Content warning: Abuse, domestic violence
Art and writing have not only saved my life, but the lives of what I believe to be hundreds of others too. When things get overwhelming and you can’t express how much you’re struggling, writing them down or expressing them artistically can be a huge relief. I’ve always been artistic from a young age; it was my escape from an unstable childhood. As I went through school, my teachers would encourage my skills instead of downplay them. I wasn’t that academic, so all my time and effort went into what I loved to do. I left school with no qualifications apart from what I achieved in Art and Design, because at fifteen, I had a severe head injury from a motorbike accident. I was left with brain damage to the left side of my brain. Before the accident, I was a grade A student set to do very well in life. After the accident, I couldn’t even read or write. The only thing I could do was draw. At first it was just lines and scribbles, but as I recovered against all the odds, I began to draw more complex shapes and designs. Art has helped me through the hardest times of my life, and it still continues to do so.
At eighteen, I left my childhood home and moved to the Midlands to begin a new life with a man I had fallen in love with. I didn’t know it then, but he wasn’t the man he had portrayed himself to be. I spent four years in an extremely dangerous and domestically violent relationship. I was not only beaten and repeatedly hospitalised, but I had every aspect of my life controlled. However, he wasn’t always evil. In fact, for the first few months, he was kind, caring and treated me like a princess. But it was just an act he put on to lure me in. I’d been targeted and groomed by a predatory older man. He spent three years convincing me he could have given me a better life, and I believed him. As a damaged teenager, I was easily influenced and over the four horrendous years, he molded me into the terrified, compliant person he wanted me to be. I had no say or control over my own life whatsoever and how I wanted to live it. He told me when to eat and sleep, and I wasn’t allowed to socialize and make friends or even work colleagues. He’d check my phone and social media on a daily basis and at first, I questioned it. But it didn’t take me long to learn that I had no place in questioning his authority. What started as cuts, scrapes and bruises quickly escalated into black eyes, broken ribs and a miscarriage. During the relationship, I wasn’t an artist by trade, but I still carried on creating artwork and other pieces. At times, it was the only escape from my horrendous reality. These weren’t pieces of art you could proudly hang on your living room wall, but they were an expression of my inner turmoil. They showed the true emotions I had felt instead of the false happiness I was granted and forced to portray to others. I still have all these pieces of art, and they’re some of my favourites. I look back on them now as a way I overcame hardships and reflect on how these mere drawings saved my life. You can see the pain in them, the despair and the suffering. Rather than keeping my emotions locked away, I expressed them on paper, with colours and lines. It was my therapy. I discovered if I didn’t release the mental pain that I’d locked away, it would multiply and evolve, eventually getting to a point where it would be unmanageable. Simple scribbles and smudges helped me release the emotions that were trapped inside. They needed somewhere to go, and paper was that safe place. It wasn’t much, but it got me through.
You don’t have to be an artist to create art, just like you don’t have to be a writer to write. Writing and art are both subjective, and that's the simple beauty of it. People interpret it depending on their own lives and what they’ve experienced. So whenever someone says to me “oh I can’t draw,” or “I’m not a professional writer,” I always encourage them to do it regardless. It doesn’t have to be for anyone else to see. It can just be there to benefit their own lives and to help with their recovery.
I’m now a Freelance Artist and I love my work. I intertwine my mental health and recovery with my imaginative flare to create artwork full of emotion. Without knowing me, you can see from my portfolio when I’ve been unwell and how I’ve overcome each little hurdle that fighting a mental illness brings. Each piece of artwork tells a story, and it changes from day to day. I find when my mental health is good my designs are a lot brighter, and they’re much more vibrant and colourful. When I’m struggling with my mental health, my creations usually become a lot darker with more depth. I love each piece equally. It shows the reality of mental health as it isn’t just a straightforward path of recovery. You have good days and bad days. Sometimes you’ll make a lot of progress, other days you’ll barely move an inch, but that’s okay. As well as selling prints of my artwork, I create commissioned artwork, logos, business branding and tattoos. I recently began writing too, and again this was something that started out as a way for me to cope with my past traumas, but very quickly turned into a source of help for others too. I started writing a blog, and it wasn’t something I expected anyone to read but rather, it was a place for me to tell my story. Rather than it being locked in my head and making my mental health deteriorate by the day, I shared my blog through my social media accounts, in the hope that someone may read it and be inspired by my story and what I’ve had to overcome. I wasn’t expecting it to impact people like it did. Hundreds of people have read my blogs so far and have been inspired and moved by my story. I’ve helped people understand how mental health conditions affect people and how the stigma stops others reaching out. I’ve had men and women who have been, or are currently, in a domestically violent relationship be inspired to speak out about their own experiences and get to a place of safety. My story about the trauma I’ve faced and overcome is now being used to train police officers in domestic violence and associated mental health matters. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined positively impacting and helping so many people by simply telling my story. I have subscribers to my blog who message on a regular basis eagerly awaiting my next post. People appreciate how honest I am about my mental health and my path of recovery. I don’t pretend to be okay all the time; I’m honest about the times I struggle. It shows I’m human and that mental health recovery isn’t a straightforward path. It’s easy to hide the negative side of our lives on social media because we only show people what we want them to see. I like to show everything, the reality of my recovery and many others like me. I’m always open to any questions people have about my past and present. I think to help others, you must be brutally honest with not just them, but yourself.
I’ve discovered over the past few months, helping others also helps me. It encourages me to keep fighting and pushing forward. It gives me a sense of purpose and meaning which I think we are all looking for. Even when I’m helping others, I’m still open about when I’m struggling. Not only to show complete honesty but to let them know that they shouldn’t be put off if they have bad days or even bad weeks. It’s so important to never compare your recovery with anyone else’s. We are all at different stages, we started at different times and we all cope in different ways. Focus on your own mental health and recovery and you’ll inspire others to do the same. It’s a path anyone can follow in their own unique way. You don’t need to have struggled with your own mental health to be able to help others with theirs. And to help, you don’t need to be a trained psychiatrist. Simply being there and listening to someone can make such a big difference to their day. Making sure not to be judgemental and to encourage them to speak as openly and honestly as they’re comfortable with is a huge start and sign of understanding. These acts don’t require qualifications or certificates, just humanity and compassion.
Because of what I went through I’m stronger, braver and more resilient. I understand my worth and value myself enough to know that I deserve good things in life. I’ve experienced so much suffering that I know I can handle any future problems I may face. I’ve survived a lot worse. It took a long time for me to realise this, it wasn’t something that happened over night. It’s also something I can forget from time to time so I make a point of reminding myself, more so on the difficult days.
By experiencing what I have it inspires me to create pieces of art like the one below. Art that people can reflect on and relate to regarding their own personal struggles. Although I still use art as an outlet for my mental health like I did before, these pieces can be proudly displayed. I have so much pride in all the artwork I create, it’s a reminder of the progress I’ve made over the years.
This piece is called ‘Head in The Clouds’ and is probably one of my favourites. It has so much depth and meaning within each element. This was created a few weeks ago after recovering from a rough patch in my mental health. It represents the inner storms we all face, the ones in our head that nobody can see. I’ll leave it to you to decide what each element represents as that’s the beauty of art. It’s completely subjective. It evokes something different in each of us, even through difficulty.
When expressing yourself through words or art, what you create doesn’t have to fit a certain mold. The point is to make yourself feel better. So if writing poetry helps, don’t worry about the words rhyming. If you’re putting pencil to paper to try and portray your emotions through art, don’t feel that every line must be perfect or aesthetically pleasing. I love what I create because it doesn’t fit the mold. It’s raw, unedited and shows my mental health for what it really is: a struggle.
By doing this and sharing it with so many people I want to reiterate the message that ‘It’s okay not to be okay.’ Don’t feel pressured to be making more progress than you are and certainly don’t feel any guilt about being unwell.
What I hope for in the future is to encourage and inspire even more people to be open about their mental health and to end the stigma associated with it. To continue telling my story and ensure domestic abuse victims feel they have a positive role model and a platform to tell their story. Nobody should be silenced.
My blog is thefightofyourlife.online. It’s updated every few weeks with new topics regarding mental health, my past struggles and how I’m overcoming them. It also features a comment section where subscribers can leave comments or feedback, ask questions or share their story. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, I post daily about my life as well as sharing my work with the world. My handle is @NoisyGlamour. If you’d like to know more about my life and what I do please get in touch with me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m available for anyone who needs support or someone to listen to them. You can also email me regarding business enquiries or to buy artwork or commissions.
This is my latest creation called ‘Iridescence’. A beautiful representation of optimism, as Hummingbirds symbolise.