Who am I?
It's not me. It's not my identity.
But I wasn't me back then, so to return to this pseudonym now, to blog here, somehow seems appropriate.
So, who am I?
It's a difficult question to answer... it depends on how to define yourself I suppose.
If I were to answer you honestly, I would say this:
I am a liar.
If you were to stop me in the street and ask me who I was and what I did, I would say 'I am a writer and an artist'.
It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Sounds like I'm successful, doing a job I love, and being paid for it. Here's what I might say under a different set of circumstances:
'I am a survivor of violent crime who has had a mental health breakdown and is on longterm medication for said mental illness. I do not work. Have not worked for over 7 years now.'
...I dread to think what you think of me.
Now I don't know what your experience of mental health is... I don't know whether you are questioning whether my statements are true; false; something I believe, but which does not exist in the world of a "mentally well" person; or are simply taking what I say at face value.
I am a member of Designs In Mind. I first started attending over 7 years ago, shortly after being discharged from Shelton Hospital after a mental health breakdown, maybe ten weeks into my first personal encounter with an invisible illnesses I had little understanding of. I have started writing in this blog, under an assumed name, to try and offer you an experience of our art studios from a member's point of view.
To us at Designs In Mind, we are not "mental health service users", we are not "patients" and here we are not ill. Here, we are artists, we are friends, we are each other's support network. Indeed, if you ever venture into our art studios it can be difficult to tell a member apart from a volunteer or member of staff. This is largely because we are all here to work. To give purpose to our lives and the lives of those around us, and to give back to the community, working in a safe environment which prioritises our health and wellbeing while striving to achieve high standards across our bespoke design products and our community workshops, which we try our best to tailor to your needs.
I hate to sound like a walking advert. This isn't my intention in writing this blog. Instead, I would like to invite you on a journey through my experiences of the mental health world. To dip in to difficult-to-tackle subject areas, to looking at the progress and achievements being made in tackling these invisible illnesses, often through art and beyond.
The general purpose of public online blogs is to allow audience interaction, and here is no exception. Feel free to participate, start up conversations and ask questions. All we ask is that the identities of individuals are kept secret, particularly where medical confidentiality is concerned; all participants remain respectful of others; and please remember we are not mental health professionals.
This is the first in a series of 6 blogs written by Lorraine Knight