credo.

http://www.community-options.org.uk/#

“Our vision is for everyone who is experiencing mental ill-health to have access to appropriate and timely support and to lead valued lives in the community as equal citizens.”

http://www.credoceramics.org/v/index

“Through gentle encouragement  professional support and guidance we enable our members  to explore their creative potential and build self confidence and self worth. “

Also 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.

http://www.swlstg-tr.nhs.uk/our-services/sun-service-user-network/

The Service User Network (S.U.N) is a group peer support service which helps people cope with personality disorder and emotional/behavioural difficulties.

It aims to help service users feel more supported, less excluded and more empowered.  This is achieved through learning new coping strategies, which can help people have fewer crises, and be able to access other services more simply when needed.

S.U.N works alongside mainstream services

Inspiring and informative talks – Thank you

Dualism - By Charlotte Farhan  This painting is now in the permanent art collection of Nick Hugh the director of NSH Arts and this is a true honour.

Dualism – By Charlotte Farhan
This painting is now in the permanent art collection of Nick Hugh the director of NSH Arts and this is a true honour.

Exhibition Photos – By Mohammed Farhan & Edited By Charlotte Farhan

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I hope you have enjoyed my exhibition

Thank you for visiting – your support is gratefully received

If you are interested in my work please visit my website

http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

An artist has every right – one may even say a duty – to exhibit their productions as prominently as they can.

(Jacques Barzun)

Silver Linings – Emotions in Colour – Solo Art Exhibition – From Charlotte Farhan

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On Friday the 24th of May my first solo exhibition opened at The Art House in Southampton, Hampshire, England.

I created this exhibition to highlight my ongoing collections and to express my symbology and messages which exist in my paintings. I named the exhibition ‘Silver Linings – Emotions in Colour’ because I use my art to find and create positive energy. A lot of my art originates from my past and my negative experiences from my childhood and adolescents as well as my ongoing struggle with mental illness. I did not want to produce the cliché angst ridden art which is associated with mental illness. I wanted to inspire and create art which empowers the beauty of positivity.

For all of you who can not attend my exhibition especially those of you abroad, as promised I have created this blog post as a mini on-line exhibition so you can view my work and feel like you experienced it in the flesh! I hope you enjoy it.

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SILVER LININGS – EMOTIONS IN COLOUR

BY CHARLOTTE FARHAN

Feeling Love - By Charlotte Farhan

Feeling Love – By Charlotte Farhan

This is from the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2012                                      

A mixed media piece which symbolises the feeling of being loved unconditionally.  £50.00

A Gift From You - By Charlotte Farhan

A Gift From You – By Charlotte Farhan

From ‘The Flower Collection’ 2013                                                                                                

A gift that is given of beauty and nature has been used for centuries and its meaning is endless.  £155.00

 

Laying in Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan

Laying In Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan

This is from the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2011                              

Being at one with nature alleviates the stress of everyday life and re-energises our mind and soul.   £70.00 

Amman Cityscape - By Charlotte Farhan

Amman Cityscape – By Charlotte Farhan

From the collection ‘Jordan (the Hashemite Kingdom)’ 2012                                                

A naive abstraction of shape and use of engaging colours to represent the feelings and expressions the city gives.  £300.00

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Le Consulat, Montmartre, Paris – By Charlotte Farhan

This is from the collection ‘Ma belle France’ 2013                                                                          

A naive impression of the famous cafe in Montmartre, Paris, called Le Consulat. In the background you can see the Sacre Coeur.  £400.00

Dualism - By Charlotte Farhan

Dualism – By Charlotte Farhan

An expressionist representation of physical and spiritual dualism, from a philosophical view point. I asked myself what is spirit?  £155.00

Brighten Up - By Charlotte Farhan

Brighten Up – By Charlotte Farhan

From ‘The Flower Collection’ 2013                                                                                                     

An expressionist piece to encourage the mind to “brighten up” our thoughts and embrace the positive which surrounds us. £50.00

Summer Is Coming - By Charlotte Farhan

Summer is Coming – By Charlotte Farhan

A naïve style painting of a tree blossoming just as summer starts. A rebirth, a chance to start again.  £80.00

Sitting Pretty - By Charlotte Farhan

Sitting Pretty – By Charlotte Farhan

A naïve style painting reflecting on my world and the joy animals and nature bring to our lives.  £50.00

Just To Make You Smile - By Charlotte Farhan

Just to Make you smile – By Charlotte Farhan

From ‘The Flower Collection’ 2013                                                                                                                    

The language of flowers, called floriography, was a form of communication in which flowers were used to send coded messages, allowing the expression of feelings which otherwise could not be spoken.  £155.00

Memories - By Charlotte Farhan

Memories – By Charlotte Farhan

Trees have played an important role in many of the world’s mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages. My trees symbolise life and death and in particular the death of my friend Jenny who lives on in my art as a tree.  £80.00

Tulip - By Charlotte Farhan

Tulip – By Charlotte Farhan

From ‘The Flower Collection’ 2013                                                                                                

During the Ottoman Empire, the tulip was seen as a symbol of abundance and indulgence. In fact, the era was called the Tulip era. This is an abstract piece to show how nature symbolises this abundance.  £80.00

The Way You Make Me Feel  - By Charlotte Farhan

The Way You Make Me Feel – By Charlotte Farhan

From the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2013                                                    

This represents the healthy acceptance of my body with the love of my husband and myself which has been an on-going struggle throughout my life. Being healthy is beautiful whichever shape you are.  £155.00

With Flowers in Her Hair - By Charlotte Farhan

With Flowers In Her Hair – By Charlotte Farhan

From the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2013                                          

Women have been associated with the physical side of life our role has always been described as being ‘closer to nature’.                                                                                                                       Women have been affected by the devaluation throughout time and this is reflected in our images and media, this is an image to empower and re-address the positive.  £50.00

 

True Colours - By Charlotte Farhan

True Colours – By Charlotte Farhan

From the collection ‘The Power of Women and Femininity’ 2013                                  

Our inner feelings are often masked and not shown. This is a reflection on our inner voice and true feelings.  £50.00

END OF EXHIBITION

My exhibition is on until the 7th of July at The Art House in Southampton. Here is a link to the galleries website for more information http://www.thearthousesouthampton.co.uk/ this is also where I first exhibited two paintings in their summer show in 2011. So I am so pleased I got to have my first solo show here. It is such a wonderful place. Like a treasure trove of arty delights and festivities as well as live music and yummy organic vegetarian food from their wonderful cafe.

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Thank you for visiting my art blog and for viewing my exhibition. Your support means the world to me. If you are interested in my work to buy or to exhibit in your venue or gallery please contact me via my email charlottefarhan83@sky.com or visit my website http://www.charlottefarhanart.com/

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Art saved my life – my ongoing struggle with mental illness

“Art can permeate the very deepest part of us, where no words exist.”
(Eileen Miller)

internal thought - By Charlotte Farhan

 

I have suffered from mental illness since I was a pre-teen and have struggled to cope with very strong emotions and at times have not coped and have had to be admitted to hospital. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder and Post Traumatic Stress disorder after I had a break down and was hospitalised for my own safety after a serious traumatic event when I was 15 years old. In hospital I was introduced to art therapy and found a release and a way to express my inner turmoil which was so hard for me to voice to the doctors and nurses. My art therapist worked very closely with me and was able to see my pain and understand the language I had developed to communicate through my art.

Our Tree By Charlotte Farhan

I have struggled with these illnesses on and off for my entire life that I can remember and am now 29 years old and still suffering! Now the illness affects me in different ways. Instead of the dramatic full throttle emotions of self destruction and not wanting to help myself, now I am unable to leave my home without someone else, I have severe anxiety and have developed an anxiety disorder which affects all aspects of my day-to-day life.

Art has saved me more than once and when I had my third breakdown in 2010 I decided to find salvation in my art and creativity. I had to face the reality that my mental illness had stopped me from being able to attend a full time university and now was affecting my ability to get a conventional job. I had to make a decision for my future. I could not let myself slip even further with this realisation. My doctors, support workers and psychiatrists had no answers except for drug treatment which I have refused since I stopped all my medication in 2004. So I sat on my bed feeling hopeless and defeated. Then as if the Universe was trying to tell me something I came across an on-line gallery asking for artists to submit, as they were starting up a new website. I had to submit six original pieces and an artists CV and the decision would be made within 48 hours.

power of growth by Charlotte Farhan

The next day I decided to do it! I put everything I had into creating art which not only reflected me but also as a creative challenge to myself. I finished my six paintings and submitted them and waited for the longest 48 hours. Then finally I got an email confirming I had been accepted and that I was now an artist. I then thought about this title, this irony and how my life had led to this point. I then invested all my time in launching my career and creating a portfolio, CV and a social media presence. As well as this I took the decision to start my degree with the Open University and to do the subjects I had always wanted to do, now I am in my third year of my part time degree, a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Psychology.

Two and a half years after I submitted to the gallery I am doing well with my career and the future is certainly something which I know I can influence and I have some very positive days. I am now with 2 galleries, I have exhibited in a group show and have two exhibitions booked for this year. I have sold over 25 paintings and have over 19,000 likes on my Facebook page. Yes I still have very bad days! Yes I have lost lots of friends because they could not understand me or empathise! Yes I still have a long way to go! But I can also say I have a lot more ‘good days’! I have gained some new amazing friends because of my art and found my true friends in my immediate circle! And most of all, yes art saved my life!

“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humour and style and generosity and kindness.”

(Maya Angelou)

That day By Charlotte Farhan

 

For more info on Borderline personality disorder please visit:

http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8037_understanding_borderline_personality_disorder

And for Post traumatic stress disorder:

http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8026_understanding_post-traumatic_stress_disorder

For info on Art Therapy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_therapy

 

Obstructive - By Charlotte Farhan Suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder is an ordeal on the best of days. BPD can cause obstructive behaviour due to it being a wildly misunderstood illness. This has lead me to hide my BPD from physicians and at times begrudge therapy, medication and leave mental health services. From the age of eleven I have obstructed treatment and then craved a cure, feeling abandoned and hateful towards the continuous changing of physicians and facilities. My art is here to break down and challenge stigma as well as educate.

Obstructive – By Charlotte Farhan

 

Freeing oneself from negativity to let the creativity flow…

I have recently encountered some negative energy from some not so friendly friends. They seem to have taken issue with my facebook pages success as I reached over 15,ooo likes a few weeks ago, which is an achievement I am proud of especially as I know how hard I worked for this!

I can’t lie it did hurt me and confused me as I have supported these people with their lives and especially their art! I helped with setting them up and gave them my time and experience out of love and wished them only well, but unfortunately I was given negativity in return!

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Since this realisation I have had to say goodbye to these people and try to forgive their nature and pray that they will find positive energy and move on to better things.

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As I am writing this post I have received yet another message full of abuse from this person, if only they knew how much I have cared for them and valued them, but especially how much I was willing to give!

I have received lots of positive feedback from my page fans today as I shared with them this misfortune. To my delight they rallied round me with support and proclaimed their likes had “NOT BEEN BOUGHT” this helped me to put these feelings into context so that I could release this bad energy and move on.

I plan to be far more active in my blogging next year and ironically I bought this very person a beautiful book on ‘how to blog for artists and creatives’, as she is a fab blogger who displays so many talents. But as I wont be giving her this present any more I shall turn this into a positive and use it myself. I have struggled with blogging as I am not usually one to log my emotions and daily activities in such a public setting but I understand how much it helps with getting my work out there, so here goes! As from next year I plan to write a blog at least once a week, watch this space….

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So this is my release  I hope if you have ever experienced this yourself you will be comforted by these quotes and feel less alone. I wish all my followers and fans of my work a massive thank you for your support. ❤ 🙂 And I hope that we can build a community of artists and creatives, who support and encourage one-another.

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I believe that I will thank my haters as they have encouraged me the most!

You can’t be envious and happy at the same time

 Frank Tyger