This is the second artwork in my SHE Exhibition Series, which is an exhibition based around mental health themes. As a narrative series of works, each piece tells a part of a whole story.
This second piece is an older piece that I have been looking at for quite some time. I originally did it for another exhibition raising funds for domestic violence survivors and she has stuck with me because I often look at her and think about how hard it is to raise my voice to say the things I really want to say a lot of the time.
There are a lot of people who have said to me, “But you are so outgoing and you don’t seem to have trouble saying what is on your mind!” And that is true, to a degree. As I explained in the last post, a lot of that is masking. Some of it is my learned response to anxiety and stress or to situations I find confronting. For instance, I often overshare in order to cover up how I am feeling. It’s like a magic trick or sleight of hand. Look over here! Forget what is happening in my other hand…just look over here!
It’s a distraction from saying the things I NEED to say. An interesting thing about the mental struggle mindscape is that, for me, it is a trap that is perfectly designed to keep me locked inside and not saying a word. The conversation kind of goes like this,
“I need help.”
“Don’t say a word. No-one will believe you. You are being dramatic. They are going to think you are doing this for attention. What a failure you are. Everyone else manages to get on with their lives without all this nonsense. If you tell anyone, they are going to look at you like you are defective. What a poor example of a human being you are. Just work harder. You are going to bring shame on your whole family…again. If you say something, other people will blame themselves and then you have put the burden on them. That’s so selfish. You’re so selfish. If you don’t say anything, we can pretend all this isn’t happening and it will pass and then we can get back to being normal like everyone else.”
“But…I’m not normal…something is wrong…”
And so, when I see her listening to this conversation, I always see her alone and frightened, holding her finger up to her lips as if she is reminding me that we must not say a word, that we need to keep quiet about our mental struggles lest we bring shame upon the people around us with our defects. She is silent and locked in such a dark space that has no beginning or end. There is just her and the void and you know…
She won’t say a word…right?
Please do know that if you need help, crisis support is available
24 hours, 7 days
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
or check out some of these links…
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
And this is also a really good article by Australia Counselling outlining different mental health resources in Australia and what they do https://www.australiacounselling.com.au/top-mental-health-organisations/