Fireworks of my mind

For as long as I can remember I have been blessed (and/or cursed) with being highly sensitive alongside an excellent long term memory, strong sense of empathy, curiosity to know more than the surface area that I am told or learnt, a vivid imagination that opens doors to new worlds, and highly visual mind that paints these. The world around me acts like fireworks with one thing firing off these, which together makes up something uniquely special. I am only ever sad that I have yet to find media beyond the spoken or written word to share these with others, perhaps an installation of some kind. However, I am uncertain if they would understand or get what they are saying and/or showing, as sometimes something very personal or just of that moment in time so may not be able to replicate it again.

As a child I felt like that many grown ups were just as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written in Le Petit Prince (‘The Little Prince’) with no imagination, with only my Great Uncle able to tell the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor that ate an elephant. Teachers told me to write about what I knew, not the stories I felt from the world around me from reading newspapers to watching starving people in Ethiopia with famine or war hit families in Bosnia and Iraq all of which called out from beyond the television screen to the rivers and hills with the animals that called them home that I passed regularly when out with family on foot, bus or car. I wanted to tell their stories, the empath in me wished it could do more than watch my fellow humans hurting in ways I could never imagine and giving money felt like a tablet that never cured anything. As well exploring the rivers and hills to tell the stories that people like my ancestors would have known and told the tales of. Being a grown up I still want to tell these stories. but now more determined than ever that I do, as they need to be seen and heard with their own voices not through the biased lenses of the media or anthropomorphise into cutesy images that no longer speak to the younger generation.

My family enjoy the arts and are highly musical: as a child my father and I enjoyed visiting art sales in the local area and beyond, as well as his own painting (sadly I do not remember what he painted) to the playing organ, often Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with a passion you could feel as his fingers touched the keys and were escaping to the worlds he was playing as I sat beside him equally immersed in this world but with my spin; where as my mother sings alto in choirs and plays the piano a little but lacks the artistry with it as almost a painting with numbers not colour when she does, and does not get art beyond the popular artists of Monet and Turner. This I often find when I hear mainstream pop musicians their voices are similar, perhaps as they are not investing in the emotion, feelings and story of the lyrics and music, which with autotuning have become quite grey and maybe because they did not create it  to begin with (despite claims they have done, but perhaps only changed the odd word if that) and was written for profit not as a piece of art to be admired, it truly is disposable.

The song Pure Imagination from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ for me celebrates imagination and showing us that it is all around us if we let it. Our imagination can be a comforting way to escape harsh realities in our present world rather than dwelling on what has or is hurting us now, which with an outlet can stop the pain from flowing for a while. I find it hard to understand, despite my empathy, those that may see this is childish or day dreaming when great ideas to art works can come from it, but then I remember an art installation I saw a few years back with the following quote:  we live in a contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”. I find anything and everything can start the fireworks display in my brain, from something I have seen or heard, a picture to a quote to a song or video, I never know what will next and that is part of the enjoyment and excitement as it is endless.

One example of my recent fireworks display was walking back from a shopping centre/mall on Easter Monday. I have walked down that street umpteen times, yet rarely walk up it as it is a steep hill, which may explain why I had never spotted an old mile stone on it, simply showing Edinburgh 2 miles. I stared at it for a good minute and took a picture of it before walking on but then my imagination kicked in, what was this street and area like when this milestone was new. I am now watching the 21st century disappear around me and be replaced by how it may have looked around three hundred years previously when there were distinct villages all over that are now part of the city of Edinburgh. As my visual mind and imagination worked in tandem to create a scene so different to the one I now found myself in, as tried to use my senses to get a clearer idea of what it was like to be there then. After about five minutes I took my phone out to investigate further the area as curiosity was now wanting a piece of what imagination and mind were doing, as I could not draw or paint the scene I decided to let it and return to the 21st century. I discovered that author and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle had lived during his childhood aged seven to nine (1868-1888) around two minutes from where I had seen the milestone, which ticked a box in my head as to why the doctor’s surgery by the shopping centre/mall bore his name. The house he lived has recently been restored, and believe me I had to resist running back to look and see! Learning this created fresh ideas and colours to paint into the scene, ensuring Arthur was the little boy at one of the houses, that I will continue to see for some time when passing that street.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Breaking the invisible wall

As someone with a visual mind I often found when studying for scientific subjects it was easier if I had a visual reference or way of seeing them. It is perhaps for that reason I was drawn to the environmental sciences, not just for my love of the environment and nature but the anthropogenic (human) impacts upon them could be seen, whether that be at the present time with my own eyes or elucidated using proxies for the past such as pollen, seeds, charcoal, diatoms etc under a microscope. When it comes to mental health for many it is the invisible nature of the illnesses I feel that contribute to the continued stigma associated with them. For unless we ourselves or have a close friend/family member it can be very hard to understand let alone empathise with. We see someone with a broke leg or having treatment for cancer we wish them a speedy recovery ot luck with their treatment, with diabetes or asthma although unseen too and for life we accept that they are common human illnesses; yet one in a four adults and one in five children in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, with 1 in 100 being diagnosed with bipolar or schizophrenia at some point in their life. What can be done? How can we break down these invisible walls that we have built to create a them and us scenario?

A bit of background to my own story. I was diagnosed in January 2007 aged 28 with depression and anxiety, however, you can look back to almost 25 years before and there were signs of both due to my acute sensitivity and bullying I experienced from when I first started school in 1983. I had counselling from 2006 to 2007 and psychotherapy from 2007 until 2009, which I have mentioned in previous entries on this blog. In the last few years as I have learnt to respect, appreciate, forgive and I guess love myself for who I am and who she’s not, I have also developed deep friendships that give back what I give them in love, respect and appreciation, which help me daily. The name of this blog is a tribute to one of them who encourages me and my creativity, so my little thank you back to him. For me, one reason I write, photograph, play or make music, and model with clay, is to let the feelings I have their own voice or become beyond what is inside me as would keep them bottled and been told in therapy how much they suffocated me for doing so, thus needed an outlet. I found creativity a great outlet, not just for my aforementioned visual mind but it allowed what I was feeling a way to be seen, they could no longer strangle/suffocate or even hurt me as they were now real and had their voice, but I retained the power that they were trying to take away from me. I also realised by sharing some of my creativity with others it meant it was no longer invisible to them, with some inspiring others to realise their battles were not alone or show how far I had come to become the person I am today.

I am currently job hunting, my past feels like a giant noose around my neck as found many do not understand that we do not fit simply into boxes and some of us do fit two at the same time. I am fed up feeling like the outsider watching in. Equally, having achieved academic qualifications while battling physical and mental illnesses is something I am proud to have achieve, but feedback I have I received is my past is intimidating but impressive…so what can I do? It is not helped by people thinking they can decide what is best for you, when you have tried and tried but just want to give up and only your closest friends saving you from going under completely. However, one thing I know is that I am determined to help inspire and help others, so they do no give up and break this stigma or invisible wall around mental health. As another way to break the wall is for us to work together, showcasing what we can and not what we cannot. In the past to try break the stigma we have created a glut of diagnoses that are really just descriptions of certain patterns of human behaviour, and have not helped. My dream? I am not sure, maybe one day I will be a creative and/or eco therapist of some kind using my passions to help others. Until then here is my hammer breaking down the invisible wall for today, will you join me?

© Fi S. J. Brown