Now I lay me down to sleep – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

now-i-lay-me-down-to-sleep-1

 

Now I lay me down to sleep

Art and Poetry

by Charlotte Farhan

Now I lay me down to sleep,

eyes wide open and thoughts a plenty,

to numb to even weep,

my mind full but my soul empty.

If I should die before I wake,

please know I tried with all my might,

but could not survive the heartbreak,

I have been waiting too long for daylight.


This art and poetry portrays the ordeal of intrusive thoughts which are brought on due to mental illness, specifically complex trauma, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and psychosis.

My intrusive thoughts have been dominating my life since I can remember. As young as 5 I recall laying in my bed and reasoning with myself, internally bargaining:

“If I die in my sleep, I wont know, I will just die and then it will be over”.

Scary things had always happened at night in my world, the dark couldn’t be trusted and nor could most adults.

As I got older my intrusive thoughts took on an internal shaming ritual, whereby ripping myself to shreds about how I looked, how I had acted or how no one loved me and I would be alone forever – hence why these thoughts turned suicidal. Repeating to myself again and again:

“you are fat, you are ugly”,

as if I were counting maniacal sheep – one named fat the other ugly.

Sometimes the thoughts can turn external and onto others, fearing you may hurt someone or even kill someone – not because you want to but because you fear you will lose your mind. I used to fear that one day whilst travelling to school or college that I would push someone onto the railway tracks. Visualising it was horrifying, playing it out scene for scene , watching others scream in horror and watching myself be carted away by the “men in white coats”.

With psychosis the intrusive thoughts are there but take on a hallucinogenic  dimension. In the dark seeing evil angels looming over me or small fairy like creatures guiding me to safety, another world would open up – but what if I got trapped there? What if I wanted to stay? Reflections in mirrors can cause dysmorphic appearances, my eyes would disappear into my sockets, skin looked to be hanging off my face and seeing other people as myself.

Traumatic experiences cause flash backs which take you back to your trauma and hold you there in order to relive the ordeal again and again. Or you try and recreate the trauma and imagine a new ending – all the while punishing yourself internally, blaming yourself for what has happened to you or for what others have done to you.

Medication can help but it can be so much worse if you miss a dose or have to come off your meds for whatever reason, as well as very unpleasant side effects. There are so many drugs I have tried over the years and the ones that worked best were always the ones which left me like a zombie during the day, which is fine if you wish to be a zombie and there have been times this has suited me, to barely exist. However when you want to survive and possibly even live you can’t compromise on the “being awake” part.

The important thing to remember when dealing with intrusive thoughts or if a loved one is experiencing them, is to take this seriously – it is like any other health concern, such as finding a lump or a cough that just wont go away. Intrusive thoughts are an anxiety driven issue due to:

“THE AMYGDALA CONSTANTLY SENDING US FALSE SIGNALS THAT WE ARE IN DANGER”

Fight or flight is triggered with the obsession (the intrusive thoughts) and then the compulsion (is the bargaining – the fear) and the cycle repeats like groundhog day. Many people suffer in silence with these feelings and become trapped in their own isolation created due to living this way. So if you feel this is you or someone you know – please know first and foremost:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

There is support out there for you and your loved ones.

Here are some helpful links:

Sane 

Mind 

International Helplines

END THE STIGMA!


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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