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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“I am Fine” the mantra of unseen illness – By Charlotte Farhan


I am fine….

I AM FINE!

I. AM. FINE. picsart_02-16-06.14.31.jpg

However which way I say these three words they are always a lie. Not a vicious deceitful lie, but a lie which serves me well whilst simultaneously crushing me emotionally; with each utterance. This little sentence has become a habitual response to the question:

How are you?

Which is a very common occurrence, most people do not divulge their entire life story when asked how they are, it is just an extension to how we greet one another, a politeness (especially in England) to reply:

I am fine, thank you. And how are you?

However when you are really asked this question by a close member of your family, your partner, a close friend or even your therapist and you still only ever say:

I am fine. picsart_02-16-06.02.22.jpg

Well this kind of situation is what I am talking about and is what this art piece represents. This is about how self preservation means losing part of your identity, emotionally but more importantly the denial of your present state. Never allowing your armour to be compromised, focusing on other peoples problems and absorbing them, when asked about yourself you divert conversations as if they were on-coming traffic; as if your life depends on it – because it does.

The majority of the time I do not look “sick”, I have mainly unseen illnesses and my most debilitating of ailments is completely invisible to the eye. As well as this many people do not “believe” in mental illness or recognise certain neurological conditions, saying things such as:

It’s all in your head!

It’s mind over matter.

You don’t look sick. picsart_02-16-06.05.19.jpg

These statements are very unhelpful and also redundant in this context. Saying it is all in ones head is a correct statement, mental illness is in our encasement’s which we call heads, in our brains – our minds. It is not in our legs, nor our arms, it is very much a head thing. However saying it to someone as a dismissive statement is not a logical statement as it suggests that your mental illness or neurological condition should not be “in your head”. Suggesting that it maybe make believe or a lie to gain sympathy (which if you are a person who suffers from mental illness you will know this is an insult as there is no sympathy granted to the mentally ill, instead it is stigmatised). As for “you don’t look sick” this one is nothing more than an ignorant judgement, looking at someone with just ones eyes and not a full body CT scanner (which also can not see everything) there is no way to determine someones health or disability status.

Due to all this added conjecture to this particular scenario , it is not hard to understand why the “I am fine” mantra is a fail safe for so many. You get tired of explaining yourself, defending your diagnosis and dealing with people saying things like:

I don’t really believe in mental illness.

Mental illness is a conspiracy to control and label us.

Mental illness is just mental weakness.

i-am-fine-2-by-charlotte-farhan

So the simple solution is to pretend that you are fine, that you do not need help, that you are not “weak” or “dangerous”, for every mental illness denier there is another person who believes we should all be locked up and not trusted due to the stigmatisation and misinformation on both the mentally ill and those with criminal intent.

This may be the simplest of solutions but it comes at a cost to most. You see there is only a finite amount of space in ones emotional storage unit and the continuous throwing anything and everything that you wish to hide in there can mean that you reach a time you can’t shut the door anymore, let alone lock it. This can lead to you bursting and spilling out onto everything around you or it can mean you just implode – self detonate.

Truthfully for me it is a constant battle inside my head, of not wanting to alienate people or scare people with my overwhelming emotional instability and behavioural abnormalities – having to remain stoic by being the person who people come to, the provider, the rescuer. Against letting it all out, a completely “no shits given” attitude, a liberating freedom of being able to just be me, all parts of me at all levels of intensity. This of course is very black and white and a thought process due to my borderline personality disorder, the middle ground does not tend to exist in my world, it sometimes appears but rarely when experiencing high emotions. To pass off the “strong” persona I have to use the “I am fine” line a lot, which is a kind of middle ground, at least it is when one is trying to manage social boundaries and interpersonal relationships – which to me are like alien concepts that cause feelings of being an outsider.

Charlotte Farhan

There have been times in my past when “I am fine” was a defence mechanism as I was in denial about my illnesses and wished to hide the entire idea from myself, blaming my emotions and behaviours on alcohol, drugs and being a “bitch”, that crazy girl thing was easy to flip and present myself to the world as a “bad” person in my twenties – so I stuck to it. People even liked this persona, some celebrated it by telling me they loved my “fuck you attitude” and loved to see me being abusive to others or violent. If the other side, the vulnerable side – was presented (which was me during my teens, from 11 yrs to 20 yrs old) people looked at me as an emotional drain, a liability, dangerous, scary, I became an undesirable human. At these times of no control self harm, suicide attempts, eating disorders, psychosis, machiavellianism, disinhibition and an emotional sensitivity that was never-ending was my way of life. I learnt valuable lessons on survival and how to mimic other humans as a visiting entity from the planet “strange”, using manipulation to gain friends and taking on other identities which were visible to me as ideals, I could be the most popular person in the room or the most disliked, this was not up to my audience or friends, this was up to me and my chameleon like personality. The important thing is I have forgiven myself for being this way, knowing now this was and still is a neurological condition and a perfectly OK way to survive when you have only ever known trauma.

picsart_02-06-06-17-09

Now that I am in my thirties things have got to a point that my life is more introspective and having the perspective of an “adult” allows me to look at my teens and twenties more objectively and see how and why I had to survive this way when there were no adults parenting me and keeping me safe. Being an adult in this way means that when I look back I ask different questions than I did before, such as:

Where were your parents?

How long were you left on your own?

How was it looking after yourself at such a young age?

Did you have to grow up quickly?

There is a draw back to being older however, my emotions get buried deeper, I detach more and say “I am fine” even more than ever. Wanting to be liked for me, not wanting to buy friends or manipulate them to like me, not wanting to be the extreme me who needs someone to safeguard them at all times, not wanting to be the rescuer and the “strong” one all the time. Wanting people to understand my pain more, I want and need actual medical support for my disabilities but am not at a vulnerable age anymore, so am taken less seriously. Hiding in medication and being likeable and not too intense feels like a life sentence:

But still all I can say is:

I am fine!

 


i-am-fine-by-charlotte-farhan


 

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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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Fragile – Illustration and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Fragile

My emotions are encased in glass,

self preservation enclosed them there,

in a mason jar
for safe keeping,

fear like a snake in the grass,

infectious despair
simply to scare,

in my jar
I am left weeping.

Fragility is never a choice,

does the ant get to choose it’s height?

does a butterfly design it’s wings?

I hear “stay safe”
from my little voice,

“fear not”
I reply
“this jar is airtight”,

Outside is not for me
for I see the sadness it brings.


Fragile - By Charlotte Farhan

Fragile – By Charlotte Farhan

 


 

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The Devouring Mother – Art By Charlotte Farhan

The Devouring Mother - By Charlotte Farhan

The Devouring Mother – By Charlotte Farhan

 

This piece is a reflection on Mother Nature, Lady Justice, Demeter the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, Goddesses of death and the underworld such as CoatlicueMictecacihuatlNephthys and Persephone.

The giver of life and the carrier of the burden of death is how I see and portray my symbol of “Mother Earth”, she (unlike myself) can give life to anything and does so – with no pain relief, no support, it is simply her obligation to continue our species. With Mothering comes abandonment – for her strength is not in the nurturing it is in the facilitating of life. Feeding you when hungry or starving you when she wishes, giving you shade as well as ripping away all that comforts you.

To her life and death are justice, it a natural order or law which aligns us within the universe. Life and death obviously exist and she reminds us of this, with the scale tipping slightly lower for death – indicating how death is a consequence for living.

The devouring Mother who both produces and destroys everything is like our earth, like our solar system, our galaxy , our entire universe. However the representation of her as female is an interesting depiction, in most mythology goddesses and deities are depicted as troublesome but still have a complex persona which is shown through various symbolic personality traits, showing strength, virtue, rage, love and of course the most important of roles, the creator of life and nature. Matriarchal societies are prevalent in mythology, although they have been disputed to have ever existed in history as a female led society or civilisation. Patriarchal rule and ownership of women is the reality, making these mythological symbols even more important.

Depictions of women for most of our history as a species have been of the virgin, mother, obedient wife, whore, witch or old crone. With each woman being a one dimensional character, with no complexities or ambition. They were not even elevated as “creators of life” instead treated like cattle or a conveyor belt of babies.

Women can be anything and everything just as men can be, gender as a concept rather than a biological definition is on its way out. So these figures that we create and lift up – they must be more than just the roles assigned to us from birth, this earth needs all of us to be creators, destroyers, givers and takers. That is the essence of all existence – here today gone tomorrow, death does not discriminate even if you have the privileges that afford you a longer life, you will still die and return to the earth.


 

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Impairment of Autonomy – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Impairment of Autonomy - by Charlotte Farhan

Impairment of Autonomy – by Charlotte Farhan


Impairment of Autonomy – by Charlotte Farhan

 

Is my mind my own

is it attached or detached

or am I simply a drone,

a body mismatched,

it feels like thought control,

a disturbance in beliefs,

torturous to my soul,

this pondering brings no relief.

Is my autonomy met with rationality,

does the honey bee blame the seasons,

does rain have any morality,

is it our brain which insists on reason,

are these rules totalitarian,

or am free to have objections,

this could be sectarian,

I am left with so many questions.

Feeling a pull within,

a whisper from nowhere,

a foreign body built in,

keeping me unaware,

is independence possible,

or is my autonomy impaired,

the shredding of self is unstoppable,

obeying the demands declared.


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Everyone is Watching – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Everyone is Watching - By Charlotte Farhan

Everyone is Watching – By Charlotte Farhan

With this unseen malady,
the world is set to a different frequency,
faces move past with only apathy,
when they can’t fit you into a box,
intelligent, irrational, focused, erratic…
you seem a paradox.

Knowing people question me,
life feels scrutinised,
under the microscope,
wishing to be disguised,
not made to walk this tightrope.

Being able to be free,
not continuously analysed,
a participant, not an absentee,
hearing my voice,
without having to be patronised,
without having to prove my disabilities,
they love to give you the third degree,
have I not proved my invincibility?

We the stigmatised,
are not your problem to fix,
not here to be tamed and civilised,
neither will I be cured by your crucifix ,
“God only gives us what we can handle”
is this a joke – a chance to poke,
superstition and dogma we must dismantle,
instead with these ideas they provoke.

Everyone is watching me,
no longer left alone to recover,
my life is not something you can disagree,
they want to rip it away – uncover,
these things you can’t see,
no one would want this,
so with this plea,
stop watching me.


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This Body Survived – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

This Body Survived - By Charlotte Farhan

This Body Survived – By Charlotte Farhan

Since my first awareness of inhabiting this body,
my knowledge was somewhat confused,
feeling detached – sensations running through me,
seemingly rational when your anatomy is used,
with unwanted attention and unwanted affection,
with bruises and cuts – now an absentee,
apparently this carcass is a gift,
it feels removed – adrift,
terrified,
but this body survived.

Poetry and Art By Charlotte Farhan

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Time to Breathe – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

Time to breathe - By Charlotte Farhan

Time to breathe – By Charlotte Farhan

Time to breathe is a luxury,
many do not have the privilege,
a condition for recovery,
confused often with forgiveness.

Time ticks faster – lungs clench,
pressure mounts further inside,
enemies to avenge,
memories like cyanide.

There is no freedom from this tyranny,
like vines weaving through the undergrowth,
holding you to the earth – in captivity,
the past is like a murderer – cutthroat.

Time to breathe is not possible when dead,
life is your only time to salvage your liberty,
the story which follows is still unread,
the chance to respire remains a possibility.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) Art by Charlotte Farhan

CPTSD - By Charlotte Farhan

CPTSD – By Charlotte Farhan

This piece of art is a visual representation of what it is like to live and suffer with complex post traumatic stress disorder.

Since childhood I have been repeatedly subjected to trauma, which went on into my adolescent years and then further into my adult years. As an toddler I was sexually abused by a family member, my Father suffered from alcohol induced psychosis and begun to act threatening and was a risk to myself and my Mother.

My Mother psychologically manipulated me from then until present day – through gaslighting, with emotional and narcissistic abuse. Abandoned on numerous occasions by both parents, with my Father abandoning me completely by early puberty, and my Mother leaving me to fend for myself whist she was in hospital, at the age of 12 (with only an 18 year old lodger to look in on me, who was not well themselves).

Then at 15 I experienced a violent rape by a boy in my school, causing me to have internal surgery and being put into a psychiatric hospital, where I was sexually assaulted a further 2 times by male inpatients. Abandoned once more by my Mother – whist in hospital experiencing one of the worst ordeals of my life. After leaving hospital the abuse from my mother continued, until leaving home at 17, from 17 until 26 drugs took over my life and whether illegal or prescribed a haze of denial took hold and saw reckless or complete social isolation as the two extremes I swung between.

Then at 26, upon seeing my rapist face to face I suffered a breakdown and have not fully regained control of my life since. With chronic illnesses and disabilities setting in from 28 onward, further isolation has occurred. The emotional captivity my Mother had me in was finally broken by myself last year (2015) when she asked to “have a break” as my dependency on her for help with my illnesses was too much for her, this – coming from a woman who used me as a care giver rather than raising me as a child, (as she suffers from co-morbid bipolar and BPD).

All the while stigmatised, marginalised and disenfranchised by teachers, doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, employers and the higher education system, pushing me further down with no civil rights or options. This is how I developed C-PTSD. This is a short description – an outline of events, rather than the detail of all the encompassing experiences which led to this disorder.


Here is some information on C-PTSD:

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), also known as complex trauma, is a proposed diagnostic term for a set of symptoms resulting from prolonged stress of a social and/or interpersonal nature, especially in the context of interpersonal dependence. Subjects displaying traits associated with C-PTSD include victims of chronic maltreatment by caregivers, as well as hostages, prisoners of war, concentration camp survivors, and survivors of some religious cults.
Situations causing the kind of traumatic stress that can lead to C-PTSD-like symptoms include captivity or entrapment (a situation lacking a viable escape route for the victim), as well as psychological manipulation (gaslighting and/or false accusations), which can result in a prolonged sense of helplessness and deformation of one’s identity and sense of self. C-PTSD is distinct from, but similar to, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), somatization disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Repeated traumatization during childhood leads to symptoms that differ from those described for PTSD. Here are symptoms and behavioural characteristics in seven domains:

Attachment – “problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to other’s emotional states, and lack of empathy”
Biology – “sensory-motor developmental dysfunction, sensory-integration difficulties, somatization, and increased medical problems”
Affect or emotional regulation – “poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes”
Dissociation – “amnesia, depersonalization, discrete states of consciousness with discrete memories, affect, and functioning, and impaired memory for state-based events”
Behavioural control – “problems with impulse control, aggression, pathological self-soothing, and sleep problems”
Cognition – “difficulty regulating attention, problems with a variety of “executive functions” such as planning, judgement, initiation, use of materials, and self-monitoring, difficulty processing new information, difficulty focusing and completing tasks, poor object constancy, problems with “cause-effect” thinking, and language developmental problems such as a gap between receptive and expressive communication abilities.”
Self-concept – “fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self”.

Seeking increased attachment to people, especially to care-givers who inflict pain, confuses love and pain and increases the likelihood of a captivity like that of betrayal bonding, (similar to Stockholm syndrome) and of disempowerment and lack of control. If the situation is perceived as life-threatening then traumatic stress responses will likely arise and C-PTSD more likely diagnosed in a situation of insecure attachment than PTSD.

References

  1.  Cook, A., et. al.,(2005) Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents,Psychiatric Annals, 35:5, pp-398
  2.  Lewis Herman, Judith (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Basic Books.
  3. Cook, Alexandra; Blaustein, Margaret; Spinazzola, Joseph; et al., eds. (2003). Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents: White Paper from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Complex Trauma Task Force(PDF). National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved 2013-11-14 
  4. Cook, A.; Blaustein, M.; Spinazzola, J.; Van Der Kolk, B. (2005).“Complex trauma in children and adolescents”. Psychiatric Annals. 35 (5): 390–398. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
  5. Patrick Carnes (1997). The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. HCI. ISBN 978-1-55874-526-1. Retrieved 28 October 2012

 

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C-PTSD

woman-alone C-PTSD