My story was sought to assist with the reform of mental health education. http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/2019100711651/research/people-lived-experience-offer-powerful-insight-during-mental-health-week
Here is my experience of my participation.
I believe my purpose in life is to support those suffering Borderline Personality Disorder. I have faced challenges in my life I wish no other will. I believe that with a little understanding, education and compassion, this is easily achieved. Together with Steve Wise and Gabrielle Brand, a photographer and a researcher, I was given the opportunity to help.
I shared my life story generously and bravely, inspired by potentially reducing the suffering of others with my condition. After nearly two years of prodding, laughing, crying, reflecting and connecting, a photographic portrait and educational resource was born.
Little did I know, this process was healing and an important part of my recovery. I was heard, my tears and laughter were shared. I was treated as an important and valuable commodity. The photographer and researcher were such beautiful, intelligent and fun people, it was a great self esteem boost to be treated as their equal. The cherry on the cake, was the first time I set eyes on the portrait.
Is this how I am seen? The woman in this portrait is proud, elegant and strong. She's competent, she's powerful, she's like an amazonian warrior. For a patient with 'a poor understanding of self', or 'identity disturbance', this was a welcome sight. From today on, I understand myself to have all those qualities. As a result, I feel humble, I'm no better or worse than others, just like all others I have strengths and shortcomings. I can walk in the street feeling entitled to be there, I can breathe my fair share of oxygen, I no longer need to feel guilt for taking oxygen which I formerly believed should've been for others more worthy than myself. All of us are worthy and equally deserving.
I'm excited to see that this project, not yet fully launched, is already making a difference. Gabrielle Brand and Steve Wise, I can't thank you enough.
This photo shows how music helps me to fight my mental illness and addiction.
In the portrait, you can see a number of images or symbols, which represent important aspects of my recovery.
My instruments are my weapons, music connects me to something spiritual and to other people. in an orchestra, I feel I belong, that I am a part of a musical family.
My ‘Big Book’ from my 12-step program and my beloved Mont Blanc fountain pen are held in my left hand. Attending meetings and belonging to fellowships for alcoholism and compulsive overeating has fast tracked my recovery since 2011. I write a journal, and this helps me to notice, validate and accept my emotions and thoughts. My fountain pen is such a delight to write with and reminds me fondly of when it was gifted to me in Luzern in 1999.
A tally of five followed by a full stop denotes how often I made attempts on my life. The punctuation represents the commitment I made to the universe that I will never ever try again to end my life.
A nine-pointed star hangs around my neck. This is the symbol of the Baha’i faith, a religion which gives me inspiration.
My eyes have been masked because a part of Borderline Personality Disorder is identity disturbance. The self-hatred I grew up with taught me to act like someone I thought would be accepted and loved. This naïve strategy backfired as it led to me not knowing who I was. It was originally Steve Wise’s idea, his job as photographer was to get to know me, so that my portrait was more than a picture, that it told a story of who I was. After three interviews, he saw me as a warrior. This shocked and delighted me, as I was so busy fighting, I had never realised how successful a warrior I indeed was.Mahler’s handwritten score of his ninth symphony morphing into pagers from my journals, provide the backdrop to my portrait. Whilst hospitalised in ward 2K at Royal Perth Hospital after an overdose, WASO were performing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. It is lucky that through the back alleys the Perth Concert Hall and ward 2K are only a few hundred meters from each other. I snuck out of the ward that night and sat in the back of the stalls to listen to the performance in my hospital pyjamas. I reflected on Mahler’s superstition around ninth symphonies in which he believed this was his end approaching. He was frightened and didn’t want to die. And there was I frightened to live. It was that moment that I made a promise to myself and to a power greater than me that I would like Gustav, learn to love life. I would go to any length to find a life worth living. I’m proud to say, that with music as my medicine, I now love my life and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all.
PS, I wasn't wearing my pyjamas, I wish I had been cause it's such a good addition to the story.