Mental illness and the shattering of all certainties…

When I was attending START in Manchester (an arts and mental health project) back in 2009-2011, I remember my ceramics tutor pointing out -in one of my reviews- that I needed a lot of guidance to complete exercises and also I had difficulty with grey areas where things were not clear cut…at the time that made me think that before my mental health crisis, all my job as a researcher was about was operating in those grey areas and trying to interpret and understand things that are not necessarily black and white…so my tutor’s comment made me kind of think of how I had probably lost that flexibility and confidence through mental illness…I thought that as a social scientist, that’s what you have learned to do…to operate in the grey areas and kind of resist the positivist model of science, of looking at the world… but perhaps having a mental health difficulty… that’s what it does to you, you need to operate within specific categories and you can’t, you don’t have the confidence to be more flexible…

Dealing with uncertainty and unanswerable questions all the time is a very difficult position to maintain…I think that the mental health difficulty kind of shatters all your certainties resulting in a state of what could be perceived as ‘biographical uncertainty’, especially through sectioning, basically being in hospital like being in a prison, that’s how I experienced it anyway…and a lot of things that you used to take for granted, cannot be taken for granted…so there’s a lot of uncertainty around illness anyway… and in my case, the mental health stuff was compounded by problems with my Crohn’s disease so it was a period of extreme uncertainty… so perhaps I needed to operate within those more kind of specific categories and had problems with the grey areas…now I’m checking myself… thinking ‘How am I doing in this area’? And I think I’m more able to experiment with the art that I’m creating, which goes hand in hand with being better, feeling better…in art there is a lot of personal interpretation and I suppose perhaps what my ceramics tutor meant was that whenever there were grey areas,  instead of taking initiative and being creative, I was needing a lot more guidance coming from her, instead of taking a risk and doing my own thing…I suppose I have now managed to regain that capacity to negotiate uncertainty…

Drawing, ‘In My Shoes’, START in Manchester, 2010

 

  • reply suelemasurier ,

    I was wondering whether needing help when using a new skill is a sign of anything wrong at all! Who decides when needing guidance is a problem? If you were comfortable with needing guidance then my assumption would be that as you gained confidence so you would find your own voice coming out within your ceramics work. Suex

    • reply Dina ,

      Hi, Sue
      thank you for your thoughts
      I think it was my acute anxiety at the time and the inability to deal with anything complex or deal with new tasks that was ‘problematic’…not the fact that I needed guidance/help with a new skill…
      Regards
      Dina

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