She Exhibition Piece 7 – She Floated

Alison James. 2022. She Floated. Ink. 985mm x 685mm.

This is the seventh artwork in my SHE Exhibition Series, which is based around mental health themes. As a narrative series of works, each piece tells a part of a whole story.

If you recall in the last post, She was consumed with worry and anxiety. It was a battle that was exhausting and most of all, overwhelming. Under normal circumstances, mild levels of worry and anxiety are easily dealt with. You can work out what is bothering you. You have a clear path to fix it, or it just doesn’t last that long. What makes this level of worry and anxiety disordered is the way it permeated everything and made my life unbearable. I was paralysed with it. My thoughts were consumed by it. Every day was a trial to do the simplest things in order to move through my life.

As a result of reaching that level for what was way too long, and when I look back, I realise it was months of constant battling and fatigue, I did what I thought was the only way. I decided the best way to cope, was simply to avoid coping altogether and dissociate from it all. Now…I really don’t recommend it as a strategy, but at the time, it felt like…relief.

I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb. I was able to move through life like I was floating through it. I could move on automatic pilot. Look after people. Say the right things. Do tasks that I knew needed doing. But I was strangely separate from it all. I was in a bubble and untouchable.

When I see this drawing of that time I remember that feeling. She is floating through the void, in her own bubble, surrounded by her cocoon of thoughts that were each encapsulated in their own bubbles as shown by the many tiny circles of colour. She is an abstract thing.

Believe it or not, this was the original sketch I did for this piece.

Alison James. 2021. She Floated – Sketch 1

She is much less abstract in that one. I like them both in different ways but I felt like the abstraction was much more relational in terms of how I felt. The finished piece is quite large which becomes important in terms of how it all felt at the time. It allows you to see the detail that can’t be captured in a photo very well. Like how tiny the little thought bubbles were and the shimmer of the inks I chose to use.

The background glows with a golden hue and dotted throughout the circles are also glittery colours. I used shimmer inks to produce this effect. They shimmered because I knew they were there and I knew they were important but they were also so tiny because to me, they seemed so very far away. The shimmer effect also lends a kind of unreal quality to the piece.

It would take me a few sessions of therapy in order to come out of that bubble. It felt safe but at the same time, it was also a frightening feeling. I wondered often if this was just how I was now. I didn’t trust myself to feel the things and not be overwhelmed with the stress and pain and anxiety of it all. There would come a day when I did. One thing my psychologist told me that seems so simple was, “It’s ok. You CAN cope with your own feelings.” It seems like nothing but it was just so powerful because of the WAY she said it and the trust she put in me. I felt like, if this person who I trust believes this thing of me, then I can.

Like Descartes suggests, (and please excuse the gross generalisation and reductionism here) when all is in doubt, sometimes we need to hold onto one essential truth and build the rest of reality into existence around that truth. And slowly, I learned to rebuild my reality back into existence around that one essential truth…that I COULD.

But here in this piece, when all the world was pain and doubt and fear, she did the only thing she could to hold it all at bay…

She Floated.

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

Black Dog Institute


And this is also a really good article by Australia Counselling outlining different mental health resources in Australia and what they do

2 Comments on “She Exhibition Piece 7 – She Floated

  1. Pingback: She Exhibition Piece 8 – She Held On – AlisonJamesArt

  2. Pingback: SHE – a narrative journey though acceptance of the mental struggle mindscape. – AlisonJamesArt

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