Art is the lens through which I interact with the world. I’m a Sydney-based multimedia artist and activist, with Aboriginal (Dharug), Lebanese, Chinese and Irish convict ancestry. I’m disabled, unemployed, a woman of size, and from diverse cultural origins. Last year, I participated in a disability-led exhibition at Barangaroo, and was part of the International Day of People with a Disability celebrations at the Art Gallery of NSW. Much of my art refers to marginalisation, disability and coping mechanisms. Through my creative work I seek to give hope, inspiration and relief to people who are fighting the same battles.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Anxiety have challenging symptoms that I use a range of recovery practice tools to deal with. ‘Recovery’ is an in-depth concept – a journey to venture into. It’s about building resilience. Acknowledging the pain, treating the symptoms, practicing self care, and recognising your progression. When you stumble in your progress, even if it takes a long time to regain your footing, you’re still far along the path – you’ll rise again.
Depression and Anxiety create negative internal monologues about yourself, which are exacerbated by a marginalised status – bombarded with messages of hate, messages that I should not exist, and that I am what is wrong with the world and its taxes. Before you know your diagnosis, these false messages are absorbed and become your belief system. They cost us our lives. Self-portraiture can be both a reality check and a mind expanding experience, helping you see yourself in a more loving way. My belated diagnosis has freed me from that internalised stigma, as I now realise that my adversities are not due to my ‘personality’ but are physical symptoms of my illness. The word ‘disabled’ liberated me, though I am keenly aware that is not the prevailing experience. Education and visibility are needed to erase the stigma and free us all.
The debilitating fatigue of Depression can be countered by early and proper diagnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy, medication, meditation, positive affirmations, and art. With treatment and the relief art provides, my symptoms recede for a time. There is no ‘cure’ but many symptoms ebb and flow in phases. Positive affirmations have enormously helped me retrain new, positive neural pathways, and art helps me push past Anxiety and explore through creativity, bringing a sense of accomplishment and self worth. It brings me joy and that much needed serotonin that allows me to experience the ‘now’.
Art is like a mindfulness technique. It puts me in a meditative state as I am absorbed into the creativity and colours, and the act of doing. It transforms the pain into positive achievement and frees me to visualise far reaching concepts, goals, and even potential career pathways. Through art I have people to reach and a whole world to change for the better.
Put your money where our minds are. Stigma is the problem. Education is the solution. Fund art programs for mental health. Help us Recover In Art.
Story told to Loretta Picone.