Last week I launched my book ‘DSM 69’ published by Eleusinian Press. The book is my subversive look at psychiatry through art and mischief. Here is a blog why I use creativity in my work and life.
The world is messed up.If you are in the mental health system, you know this to be an unbelievably painful and evident truth. They are hurt by the world, and the system, but can’t protest about it. The problem is their anger will be fobbed off as part of their illness; complaints will be ignored and invalidated because any criticism on our part can only be a feature of our delusion. The question remains: where do we have a voice or power? I have found art and humour the best way to educate the wider public of what is really going on in psychiatry. Art is an attention-grabber; a kick in the proverbials; art can offer alternative visions, but fundamentally art is telling the truth unapologetically
.It is the most powerful way to create our own narrative, because you are not going to hear your story or magnificence in your patient notes, you are not going to hear or feel about your beauty in a benefit assessment.
The world won’t create a wonderful place of us, of joy, of beauty, of place, of belonging. WE have to do that. We are already an alienated sector of society, in fact the most alienated sector of society. We are not full members of this society or culture and that is not going to change without us changing it. Who is telling our stories? Culture is letting us tell the story not them – it is as simple as that.
Someone in a film I did called ‘greenhouse of hearts’ talked about madness and art. And he said something along the lines of “art bridges madness to the rest of the world, and it gives it a language that is better suited to the experience.” And it’s true. Art is partly self-expression. Is madness allowed to express itself? No, that’s the whole point. But you can’t medicate art or section it. Words like disorder, pathology, false beliefs don’t explain my experience or help me make sense of them; creativity does.
It can strengthen a broken heart to be so unbelievably wonderful, the world can do nothing about it.
For me, it isn’t art therapy, because the only therapy I need is the collapse of neoliberalism. I think this world needs putting over my lap and having its naughty bum bum slapped through my art. Asking me to be normal is asking too little of me.
So here is some of my art and why I created it:
My ‘Help the Normals’ art piece makes a mockery of the charity model of disability, by switching the position object of pity and giver of pity.
Think about it this way: If you take a normal person, and use purposefully degrading and humiliating language to turn them into something to pity. For example, changing the word ‘normality’ into ‘mediocrity’ and ‘typical’ to ‘boring and average’. Then throw money at them and expect them to know their place as a poor, pathetic thing, I think they will then ‘get’ why charity is not the way forward for disabled people. It is better to have rights, equality, and the withdrawal of oppressive practices, than someone’s commiseration and spare change.
I think mental distress is more to do with a broken heart. As more and more research highlights the impact of traumatic life experiences, you will realise a pill does not cure abuse, does not cure loneliness, or poverty, and no matter how much medication you force into someone it isn’t going to unbreak their heart. I do a lot of teaching where I tell my story and then challenge professionals or trainees to pathologise my life.
I have copyrighted my madness. This now means psychiatry needs my permission to use it. They won’t be able to afford my fees. Art can have practical uses too!
Can you use art to make your world beautiful enough to save your soul? I hope so, because it has saved mine.
You can see more art, words and shenanigans in ‘DSM 69’ is available from Amazon.
It even has recipes!