This is a series of mini blogs about the wonderful things I’ve achieved and experienced. It will be added to over the course of the week.
I spent the last couple of days with my mother in her new flat, which is starting to look very cosy. Time spent with my mother now, is more precious than when I was younger, we didn’t really talk to each other much and I don’t remember a mother/ daughter relationship like I hear of from my girl friends. I talked a little more openly to my father back then.
But I wouldn’t change the relationship that we have now, I may be getting older, but I feel that we are getting closer as a result. The surprising thing that has happened is the existence of my blog.
Since volunteering with Time To Change Leeds I have been able to talk about myself and my mental health with far more ease than beforehand. For many years it felt like a weakness to be so open with people, a victim of the stigma that surrounded me and my own views on the subject. But opening up and talking has been the biggest assistance in my recovery than any drug could offer. The Living Library experience is especially rewarding, the positive reactions from complete strangers about how it has changed their opinion and maybe allowed them to open up too is a great feeling of achievement. It has also helped me to become more confident when talking to people about myself, something that I have not felt comfortable with, being my own worst enemy when it comes to positive self representation. Writing openly on my blog and sharing my story with others is also another way I can encourage my recovery, understand myself better and hope that in being so frank it helps others to not feel alone in their inner turmoil.
My mother reads my blog, because of this she now comments on what she has read in the news or seen on TV, her understanding of me and my illness has developed and making us so much closer as mother and daughter. I no longer fear talking to her, or fear that she will not believe me or understand me, this has been my biggest hurdle with accepting my illness and recovery, my family’s support. It has made a huge difference to talk with my mum, and the biggest difference is the fact that she now feels she can talk with me too about her own experience and that of my grandmother’s. I always thought empathy was a foreign word in my family, but now I understand it was just fear, but by being open myself, it has given me and my mother a second chance and I’m glad my blog has made this possible.
Back in October, last year, a seed was sown. I’d graduated from Leeds College of Art and was struggling to find work and keep my foot in the door as an artist. My boss, Hudson, had supported me during my time in higher education and wanted me to pursue a career in something I was good at, with my visual art and charitable aims, something not normally encouraged by your employer. We talked about the art on the walls in the pub, and how we should put on a show. At this point, I had an idea, similar to what the Arts and Minds Network does, to showcase local art from amateur and professional artists alike. My only theme was that it was something that the artist felt was good for their mental health. So whether that was as a therapy, enjoyment, as a conversation starter, the submission guidelines were extremely flexible.
This has been a huge learning experience for me, I’ve felt fear throughout, labelling myself a failure because I had to make alterations, panic that nobody would be interested or take me seriously. At times I felt that maybe I should give up. I’d written the submission guidelines, received positive responses from artists and received the backing from Tricia and Time To Change Leeds, I guess I was being taken seriously, this encouraged me to keep going.
The hard work was keeping the momentum going, keeping the interest alive, from October to May over 7 months. I’d planned out my schedule, what I needed to do, and kept a work plan of the project. The final weeks saw local blogs talking about the exhibition, the Yorkshire Evening Post running a piece and twitter conversations building up.
The month of May has showcased the work, and it’s been a pleasure seeing the walls adorned with such an eclectic mix of beautiful art. I have achieved, and that is something I would never have felt possible. I can do it!