She Exhibition Piece 8 – She Held On

Alison James. 2022. She Held On. (Diptych) Mixed Media. 1265mm x 1165mm.

This is the eighth 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.

We last left her floating in her own world of dissociation. It was a weird sensation of disconnection and of being separate from everyone and everything. To make a leap from there took time. There was a lot of cognitive behavioural therapy and a lot of schema therapy and apparently, for me, also a lot of looking up definitions of simple words like, for instance, do you know the difference between jealousy and envy? Jealousy is a fear that someone will take something that you already have and Envy is wanting what someone else has. It seems like such an easy thing to understand, but turns out I did not until I was made to look them up for homework.

There were a lot of other words that came up along the way. I remember that one of the words I used to constantly abuse myself with was, “Narcissist”. And I think part of the reason I would do that was because I did not really understand what it meant, I only understood it on a very surface level. Until I had to look it up and try to argue out loud that it applied to me. Then I realised how self abusive and wrong that actually was.

A lot of this picking of words came from negative thought journals I had to write. These journals are kind of a tool that are used where I was asked to write every negative thought that came into my head when I thought it and by doing so, we could start to see the patterns of thoughts that emerged and I guess also, the volume of them. Some days there were literal pages of my thoughts. I hated those journals. Everytime I looked at them I felt…awful. They dragged at me with their viciousness and aggressive hatred.

I think another thing those negative thought journals did for me was that it made me recognise when I was having a negative thought. I would have to stop, recognise that the thought was negative, write it down and consider it. That process made it easier later to argue against these thoughts when they happened because I had practiced recognising them and considering them.

Those thoughts haunted me. Even when I had learned to argue against them and they had lost a lot of their power because I had learned to not accept them as truth. So one day, I started stringing them onto strings using beads.

It turned these thoughts into something…else. They transformed somehow from being these ugly, heavy things to being somehow, beautiful and light. I could hold them in my hand and see them for the liars they were and that felt powerful.

This piece, “She Held On”, is about that feeling. Its about taking that ugliness and that heaviness and being strong enough to lift them up and show them to the world and in doing so, taking their power away from them. This piece is a diptych, so it is two paintings that work together to form one piece. It is meant to look like two cells of a comic book. She is standing in a classic hero’s pose with a giant KAPOW hand. She is powerful and holds the strings of thoughts like lightening bolts in her hands.

Her hand leaps out of the canvas at you, forcing you to stare at that which she holds with such force and strength. Those thoughts are heavy, but there is beauty in the showing of them, and for all that they had such weight…

She Held On.

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

P.S. In case you were curious what each of the thought strings said, here are the pages of the notebook in which I wrote them. Some of them are confronting, some are triggering…so please be aware of that before you read through them.


3 Comments on “She Exhibition Piece 8 – She Held On

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

  2. Pingback: She Exhibition Piece 9 -She Reached – AlisonJamesArt

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