Updated: Oct 26, 2022
It is October which means Mental Health Awareness Month.
I have just returned from the Blue Fringe awards ceremony at Wentworth Falls TAFE and a few things popped up for me which I wanted to share around art and mental health.
What is Blue Fringe?
It is an art and literature exhibition run by people who really do give a shit. It isn't about the money or the exposure for them, it really is about celebrating the creativity of people with a lived experience of mental illness in the Blue Mountains.
It is an exhibition that gives opportunities to people who may not otherwise be seen or heard.
Susan Templeman - Special the Envoy for the Arts, Trish Doyle - Blue Mountains MP and Mark Greenhill Blue Mountains Mayor as well as other speakers, all spoke candidly about their experiences with mental illness either themselves or loved ones. At no stage were these people in power on their high horses. It was raw and honest and beautiful.
My experience with mental illness felt seen and heard today. It was moving but powerful hearing other people's experiences and just having the stigma lifted and it being talked about.
The exhibition was for young people too not just adults and I felt hopeful.
The artworks, written word and short films were all heartfelt. People got out of their comfort zones, put their hands up and showed us a little window into themselves.
So why did I enter?
As far back as I can remember I have suffered from anxiety. It has shown up in different ways throughout my life. My first experiences were getting myself so worked up to attend events that I couldn't stop puking and I would have dizzy spells. One parent thought I was drunk and drove me 1.5hrs home fuming. I didn't even know what was wrong with me. As soon as I got home I would be fine.
In high school it was a nervous laugh that always meant I would involuntarily cry which was so embarrassing. As an adult it would be my left eye watering which looked like I was crying which made it 1000 times worse when people would ask why I was crying. And, a myriad of other fun symptoms.
Then there is the depression. I don't remember this as a teenager. I was definitely and angry Grunger but depression has definitely reared its head as an adult, after lots of triggers. I don't know any stats but the amount of mum's I know on antidepressants is alarming. It isn't a rare thing but hardly anyone talks about it.
Then there are the panic attacks...
How does art come into it?
My experience of art making has changed after having kids. Before, making art for me was all fun and rainbows, now it is so much more.
It is my "me time".
It is my time for stillness.
It is my time to do something just for me.
It is my time to leave a legacy.
It is my time to learn on my own terms.
It is my time to be vulnerable.
It is my time to be brave.
It is my time to share my experiences.
It is my time to communicate.
It is my time to seek answers.
It is my time to listen to my inner thoughts.
It is my time to address my needs.
It is my time to make something beautiful.
It is my time to go into my comfort zone and do the same thing or stretch and do something different.
It is my time to grow as a person and as a self taught artist.
Art for me is all about nourishing my soul.
When I talk about "after having kids", I don't mean it in any way a bad thing. My hormones have changed, I got divorced, shit went down, I repartnered and had another child. Being a working mum has it's challenges and I can only speak from my own experience. Being a mum is all I wanted to be growing up. It is the most wonderfully challenging thing, but it is also triggering. I don't know if triggering is the right word...anyway... art is my thing and no one can take it away from me and it is nice to be able to share creativity with my family.
I aspire to inspire others to create!
In my recent youtube videos I talk about why I make art and why I love teaching adults and kids. Make sure you have a watch if you haven't already.
I want to promote mental wellbeing in my classes.
We are all born creative but it gets pushed aside for most of as as we get older.
For kids, offering a safe space for them to be themselves without the stress of school and to just have fun. They learn resilience through art by problem solving and being leaders.
For women I want them rediscover their creative spark in a nurturing environment even if they haven't painted since school. I want them to have their own list of "It is my time tos...C".
I have an absolute belief on all my students that they will create something person and add their own story to their art and come out feeling proud of what they have achieved.
Why am I sharing?
If you know me, you know I hate small talk. I love a good D&M. Some people might think I am oversharing. I am not sharing for sympathy or to burden people. That is not the point. Everyone has their own challenges and demons. We really have no idea what is going on for the next person. Maybe if I share, one person might not feel so alone and reach out or seek help.
I have been talking about my mental health a lot this year which has really suffered because of covid. There have been weeks where I haven't recognised myself. I want my boys to be open to having these conversations especially if one of their friends is going through something and they can support them. I also want them to understand what is going on for me and not just put it down to me being cranky or that time of the month. It is more than that.
What can you do?
I really like Way Ahead's "Tune In" messages for us all this year
Have a conversation. Listen. Speak. Show compassion. Reach out.
There are so many places to get help. Beyond Blue is a good place to start.
Let me know your thoughts.
Have you had experience with mental health issues too?
Are you interested in coming to a class?
Have you used art for mental health?
Whatever it is I'd love to hear from you. Comment below or click the link.
Don't let the stigma continue.