For so many years I have lacked any definitive diagnosis in regards to my mental health. That is despite doing my best over more than a decade to keep an eye on myself. It has taken an extensive art project, partially based around my own experiences with my mental health (and other people’s perceptions of me as a person) and a forced hospital admission to (FINALLY!) be given a clearer diagnosis. I am bipolar.
This has been so hard on me personally and professionally that it is hard to know where to start. The impact of bipolar on my life may be nothing new, and probably unsurprising to others who suffer this affliction. However, my work as an artist trying to showcase the essence of a manic or depressive state is I hope insightful and entertaining.
Because I had tried for so many years (and gave up) on having a clear diagnosis of my mental illness, this latest art series The Seven Seals – was created so I could capture one of these amazing manic moments like a photograph. At the very least I had produced some great images and writing ideas from this particular manic state, and as a bonus, I have come out of it with a diagnosis and medication that has returned my mind to some state of normalcy.
The reason why I had never openly stated that my series (and many of my previous artistic and written works) were inspired by mental illness was that I never want to be defined by bipolar. Plus none of my writing is really 100% about mental health. Rather it is something that has been a part of me for so long it sadly feels like an old friend if an episode occurs. That isn’t to say I want to go back to how things were – that’s hopefully what the medication is for.
To put it in context, it has taken me a month or so to just look through literature relating to bipolar. It wasn’t because I was afraid, it was because I knew how it might affect me looking my enemy in the eyes so to speak. Right on cue after looking into my diagnosis I became very upset as the years of being imprisoned by this illness came flooding over me. Overwhelming my emotions and making me want to scream.
My beautiful wife (Rachelyn) is the only one that gets to see me this way. Other people see my art and writing and assume I’m schizophrenic or something different than I am because I intentionally put a magnifying glass over specific emotions and themes that can both trigger me and become part of my manic state. Not only does my wife have to put up with that, but she has stood by my art project while not really understanding what it is about.
This art project has seen me have police visit my home on multiple occasions and also had the threat of charges laid against me after a police psychologist diagnosed me as NOT being mentally ill. I also had a cop compare me to Man Monis (an Islamic extremist who held the Lindt Cafe in Sydney hostage a number of years ago) – so basically called me a terrorist in front of my wife and child. Keep in mind this was at the very height of what was a severe manic episode that turned psychotic. You can imagine that being told you’re perfectly sane when you are suffering mentally in a manic state would only give you confidence that what you were doing was completely normal.
Despite everything working out for me, thousands of people across Australia, and probably hundreds and thousands of people across the globe are dragged into the justice system by overzealous police with poor skills when it comes to recognizing mental illness. I am not condoning extreme behaviour by anyone just because of mental illness but instead calling for understanding.
My art series includes everything from the time I had dealings with police which was, as I said, at the height of a particularly bad manic state. 99% of the time, I’m that normal person just like everyone else. That other 1% of the time I am, in a way, a passenger in my body. An observer. Now that I have a relatively mild medication it is enough to stop that from happening (hopefully).
Imagine the fear of having no control because of an illness, then imagine the police questioning you about that behaviour and threatening to lay charges. That was where I was last year and early this year as an artist and writer that had been triggered by their own art project.
The reason why it had that effect on me is that my mental health is a very scary subject for me. As I said my bipolar stays nicely locked away – most of the time. But boy when it comes out… you can see what I mean here in my project.
I was honestly really stressing about writing this because my recent project has been for the most part fiction. So I hope that you can explore my broader series and finally know the secret behind the series and my art.
I’m bipolar. Nice to meet you.