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12 Apr 2022, by Jessica

Mental Inkness

Jessica writes about harnessing the power of creativity when faced when mental health challenges as well encouraging others to share their mental illness themed art and writing.

I draw. With urgency. People are out to get me. I pen their faces around me. Looming. Dark colours and swirly lines. Things fitting together in a monochrome M. C. Escher like world. Psychosis they call this, but I call it “the conspiracy”.

I write. With the impetus of emotional highs. Reality contains signs for me and I write about them in short chaotic bursts, explaining how they are like symbolism from English Literature analysis but alive and free in the real world. Delusions of reference they call these. But I just call them “the signs”.

When I was sectioned in a mental health unit there were activities most days including art and writing. Although my thoughts were confused, I found that I could still express myself creatively by penning a few lines of a poem or doodling a quick picture. These activities were so meaningful to me and in one of the most difficult periods of my life, they helped nurture hope and positive memories at a time when i was living a waking nightmare.

From the safety of the therapy room I conjured up poems and flash fiction. And drew squiggles of people and places I had been. I thought there was a conspiracy and that people were out to get me but these activities were so meaningful to me.

I suffer from psychosis which means I sometimes interpret reality differently and believe things which aren’t true (delusions) or experience things which aren’t real (hallucinations). For me, it’s mostly delusions which affect my perception and cause problems. From believing everyone is against me in some sort of cult to thinking that I’m on the telly, delusions can make me incredibly erratic.

From suicide attempts to shouting at strangers, my experiences of psychosis are haunting memories that make me question my sense of self. But these experiences are something which we should talk about and help others to understand.

Even though at the time I thought that the people in the therapy room were against me, once i started writing down my thoughts in an exercise book during the writing workshops i forgot all about the world around me and my thoughts felt clearer.

Although I’m no artist, I find art therapy soothing as well as writing. You don’t need to be a Van Gogh or a James Joyce to create something.  It’s hard to get the energy to face a blank page. But when I can, whether it’s bold pens or soft pastels, it feels therapeutic to get down my thoughts and have a sense of completion from creating something.

I love to see the work of others too. Art and writing about mental illness helps me better understand my own experiences and feel companionship with others who go through similar challenges.

When I returned home, for months on end I didn’t have the energy to pick up a pencil and write. But slowly as time has gone on, I’ve started to find the process of putting my thoughts out into the world comforting. To help translate these experiences which defy words and herd some syllables into place to describe them to others. To type on my laptop when i have pockets of concentration and draw in my sketchbook to calm myself.

As well as writing for charities, you can also find me on Twitter @lifeinunreality and on my blog

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