I’m excited to share with you that I have another group exhibition this week which I’m looking forward to, ‘Hope in the Present’ presented by the Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland… here’s how and why I got involved, and what it’s all about 🙂
My day job in the city allows me to visit the King George Square during my lunch breaks, and one week last year there was a big tent set up in the middle of the square, advertising an art exhibition inside. So one afternoon, I ventured down to have a squiz and discovered it was the annual Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland art exhibition. I was blown away by the range of works, different styles and skills displayed from all sorts of people, of whom had a lived experience of mental illness.
Now, this is a term that covers anything from personally suffering from mental illness, to having it in the past and recently overcoming it, a family member who suffers from it, or even caring for someone with a mental illness. Just like any illness, it’s not something one suffers alone, as it affects many people indirectly too. So when I discovered this exhibition, I was really impressed with what a great initiative it is; giving a voice to those who suffer something that is seen as taboo or unspoken about in this society, and not only that, expressing oneself through art is a great therapy too!
Mental illness awareness is something I feel strongly about, as I have been affected both indirectly and directly by mental illness. I have seen family and close friends go through it, and just a few years ago, I discovered I was suffering from anxiety and mild depression. It took a while for me to realise something was wrong, as I kept brushing it off as a bad day or a bad mood… but it got to the point where I was crying almost every day at the drop of a hat. It affected my mood, my abilitiy to think clearly, my friendships, my relationship and my physical health. Constant head aches, neck & back pains from always clenching and grinding my teeth – sometimes I even developed mouth ulcers from all the stress. The worst part was the building of pressure in my chest – like I couldn’t get enough breath. I felt like my heart and lungs were expanding against my rib cage like balloons and all I wanted was to pop them for some relief, so I could exhale and relax again. This is what led me to create my “Worriment” image below, which depicts my personal experience with anxiety.
I haven’t really shared this with many people before, and that’s due to how mental illness is perceived. Like it’s something to be avoided, or to be ashamed of because somehow it shows that you’re weak, crazy or dangerous. When I first sought professional help, I will admit I was embarrassed. I knew a lot of people viewed me as someone happy, bubbly and strong, and I felt weak asking for help with something that was going on in my mind. Now I realise that’s because of the stigma that society attaches to mental illness. Even I viewed it as something to hide, because I feared I would be treated differently – and that shouldn’t be the case. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, affecting 1 in 4 people on average. 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some stage in their life (Beyondblue.com.au).
If I were to go to the doctor for the common cold or a broken bone, it’d be considered normal, and people sympathise & wish you well. Going to the pharmacy to get vitamins to aid your physical health is ok, because you’re looking after yourself. Visiting the gym on a regular basis is normal because you’re training your body to perform at it’s best. Well so is going to a therapist, or taking medication – but it’s working on training your mind to be it’s best, and helping it to heal.
The good news is, I’m doing much better. I may not be 100%, I still have bad days where I panic or want to be left alone completely, and that’s ok, because these things take time, and I’m learning more about myself, how to handle certain situations and take better care of myself. Part of my anxiety stems from being a perfectionist, and putting pressure on myself to do well and not let other’s down. Unfortunately, life is full of up’s and down’s, but I’ve come to accept this, and appreciate when things are good. Even the simplest of things, like going for a drive into the country, walking through nature and appreciating it’s beauty.
And that brings me to the work I created for the MIFQ exhibition. I interpreted the theme ‘hope in the present’ as something positive, enjoying the now and having hope that everything will be ok. The works I created are a little bit more experimental than I usually do, in the way that they were created. I used film photographs and mixed media to depict certain landscapes that leave me feeling happy and nostalgic, focussing on small details of the scene, as a reminder to appreciate the simple things and enjoy the moment.
But I won’t give too much away, as I want to leave it a surprise for you all to come see it!
The opening night takes place 13th May in King George Square, Brisbane City, which includes a cocktail evening for $45 a ticket. You can also come during the week following the opening night for just a gold coin donation. All artwork will be for sale, with 90% of the proceeds going to the artists, and 10% going toward MIFQ, which provides services and support for those affected by mental illness, including families and carers.
I do encourage people to attend events like these, in order to bring awareness to the importance of mental health, to break the stigma of mental illness, and also to support local artists!
Thanks for reading guys,