This Blog is written with the presupposition that depressive spells, suicidal ideation and self-harming impulses are natural responses to the challenges of life. Granted there is support, nurturing, understanding and a degree of freewill, these aspects of human nature need not be feared but accepted, overcome and gently put to rest.
I’m not interested in pinpointing why they arise, nor am I convinced that diagnoses of mental illnesses adequately address them. What I am interested in, is discovering how we can live with these difficult aspects of ourselves and of humanity, by sharing ideas, perspectives and practical methods of salvaging oneself from the threats they impose.
I write from a place of learning to live with depressive spells, as well as attempting suicide and enacting self-harm. I am no stranger to my own shadow that became prominent at the age of 15, when a lack of understanding and psychiatric commanding, defined it as ill. With 28 years of unpacking, what I thought was inherent lacking, has inspired me to share certain wisdoms gained from psychological distress. This is my way of giving back to the world that has loved and witnessed me wrestle with my mind, body and spirit, by sharing that which has helped me undo patterns of thoughts and behavior, that were harmful rather than helpful to my well-being.
My writing is not an opportunity to rally against some approaches to mental health and promote others, but rather, an attempt to bring balance to a culture that is governed by medicalising moods and emotions through a psychiatric authoritarian system.
I wish for there to be no guilt or shame associated with how one finds relief from their psychological pain – taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist steadily improved my mental health at a particular time. However, it did not encourage freedom from the ‘mental illness’ plague, nor did it promote self-development and transformation. Instead, medicalising my mental health placed limitations around how I could and couldn’t live my life. It claimed that living alone, living without medication and working more than 15 hours per week were some of the ways I would always be different to my friends.
This is when The Babyfacedassassin rears her naked butt – in the face of anyone proposing that an authoritarian voice is to be relied upon to establish one’s own mental health and mental abilities!
On the 20th September 2012 – World Suicide Prevention Day – I officially launched The Babyfacedassassin to a group of talented Montsalvat painters who I modeled with for 6 weeks. It was an honour to personally thank them for their monetary contribution to The Babyfacedassassin, by introducing her as my Art for Social Change. It was important that they knew that their payment for my modelling service went directly into funding my advocacy work for improved Mental Health Care. I particularly praised the Creative Arts as a leading paradigm in Mental Health Care, to which all the painters nodded with palette and brush in hand, agreeing unanimously that the Creative Arts nourish our minds and our souls.
And they weren’t just painters – they were mothers, teachers, foreigners and elders of the community who appreciated the magic of Creative Arts practice. They animated art through their life by attending classes, renovating their living rooms into studios, attending exhibitions and some, courageously, staging exhibitions of their own. I received much more from these painters than payment for my poses; I received a kernel of wisdom from their creative hearth:
… that of all ten paintings inspired by my body, each painting captured my body from a different perspective and each painter encapsulated my body with their unique painterly language.
This reminds me of the multiple-perspectives always available to us, perspectives of and about who we are. In relation to our private psychological experiences, remaining open to the multiplicity of perspectives when understanding our psychological nature is a valuable attitude to uphold.
In the upcoming Blogs I will expand on these multiple perspectives that can help us better understand mental health, but for now, I am reminded of the great modernist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who woke up the 20th Century to this very concept, which he termed, perspectivism:
The more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing or our ‘objectivity’ be … There is only a perspective ‘seeing’, only a perspective ‘knowing’. *
May we seek to hear all voices, perspectives and all choices, that define and make us unique unto our self.
*(On the Genealogy of Morals, quoted from Hatab, J,L., Nietzsche’s Life Sentence – Coming to Terms with Eternal Recurrence, Routledge, New York, 2005, p.145)