This is the twelfth 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.
This is the last post in the series of 12. I feel exhausted. It has been mentally and physically draining in the telling. I am a little…hesitant about this one. I don’t like putting photos of myself out there, but honestly…It suits a purpose. It ends the story. So let’s go…When we last left her, she was ready…she wanted to be a part of that world again….so here we are.
She was real you know. I was real. We were both the same person working through our trauma. It was hard and I want that vulnerability to be what I leave this story at. Mental health struggles are so fraught with shame and blame that it becomes difficult to tell our stories. I wanted something else for people with mental health struggles. I wanted them to know that it was ok to share if they wanted to. That we could take hold of our stories and turn them into something beautiful and meaningful. I wanted them to know that we could journey through acceptance of our mental struggle mindscapes.
Remember this statistic that I wrote about way back in the beginning?
“Over two in five Australians aged 16-85 years (43.7% or 8.6 million people) had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life” (https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing/2020-21)
2 in 5. But to me, I felt like the only one. I didn’t want to be alone anymore and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to feel alone. I wondered if in the telling of my story, it would make it easier for people to in turn tell theirs. I hope it makes it easier for you if you are struggling. I hope that in the reading of this that you can see you are not the only one.
I also wanted to start conversations about mental struggle and mental health and in doing so, take some of that societal taboo away. It feels like tides are changing for mental health, people are more aware these days and there is a lot more understanding for people who get a diagnosis. However, it can also be difficult to get a diagnosis, waiting lists can be long and treatment can be expensive. Your mental health affects your physical health and my hope is that the more we talk about it, the more it will become normalised and recognised as part of a wholistic health care plan.
My story is neatly wrapped up in this series but it continues. It is a bouncing ball. Sometimes I am the She who is so small, and sometimes I am the she who is all powerful and chooses to hold on. Some days are hard and I fall and I struggle. But I do need to say this, those days are no longer months for me. The times I talk about in these stories, individually they took months to work through. Therapy took years. I still continue to see my psychologist, just not with the same frequency at the moment.
I took this photo myself with my camera in my studio one day when I was trying to work out how to use the camera for a start, but also how I could take a photo of myself that showed something…more. It was a moment of vulnerability captured amongst many moments. It was not the prettiest photo of myself but I liked that it showed that I was weary and sad and REAL. That moment of rawness, without the artistic slant….there is no makeup and no filters. You can see every pore and wrinkle. You can feel the sadness and weariness, the way the days wear on her but there is also HOPE. When you see this piece, I hope you recognise that. I hope you find a moment to reflect on this story and see it all in her face and demeanour.
I still feel the echoes of these moments that I have talked about. They have forever changed my life and the way I walk through the world. This is my story. It was years in the making and retelling. I accept it wholly and fully as a part of my journey. For better or worse, it is now out in the world. I can’t control what happens next but I can tell you this, she and I will continue to journey together and even though to you, these are just stories and She was a character used as a device to tell a story, to me…
She was real.
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/