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Dolly Sen

As a child, Dolly Sen was an alien in Empire Strikes Back. She knew then she would never know normal life. Her journey as an artist has taken her up a tree in Regents Park, to California’s Death Row, to the Barbican, Tower Bridge and the Royal Academy, Trafalgar Square, and up a ladder to screw a lightbulb into the sky, using words, art, film and performance. She is interested in non-consensual reality, outsidership, empathy, authenticity and absurdity. She has been labeled ‘mad’ by society. Her work aims to show she makes perfect sense. Basically, reality is a cheeky bastard, and she is putting him over my lap and slapping his naughty arse.

Posts by Dolly Sen

12 Days of Xmas

The 12 Days of Christmas My Psychiatrist Prescribed For Me

I hate Christmas. I don’t want to celebrate it as a religious festival or a consumerist tryst. But I do because the people I love do enjoy it. I find it stressful, it brings back traumatic memories, and I am in a dissociative fugue for most of it. Madness is wrapped ...

Faces in the Wardrobe

I Have Faces in my Wardrobe – A Poem

I have faces in my wardrobe It’s hard to know which one to wear Some are too worn And some not worn at all Hurt has become the rags that is now my skin If they go, I will be cold and naked against it all They say if you don’t wear something For a year then ...

Screwing a light bulb into the Sky'

Oxymoronic?

This might be strange from an artist/writer who uses her medium politically a lot of the time, but I think art does not change the world. I look at my art and writing as a shield to face the world and maybe divert the thought, the action and the heart ...

Love and compassion from psychiatry

Love Notes from Psychiatry

There's something deeply wrong with psychiatry. It takes deeply hurt people and aims to numb them out of their humanity or hurt them more, by using disgusting language to make their souls feel small and their hurt feel larger, or use physical force, alienation, or indifference. Maybe I can drive home ...

Benefit Assessment Epitaph

The Script between Disabled People and Society

There is a thing going around facebook of a conversation between a woman with a vagina and the Republican Party, which inspired me to do something similar: the current script between disabled people and society. I hope people who don't understand the hell disabled people are forced into realise what ...

thinking error

Thought Not Found

What are you thinking? Are you thinking? Do you think about your thinking? How do you know you thinking about thinking correctly?  Do you know what to think about thinking? Come to think of it we don't think about thinking about thinking. Maybe it's time to truant every school of ...

the pathologised self

The Pathologised Self

Recently I was at the World Congress of Psychiatry in Berlin to talk about my involvement in a film about a psychiatrist with bipolar called 'The Wounded Healer'   I give Dr Ahmed Hankir a hard time in the film, and I gave the psychiatrists at the congress a hard time ...

photo of my creating hand

A Poem about Creativity

I am trapped in the radiance of brutal angels Lonely in the spaces between creations I make my own world as flimsy shelter Doors, walls, roofs made broken Sun, rain, breeze falls into me The universe hides in my fingertips I hold tightly on, marooned with the angels Silence dancing without me Butterflies scratching at the blackboard, Waiting for ...

To be or not to be disabled

I've taken the liberty of adapting William Shakespeare's soliloquy for Hamlet 'To Be or Not to Be' to highlight the plight of disabled people under successive Tory Governments. Willie understands tragedy very well, and that is what is happening now but will it take years before it dawns on ordinary ...

Take Responsibility for Being Tortured!

I was recently in Boston attending the World Hearing Voices Congress, thanks to a scholarship. I was there the same time as the Alt-Right rally at Boston Common. I met some cool people and laughed at the weedy Alt Right congregation vastly outnumbered by counter protesters. The fascists kept whining ...

Sarcastic Greeting Cards Are Us

  When I was in hospital for a physical health problem, my bedside cabinet was bedecked with 'get well soon' cards. However, whenever I was on a psychiatric ward, I noticed the void of cards wishing me well. Maybe people thought I was going to eat the cards. Or ...

My film ‘Dear CCTV Camera’ asks the CCTV to look at itself

A few years back, I wrote a poetry blog on DAO that asks awkward questions to a CCTV camera, that interrogates everything about the CCTV, its users, and the ideology behind it. Here it is now in film form. https://youtu.be/DvgELs9cVsA Enjoy! I promise I won't be watching you.

Dolly being Sick

Fractured Identities and art: on the couch at the SICK! Festival

Dolly Sen recently participated in Fractured Identities a SICK! Festival event in Manchester exploring identity and mental health with artist Cheryl Martin, writer Ravi Thornton, Dr. Dawn Edge and Laia Becares of the University of Manchester. Here she responds with a reflection on how fractured identity can open up possibilities... The ...

Selling You Nothing on Ebay by Dolly Sen

Selling You Nothing on Ebay

Looking for a bargain? Looking for a gift that just keeps giving? I will stop at nothing to make sure your consumerism is satisfied. If you follow my blog, you know I have previously created art that doesn't exist. Go to http://disabilityartsonline.org.uk/dolly_sen_blog?filter_by_month_added=2011-11 or to http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/dolly_sen_blog?item=1756 to see examples. I want to create an empire that does ...

DSM 69 by Dolly Sen

My Book ‘DSM 69’ – Your Support Needed.

DSM 69 is my subversive take on psychiatry through art and writing, and Eleusinian Press, a small publishing company has started a kickstarter campaign to fund a print run so my mischief and mental health activism can reach further into the world. This is what my publisher has written on ...

Delete Where Applicable by Dolly Sen

Deleted

Hurt - Deleted Dignity - Deleted Love - Deleted Tears - Deleted Humanity - Deleted Belonging - Deleted Dreams - Deleted Meaning - Deleted Loneliness - Never, ever Deleted

photo of a pill sachet

My First Animation – Meds Don’t Cure Abuse

Although I have been a filmmaker for a long time, I have never done any animation. Animation is a process that makes the illusion of either movement or change through a rapid display of sequenced images. I was back at my old uni at the weekend, where I am trying with ...

Artists, time to throw down the gauntlet

The self portrait of these times cannot be of our backs, the turning of it, the hiding of faces, the gazing of shoes. The self-portrait of our times has to be of us staring evil straight in the face and laughing, making it look small, petty and pathetic. It is ...

Badger the Help the Normals assistance dog

‘Help the Normals’ first assistance dog!

I was chuffed to see my 'Help the Normals' collecting can was the art used for the webpage profiling Shape Open's 2017 exhibition. My 'Help the Normals' art piece makes a mockery of the charity model of disability, by switching the position of the object of pity and the giver of ...

Spanking Reality’s Arse for Mental Health Resistance Network

On Friday 25th November, I will be spanking normality's arse by performing some poetry & comedy for Mental Health Resistance Network's celebration of women survivors. Mental Health Resistance Network say this about themselves: 'MHRN are Mental Health Survivors resisting Tory persecution of the sick and disabled in the interests of their super rich ...

Anti-trump, pro light poem

My poem to Trump and Leonard Cohen

You know, because I am a bi-racial, gay, disabled woman who has survived sexual assault, you might be surprised to hear, I don't like what has happened with Trump and America. In addition, I am an intelligent and compassionate human being. I also view bigots and people who don't like ...

Cast of Belarus Free Theatre's Tomorrow I Was Always a Lion.

Belarus Free Theatre: Tomorrow I was Always a Lion

Belarus Free Theatre’s Tomorrow I was Always a Lion is a stage-adaptation of Arnhild Lauveng’s memoir of the same name, which deals with her experience of psychosis. It played at the Arcola Theatre 19-29 October 2016. Review by Dolly Sen. Belarus Free Theatre has been banned by their native country on ...

normality uninstalled by Dolly Sen

Uninstalling Normality – madness and technology

Some of us who have been labeled with disabled minds find normality tedious and desperate, and our own experiences belittled and devalued. To use a technological analogy, madness is seen as malfunctioning in the programming and not an appropriate reaction to the system that it finds itself in. The divergent ...

Pro-stress colouring book

Subversive Colouring Books R Us

I am sure I am not the only one who finds de-stressing colouring books actually stressful to colour in. What I hate worse is that some mental health clinicians are telling people to do colouring books if they are feeling suicidal, or stressed about having their benefits cut, or having ...

Vouchers for Mad People

Some Vouchers for Mad People

I am putting together my mad art and words that I have created over the years for a book, to be published by Eleusinian Press. This is one of my old works, but the vouchers are still valid! I am looking forward creating my version of the DSM, or Dolly Sen's ...

We will still dance, Orlando

Dance, We Will Dance, Orlando

Orlando  The music stopped The dancing stopped The laughter stopped Too many beautiful hearts stopped Hate came Pain came Silence came We cry for our brothers & sisters We already know some of them fought to be who they were fought to love fought to hold hands without fear Hate hurts us more than you will know. It wants our love to be silent Now we ...

In a white rectangular box, are the words 'Dolly Sen's Madness' with a copyright symbol next to it.

Own your madness and trademark it while you are at it

Had a good and useful time at Bobby Baker's Artist Peer Support Day yesterday, full of 'mad' artists and cakes. I was toying with giving up being a professional artist but it has invigorated my creative vision and soothed my insecurities. It showed very helpful ways to look after yourself as ...

On a white background, is a red heart with the words 'pathologise this' in it.

So Mr Fry, where is the trigger warning for you being a twat?

So Mr Fry, I used to have respect for you. After your first BBC programme on bipolar, I noticed a sea change in that people were more open about talking about mental health. But from there things steadily deteriorated. You became a self-appointed spokesperson regarding mental health, despite not experiencing poverty, ...

An image of a large pill, with the words "Being yourself can cause side effects"

Are you mad yet?

Are you mad enough to be yourself, even if the loneliest song? Are you mad enough to dream your dreams, say your words, and do your thing? Are you mad enough to love in a world that wants your hate? Are you mad enough to shout, ‘This isn’t right’ in a world that ...

Still of artist Dolly Sen with sheep

I did it my way, despite section, injection and rejection

I don't know what to do next artistically or with regards to mental health work, so I have been reflective. Whatever I have done with my life, it hasn't been mediocre. After a few drinks, I decided to sing about it. Poor you. Here are the lyrics, if you want to go all ...

Image of a product recall poster, bordered by danger tape.

Sanity Product Recall

I insist sanity be recalled, but I am not sure where it should be returned to?          

Depressed Search Engine

Depressed Search Engine

I have already created a website experiencing psychosis http://internetbreakdown.com/  Today I decided to create a depressed search engine insisting that there isn't any point to looking for what you want. I have self-hate in my programming too, the anti-virus is not sanity, that only makes my system crash again and again. To that end, I want ...

on a red background, a black gun muzzle is spraying pills instead of bullets. At the bottom of the picture is the text: The revolution will not be medicated.

The Revolution will not be medicated

The Revolution will not be medicated No forced stillness and wiped dreams No being held down For being different No sedation for the screams We are screaming for a reason Our hurt will change the world Because the world won't change our hurt The side effect of  life Is the need for it to be ours The revolution will not ...

Guide on how to look after your bum bum - a red leaflet Surrounded by arseholes,

My ‘Mindless Guides’ leaflet on ‘How to look after your bum bum for depot’

Surrounded by arseholes, it is good to have an arse that stands out, although some will argue, that’s half the problem. But how better to show your recovery by looking after your bum.  Let it be so beautiful when they inject it, they feel shame at tarnishing such sexiness. Here are my ...

A blue leaflet with the following text: 1) Try not to be female (for BPD). 2) Do not argue your point of view with the professionals. 3) You cannot be seen to like some staff members more than others (this is SPLITTING behavior). 4) Do not under any circumstances harm yourself. (This will more than likely be seen as a) manipulative b) attention seeking c) a communication of your distress caused by your underlying PD. 5) Do not make statements, which can be interpreted as black and white thinking. For example, the nurses all hate me. Try instead to make unrealistic, robot like, rational statements such as 'Enid, Mary, Silvia, John, Mark and Boteng have all shown epic distain at my presence on the ward, but an agency nurse once smiled at me in 1992.' 6) Do not admire or pin any hope to a professional who appears to understand the social context of you distress (this is idealisation my dear). 7) Do not complain about anything. Ever. 8) Try to avoid working with professional who look a bit tired. If they eventually go off sick you will inevitably be blamed for this. (Of course because you are a difficult patient). 9) Things you can talk about: how medication is helping you, mood swings (BUT only extreme ones that last long enough to fit within a diagnosis of bipolar, that's an ok one as Stephen fry made it a bit edgy), Do talk about how much the system is helping you, be eternally grateful to every professional you meet, tip your hat slightly to the side and say the words 'thanking you kindly for your 'help sir'. 10) Things you should not talk about: Abuse - of any kind, patterns in your relationships because of this abuse, existential dilemmas, perceived flaws in the system or anything to do with individual staff members. 11) You never ever; over/under eat, drink, exercise, and are never impulsive with sex, shopping, driving and you LOVE being alone. 12) If you are from cultures seen as "traditional", never say you even think about sex unless you are in a proper family approved heterosexual marriage. 13) To avoid BPD diagnosis you must not point out that the psychiatric teams are blaming you for their own inadequacies, their 'externalised locus of control' and 'refusal to take responsibility'. 14) Do not tell the psychiatrist you think you may have PTSD. (Don't be stupid now, everyone knows only soldiers can get this, are you a soldier?). 15) They are addicted to using PRN medication to relieve their anxiety, instead of more 'adaptive' coping strategies. Only problem is, YOU have to take it. 16) Talk with enthusiasm at the idea of being abandoned. Relish the idea whether it’s real and/or imagined. 17) If you attempt suicide make sure you are successful or it will be deemed attention seeking. 18) If you do by chance happen to self harm, make sure it is a life threatening, Stephen King style canyon of a gash, anything less than this will be clinically defined as 'superficial' adding to the likely hood of the PD label being applied. 19) BPD diagnosis is a mirror to professional’s behavior, described as the personal characteristics of the service user. 20) Never phone the crisis team and say you'd like another visit (tick box dependency issues). 21) Hide any teddy bears or such like when they come round to visit (“too childish”). 22) Never refer to your psychiatrist's affection for the DSM as 'ideas of reference'... 23) When they suggest cutting back on support, appointments etc, pause and think and then say, "yes, that's good, I feel I am ready to be more independent". 24) Be attractive but not 'coquettish'. 25) Do not at any point mention that you sometimes question who you are. You should know exactly who you are, be definite, unchanging about this (only people with PD ever question their identity). 26) Do not change your hair color too frequently. This will be interpreted as evidence of the above. 27) Always repeat when questioned that your attachment with your mother & father was always loving and supportive. 28) All depression, voice hearing and suicidality is ‘pseudo’ so please ensure the death certificate is recorded as ‘pseudo death’ and according to Joel Paris MD it was a ‘career’ so make sure your CV is updated posthumously. 29) Remember that inequality does not exist; it is your perception that is flawed. 30) Never, if you can manage it, express anger to MH professionals. Even when it’s understandable, genuine and valid! 31) The appropriate response following an OD to the question 'how much did you take' is ‘clearly not enough'. This is also likely to get you sectioned. 32) Never become a 'skilled' Service User. Understanding the games that nurse’s play will only get you described as 'playing games'. 33) Your mental health team believes in its adequacy, despite all evidence. Do not do or say anything that threatens professionals' fixed delusional beliefs, they may 'decompensate', becoming either coldly punitive and violent or weirdly smiley and dissociative, forcing you to have too much 'service' and then none at all. 34) Don’t ever ask a MH prof to ‘see you all the time and kiss your cuts better’ (as stated by a PD expert). 35) Act dumb as intelligence is viewed as a facet of PD (unlike psychosis where its assumed you’re less intelligent). 36) Failure to respond to medication or recover (or the CMHT needs to reduce numbers with discharges) means reclassification to PD. Disclaimer: unfortunately our suggestions above are not fool proof and we’re not encouraging… Recovery In The Bin™

Collaborative contribution to ‘How not to receive a diagnosis of ‘personality disorder’ / 24 November 2015

Here is another guide, this time most of it not written by me, but a collaborative endeavour from Recovery in the Bin. My contribution was turning it into a leaflet, and adding the extra text and images. There isn't room to show the whole leaftlet, but here are the first ...

a red and black leaftlet with a list of don'ts, such as: 1) Do not insist your voices are minuted in meetings 2) Do not offer to turn hospital macaroni cheese into enough for the 5000 3) Do not offer discount healing to professionals 4) Do not say 'You can't section me, I can walk through walls' and then try to demonstrate it. 5) Do not say 'Of course I don't mind meds causing lactation' and then offer them a glass of milk. 6) Do not turn the Largactil shuffle into a moonwalk. 7) Do not say 'Of course, I will be compliant, mein furher' 8) Do wear clothes when you meet a professional 9) Do maintain a positive, thumbs up attitude

The first of my ‘how to’ guides in regards to mental health / 19 November 2015

I am part of a facebook forum called 'Recovery in the Bin'.  This user-led group is for MH Survivors and Supporters who are fed up with the way colonised 'recovery' is being used to discipline and control those who are trying to find a place in the world, to live ...

A red, black and white flyer advertising the penny lecture, with a image of head and lightbulb, and the address of the talk.

Creativity and Mental Liberation Manifesto / 24 October 2015

Morley College has revived their 100 year old tradition of putting on their penny lectures, where people pay a penny to listen to a talk. Bobby Baker and I talked on the theme of Creativity and Mental Liberation. I decided to present my manifesto on Creativity and Mental Liberation, which ...

It is a medication box in orange and white. The word 'Dignity' is in large letters. Underneath it says 'cannot be taken four times a day'. At the bottom of the box it says 'power for moral suspension'.

Mental Health Week’s theme is Dignity, I am still looking for it. / 2 October 2015

Next week is Mental Health Week and this year's theme is dignity. This is my take on it: Dignity cannot be taken 4 times a day Being labelled, pathologised and medicated, I cannot claim my mind for myself I cannot claim my life for myself So how can I even have dignity? Medicine does not heal But ...

It is an old style circus poster with a circus tent at the bottom, and a picture of a tiger and a clown. The headline act reads: existential circus. Below that read: enjoy the mediocre clowns of sanity and madness. You won't get your money back.

The Existential Circus / 29 September 2015

Although I am part of Mad Pride in response to the shaming by the sanatised, I do sometimes feel that madness is a terrible impersonator of the self. I think there is something to the fact that sometimes the self needs to be played badly, an existential tribute act, in ...

Some questions for my readers

Hello readers, hope you are all doing ok. Next year I am going to be moving out of London to somewhere quieter. I have decided not to work in the mental health system any more, and am toying with the idea of making my art a private pursuit rather than a ...

It is a collage. In the background is a crowd of human faces. In the forefront is a woman with a skull head giving birth to a baby. The other collaged pieces is the atomic bomb, a little girl skipping, a sheep in sunglasses and the words "adds brightness".

What Comfort Zone? / 18 September 2015

I created this collage recently in response to the idea of comfort zones. Part of mental health recovery rhetoric is being told by some psychiatric professionals we need to step out of our comfort zones. What comfort zones? Comfort zones are a middle-class idea for people who haven't been brutualised, abused, ...

On a prescription sheet is prescribed row upon row of the word 'shame', and it is prescribed to Dolly Sen

Shame on the mental health system / 15 September 2015

Human beings are such strange creatures. I think sometimes some academics and mental health professionals alienate the experience they study by labels, words and concepts, and get angry when the people they work with or study don't 'engage' or yield to their so-called expertise. I have done a couple of ...

An A4 size replica of a doctor's prescription, but instead of the words 'pharmacy stamp' there is 'karmacy stamp' and instead of items dispensed, it says dreams dispensed

what would you prescribe yourself? / 8 September 2015

I ran a creative workshop yesterday at the wonderful Dragon Cafe inspired by Prescription of Stars poem. Here is what I said to people: "Fed up with being prescribed tablets? Here is a chance, using whatever creative method you wish, to take over an A4 prescription-style template to prescribe yourself what you think ...

It is an individual pot of ice cream, with the words 'Dignitas - Ice Cream with Dignity. With our special, secret ingredient.' On the lid it says: 'Rocky Road'.

Come get your I scream / 12 August 2015

I met up with the very fabulous Liz Carr at a creative social, and I asked her how her project Assisted Suicide – the Musical was progressing. We had a little chat about the work involved for her. I, for one, can’t wait to see it. I offered to sell some unique ...

In an activity booklet there is a rectangular blank space. In it, written with coloured pencils, are the words: Pussy Rides Free. Below the text, made up of stickers, is a pussy cat in sunglasses riding a moped.

My pussy rides free / 29 June 2015

I had lunch with my partner and her daughter at Frankie and Bennys, a restaurant food chain. I spotted at the next table were some kids playing with activity booklets the restaurant provided, to keep them out of mischief while they wait for food. I have been told I need to ...

A short film about the voices I hear / 29 July 2015

I don't know if I have the mind I was born with, but I know my mind got hurt along the way. I have had psychotic experiences for over 30 years now. I am more able to function than say 20 years ago, yet the ghosts of it continue to haunt ...

It is a ladybird book cover with a middle aged woman looking shocked at her over pouring porridge pot. One the porridge pot are the words: 'Thrush Cream' emblazoned on it. The title of the book is 'The Ladybird Book of the Menopause'

Me and Comedy / 27 July 2015

I have recently given up my occupational therapy course. I wasn’t the right mind shape for the role. So I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. I asked the question to some facebook friends: what other career options I should consider? Stand-up comedian ...

Superimposed over a victorian psychiatric photo of four women in 'hysterical' poses, is my text saying: Hysteria, the girlband created by psychiatry.

Hysterical / 10 July 2015

Yesterday I attended a creative meeting looking at creating art around the theme of hysteria, and the invitees were asked to talk a few minutes about their take on hysteria. This was my talk: I look at hysteria two ways. Firstly, I see hysteria as performance, applauded by psychiatry and society. Make ...

There are three ladybird book pages. The first is a picture of a RLNI Rescue worker in his waterproofs and lifejacket. The text next to it says: One of the symptoms of the menopause is night sweats. Fred wears this sexy ensemble when he joins his wife Brenda in bed. The second picture is a highwayman robbing a man on horseback of his large package. The text with it says: Hand over your shipment of KY Jelly, ordered menopausal Maureen, the most feared bandit outside Streatham's Boots, all the while rebuking herself for riding a horse whilst having a dry pussy. The third picture is of a town crier carrying a leather bag. The text with it says: This town-crier proclaims when there is a menopausal woman on the streets. His other job is to carry a bagful of severed ballsacks to return to their rightful owners.

Ladybird Book of the Menopause Part Three / 8 July 2015

The final part of my ladybird book of the menopause series

A phone camera pic of a puddle of sunlight on a psychiatric ward corridor floor.

7/7 on a psychiatric ward / 7 July 2015

I remember 7/7 very well. I was an inpatient on a psych ward at St Thomas Hospital, and out of nowhere there were convoys of ambulances streaming in the A&E dept of the hospital. There were no more red double decker buses going over the bridge. My mum texted me that ...

Four ladybird book pages set in a square. The first one is of a mother and her two children in front of a chemist: the text reads 'There are many things you can buy from the chemist for the menopause, such as heroin, cocaine and arsenic. The second one is a picture of a group of policemen with truncheons. The text for that reads: 'Lads,' said the boss cop, 'we are going to support a tesco delivery person take back some chocolate from a menopausal woman. Your puny truncheons will do nothing.' Page number three is a picture of a boy and girl. The boy is licking a metal strip sticking out of a lemon, and the girl is peeling a battery. The text says: Mum cooks us weird shit, now she is menopausal. Page four is a very large man standing a weighing machine. The text says: HRT can cause fluid retention, breast swelling and fluid retention. It can sometimes make you look like a man.

Ladybird Book of the Menopause part two / 19 June 2015

Bedtime reading for the cynical and underslept.

There are two ladybook pages. The first is a woman blowing on a bottle to make a sound. The caption reads: Since her menopause, mum likes to play 'I will survive' on bottles of vodka. The second page is a mum reading to her two children. That caption reads: Being menopausal gives you lots of practice writing death threats and ransom notes. You can read some to your children for a laugh.

Ladybird Book of the Menopause / 14 June 2015

Being menopausal is not a disability, except for the person who crosses a menopausal woman. When I was told I was heading for it, it was a surprise as I thought I had balls, until someone pointed out it was my saggy boobies slapping my thighs. Some women who reach this ...