So pre-warning, this one might get a little heavy but there’s also a lot of hope and good stuff too so I hope you’ll stick around.
A couple of months ago while idly scrolling through Facebook instead of working (we all do it!) I spotted a flyer advertising a safe space for identifying women who had suffered or were suffering with their mental health to explore art as a form of expression. I was immediately into the idea and messaged them, admitting my day job may get in the way a smidge and they welcomed me to the sessions with open arms (although I was late almost every time).
What I found there was a community of strong ladies who had been through the wringer but who were still vibrant, funny and just trying to live in a world where stigma surrounds various mental illnesses constantly. I felt at home.
I’ve been suffering with depression and anxiety since my teenage years. It was fobbed off as teenage angst over and over until I passed out at the top of a flight of stairs. The concept of me physically injuring myself was what prompted deeper investigation and eventually I was diagnosed properly. My story is not uncommon and that’s what is so painful about it.
The sessions are run by an art collective called Love Moore and they’re funded by Revoluton Arts. The idea of the sessions is not only to help us work through some demons with some other wonderful people around us but to create and art show that helped break down some of the stereo types and stigma surrounding mental health.
We explored a whole range of ideas including giving our internal voice that berates us a persona so we could mock it mercilessly, we created beautiful plates based of painful memories and broke them on film to release ourselves of that burden and we filmed a 360 degree video of all of us sharing affirmations in a coven style circle. In between all of this there was meditation, innuendo word association and so much laughing.
The show (titled Grimoire by our group) was in a local night club that a lot of us had attended over the years and for me it was a reminder of being diagnosed and the good times that were had there as well. Full circle kind of thing, ya know?
We included the 360 degree video as a VR experience where people wearing goggles and headphones could turn to see and hear us whispering our words to them. The videos of us smashing plates were played from various angles on loop throughout the night and the plates we broke were on display and ground into dust on the spot before being put into bottles as souvenirs for our visitors.
Over the course of the evening I heard some wonderful conversations about how people had never seen anything like this locally before, both in terms of the art and the discussion of mental health. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just try and talk about mental health, sometimes a visual representation can spark conversations and realizations that someone has never had before.
As someone who runs more workshops than she attends this was a special experience for me. I hope we can expand this loving family and help others, there is already talk of a group set up for identifying men as well (As suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20-49).
If there are no groups like this near you, I urge you to try and start one, even if it’s online. Having a support network of people who understand when you’re having a REALLY bad day is invaluable and I’ve made new friends I never want to lose touch with. I’m sure this won’t be the last post I write on the topic of mental health and that’s ok, because it’s never just one conversation that changes the world. But it’s a start.
Some external sources to help if you need it