Does my Mental Illness define who I am?
This is something I’ve never truly spoke about in public before – ever – but, perhaps the new blogger in me is saying this is right.
Along with it being World Suicide Prevention Day, I’d be wrong not to go ahead with this.
I’m Eleanor Catalina and I have Mental Illnesses.
But why? Why have I never spoke of this ‘out-loud’ before? – because I’m ashamed. Ashamed of myself for being this way, not being able to control what goes on in my own mind.
I’m angry by what I’ve put my family through over the years.
I’m frightened…terrified, of what has gone before and what is yet to come.
Very few people know the true me.
When writing blog posts, uploading photos to Facebook, sharing my days out, promoting my current Miniature projects… it’s all wonderful, but, I occasionally look back and even feel ashamed of all this. It comes across as false – don’t get me wrong, it is all genuine events, trips, updates and such – I mean, I’m not the person I feel I portray at times.
So here we go…
Since I was about 14, I’ve had Anorexia Nervosa, coupled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and Self-Harm. Over the years it has got more challenging, with it getting progressively worse at an alarming speed at the beginning of this year.
Long story short – this resulted in it being incredibly touch and go whether I would finish my Final Major Project! – as I was hours away from being sectioned.
When I posted my finished model, I just wrote…I can’t believe it! 😀
but, if anyone really knew the determination…the amount of tears, that went into completing this, you’d agree a 😀 Emoji might be a little understated.
Following its submission, a few weeks later, on June 11th, I received my results – A First Class Honours.
Posting EVERYWHERE of my absolutely delight – which truly was as genuine as it comes 🙂 – the very next day was the worst day of my life.
After such a high, such an achievement…the first time in years that I’ve actually felt amazing and proud of myself… everything changed – The very next day, I was taken from my home, in an ambulance…
Regardless of my clear mental capacity, they deemed me not capable of thinking and making decisions…I’d been sectioned under the mental health act.
I woke up like it was any other day, but, by 1pm on Tuesday 12th June, my world had turned up-side down – I was trapped at Osbourne Ward.
The whole way through, I fought and fought, with my incredible Mum by my side every second she could be with me. My goodness, whilst her, I would have broken completely.
Going to Chantry House (our local mental health team) to get support, feels like the biggest mistake I’ve made. From day one, they took one look at my weight and immediately started discussing inpatient.
Nothing was tried – therapy and such – as I was pigeon-hold! It was deemed I was incapable of partaking and it having any effect, simply due to my BMI!
YET, under the service guidelines, inpatient is the LAST RESORT.
And all this – because the facilities that are available on the Isle of Wight for mental health (especially adult Anorexia) are non-existent! Sectioning me was a means to an end, of getting me treatment. My care co-ordinate (at the time) said so in as many words, along with… it is ‘her job on the line’!
It was the longest 13 days I have ever experienced, not knowing what was happening and if I was being transferred to a unit in Lancashire, or even Glasgow! (the former being a lingering threat whilst completing my Final Major Project!) and worst of all, not knowing if they were going to allow me to attend my Graduation.
I’m really not going to go into too much more detail about the whole series of events that followed right now, as it truly was the most distressing time of my life – but, the team at Chantry House have since admitted there were wrong decisions made the whole way through.
Information wasn’t gathered correctly (such as guessing my height, resulting in my BMI being much less that it actually was), as well as a complete lack of support and professional help.
I have now been asked to work with them again under a different team completely, with some members of staff having now ‘left the service for another role’…as a result?!
The system is immensely flawed!
I truly am the first to admit I don’t wish to read about the in’s and out’s of people’s lives on Facebook, or any social media – I mean, come on! 🙂 – so, that’s why I didn’t mention anything as it was essentially irrelevant to the finishing of my model…me finishing my 3 year course…me achieving a First…
But, all this truly got me thinking.
Is it really irrelevant?
I’d of thought we are all familiar with the great artist of the past, such as Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh – who famously cut off his left ear!
Following many studies over the years, findings show that “creative people really are more vulnerable to mental illness”
Researching further into this myself, reaffirmed my own thinking that – if I wasn’t the way I am, could I be creative?
The things I have achieved over my life so far – establishing myself as a Miniaturist, writing for magazines, Graduating with a First from University – may have come as a result of the struggle, distress and upset that my family and myself have gone through for over 10 years.
If this is the case, would I change myself, and loose my creativity?
Since being discharged on June 20th, things did seem a lot better – I was coping more than I had done in many months, enjoying daily life and smiling much more too!
I even WENT TO GRADUATION!!
Whilst it was incredibly weird, having only been discharge from my 13 days
of horror, I’ve not felt so normal for a very long time!
After everything, I felt like I deserved to be there.
I even wore a dress (once in a blue moon) and for the first time, I felt a tiny bit beautiful.
But, regrettably, things have started to decline again.
So, this truly is such a difficult one. What would you do?
An extract I found recently truly hit home for me:
“With the tortured artist identity, they may believe their creativity is a form of therapy, to create a fantastical kind of world to the real one we live in.
For some people, their mental health problem can become weaved in as part of their identity. If they come up against the prospect of getting better, they may start to wonder who they are without their problems.
They might think, “Who am I when the pain is gone?”
Munch, for instance, wrote in his diary: “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”
A creative’s desire to be profound and influential in their field might outweigh any desire
to get help, ultimately leading them down a road where their mental health
But if that therapy starts to not work anymore, what happens then? Is that why Virginia Woolf swam into the middle of a river and drowned herself?”
Whilst I don’t regret my degree for one second (despite the immense struggles) as I’ve learnt such a huge amount – new materials, processes, tools…the list is endless – after 3 years, I love how I’ve essentially came full circle back to where I started…Miniatures!
Although I went to explore the world of model-making further (as well as gain some independence) it was clearly confirmed that Miniatures truly is where my heart lies…well, 3 years isn’t THAT long to decide something! Right?! 🙂
What is brilliant too – so much of what I’ve gained can be easily applied to my Miniature work and it’s really enjoyable figuring out how to miniaturize things!
I frequently believe my work (Miniature and not) is not good enough. I don’t see what others appear to. I question why I continue, but, I’ve always felt so safe when creating, anything, but particularly Miniatures.
It seems to be the one time that my mind can switch off, even for just a few minuets.
But then I can’t help but questions and worry, bringing me strongly back to the extract a little way up and my original question… does my Mental Illness define who I am?
However terrified in doing so, I guess the point of this post was to be honest.
Looking back to my graduation day, I realise how even this is mirroring my earlier
point – I was presenting a front!
Whilst my tutors knew of my challenges (and I did mention having a short stay in hospital) they weren’t aware of the extent of it all.
Again, the other members of the course, the audience seeing me collect my Degree, friends…no one, or very few people have no idea.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s NOT that they should, or need to, but why? Why is this frequently the case when it comes to talking about mental health?
“In Western cultures in particular, it’s still somewhat frowned upon to be honest about your feelings, out of fear of “airing your dirty laundry” or making someone else uncomfortable. But if we’re constantly repressing our true selves, you have to wonder whether it’s going to come out in some other way.”
This couldn’t be more true.
Whilst close family know and friends may have an inkling, I resist speaking about any of it (even with my family) if at all possible.
I feel weak, ashamed and embarrassed about the state of my mental health.
I fear being judged, dismissed, it changing people’s opinion of me – and worst of all, it having an effect on people’s opinion of my work…my Model-making and Miniatures.
As I mentioned at the beginning, today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
I’ve experienced it with new friends, family and have been dealing with the thoughts myself, so, it truly is a day that must be recognised – A day to reach out to people who may be struggling to cope.
We MUST use this day to raise awareness, that it IS OKAY to talk, to support, to listen, to be there for even one person EVERYDAY!
I know this post won’t go viral or anything, so…
Despite having bottled so much inside for so very long – even so now – and knowing
the effect it has on my health, I truly will continue sacrificing speaking about my feelings as much as I can, to protect my passion.
So, does my Mental Illness define who I am?
I guess so!
You can read more about the things I’ve touched upon (and quoted from) below, at: