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Blog - Michelle Baharier

Arts Health and well-being and the professionals


Eve to Adam

It’s probably about time I started writing about all the things I’ve done because it seems that everyone else is #Arts #Health and #Wellbeing.

As I am a dyslexic I’ve written this on a speech to text attachment but also due to my dyslexia I am speaking this and it is written in a spoken notation, so please read it with that in mind. There may be some mistakes in this text.

I am a someone who has experienced clinical depression since the age of 14. It has meant I’ve also had to go out of my way to work out coping mechanisms. If i had not I would be dead, but things happen throughout life and bring up all the complexities of the depression which often the result of post traumatic stress disorder – a reaction to difficult life situations, self loathing and self-harm.

When I was younger, I learnt many things from my mother. It included being creative in everything you do, making things, that could be pictures, drawings, clothes, food – but basically how to create, how to have fun, and play like you are still the child you always were.

So from a really early age I knew when the cape of depression swept over me the only way out was through creativity. By that I mean I would simply repair torn jackets and/ or shirts. This type of repair needs no concentration; it just needs repetition. I would hand sew too, as this meant I had to be in the hear and now. When I was thinking about sewing all my bad thoughts would have to go away or I’d cut my self. Of course it was not that simple. It took time and it was small amounts of time that got longer and longer…

I, like many people with #Mentalhealth issues just got on with it. That could mean making artwork, making clothes, writing poems, plays, dressing up, listening to music, dancing, thrashing around to hardcore punk rock, dancing the night away to Talking Heads or whoever else was playing for free or for a small ticket price.

Depression is no joke. Depression eats you up like no other. I prefer the word #melancholy rather then depression, because melancholia puts into perspective the silence that surrounds depression for me.

It’s like a weird space that you’re in where you’re neither there or not there your body’s there but somehow your floating around in the sky looking down your body and you’re not inside it. Psychiatrists call it ‘disassociation’ – that’s what they label me with; just one of my labels.

I have a list of conditions and another word for me to express depression is to talk about being on a suspended railway track waiting on the platform for the train. But there is no train! This is the platform where the train never arrives and you never embark. The journey neither sates nor ends as only limbo are present in the everyday and only you are held in the stillness where noise is obscured.

Of course this is what life being suspended feels like – as in the place described in the Talking Heads song Heaven: “heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.”

There are many blogs written by people with #depression. All of our experiences are valid and all of our experiences are different. Some of us experience depression from a later age and others like me from adolescence ….. nonetheless how we experience life will also probably affect how we experience #depression will my #working #class immigrant status effect my experience of depression will it change how I am viewed by others?

#depression made me not want to get out of bed. It may mean I do not wash or clean my teeth. I do not wash my hair. I do not change my clothes and I certainly do not wash them.

I have enough data, emotional and otherwise to write a book, but it is not as easy as that, when my brain will not work… As the founder of CoolTan Arts and after winning 27 awards, I learnt that what works for me is to helps others… I wanted to talk about why I founded an arts and mental health charity. It was built on my own experience of how I have learnt to cope with mental distress, depression, CPTSD and other labels.

But now arts and the creative world are merging, the thing that’s missing so often – the point of it all is about engagement and play; the fact that you are engaging in a process that enables your mind to play and that there is no such thing as failing.

I think the most important element of creativity is the fact that you play and have fun and by doing so unwind our brain that has become trapped in a negative place and a negative space. People who used CoolTan often described it as having time off from being mentally stressed. It was a 2 hour break, painting a pretty picture……….. and they found it a special space they could use to do that and I’m very proud of what we achieved. We used every creative medium to produce arts work which suited the needs of a wide and varied group of people. I include cooking and creativity, film-making, video, drawing, painting, singing, music, dance, walking, history. tai-chi and more because it’s about playing with what excites and helps the person…. what one person can participate in does not work for another,

Also momentum is of huge importance – anything that you can do; anything that enables creative and fun spaces to be available and therefore enabling people to come together; a creative space in a neutral place without oppression.

Participants would tell me that they were having time off from being unwell by coming to the class to create a different and new reality. Many people may find it is a kind a meditation, better than mindfulness, which for many does nothing – as the mind races on the bad and negative, yet the creative effects give people time off. Why can’t both meditation and creative arts be seen as one, rather than placed one above the other?

It’s important to recognise that two different people may need two different support systems. We have an odd society where we think one-size-fits-all and we do not seem to understand that you cannot just have one thing.

Just like love. We need a range of different people to love, so let’s say for example you may love your parents or your grandparents, however that’s completely different to loving a lover or loving your cat or loving your child. We do not hesitate to think in those situations that there is only one Kind of Love, so why do that when we not think about support in different ways, too.

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