I am a woman who suffers anxiety.
Some days it is deep, overwhelming, debilitating anxiety, other days it is the silent monster waiting under the surface for a moment of weakness where it can take hold. Some days I am able to put the smile on and share joy in the world, other days, I fear everything and nothing all at once.
I cry, but mostly I don’t. The monster has taken away my tears and holds them right in front of me, just out of reach. She teases me, it’s like she has them on the palm of her hand, but the thinest of thin layers of glass keeps us apart and that sweet relief that is crying is rare.
I don’t keep my anxiety a secret, I share it openly, yet silently. Here, my fingers do the typing and the words flow freely. I speak out, but I make no sound. You see for me, verbalising the endless pain that anxiety brings, does not offer reprieve. It does the complete opposite and sparks further doubt in my power to get through. Making noise simply releases further anxiety, a deeper angst and the monster tells me how incredibly weak I am.
In 2017 I found a little escape. I discovered the world of Illustrative Imagery. I was photographing a wedding in Rosebud and had taken a photo of the Bride’s headpiece. The act of photographing this was simply part of her day, capturing the details so she would remember it for the rest of her life. But minute I looked at it on the back of my camera, I could see it as something entirely different. This began months of creative thinking, manipulating the image, experimenting with new concepts and just letting the image take me on it’s journey.
The final piece as you see here can mean something or nothing, it is different for every eye that looks at it, whether you look deeply in curiosity, needing to know what it is, where it began, what its story is, or you look lightly, see a beautiful pattern and are taken back through childhood, mesmerised by kaleidoscopes. That’s the beauty of the illustrative Category, everyone will ultimately see your work differently, or open your eyes to something not even you have seen yet, even though you have spent countless hours looking at it from every possible angel.
I was completely shocked to discover the final image was awarded a silver at state level…completely blown away.
The Illustrative Category for me personally, is the release I have longed for. There is no pressure on my shoulders to win awards, there is simply joy in seeing something that no one else can see. Telling a story of a concept you have created, hearing their view on it and hearing their version of your image.
When I first decided in 2015 to put my work out there and enter awards, the original purpose for me was to push myself a little, and to find a new social life in this world of Melbourne.
Little did I know, the work required for an image to be award worthy was exactly what my mind had need for so long. Personal projects were ignited and I could spend hours absorbed within an image, visualising what I wanted it to become.
In early 2018, I was in a world of pain. I had suffered through a particularly long stint of anxiety, I hid it well as being Mum and a business owner, you need to get on with days, get up and about, carry on as if life is normal…I guess it was normal looking back now, because the reality is, anxiety is my normal. But to outsiders, I was creating a life for me and the kids that fit within everyone else’s normal instead.
But when all was complete and I had settled the Motherly duties, I would return home to find solace in the silence behind my closed doors.
In that time, I created.
I created so many pieces. Patterns and colour, darkness and light. Simple or complicated, endless stories that would take my mind completely away from where I was before. Always something from the most ordinary subjects and object. This piece below is in my eyes, the bottom of the forrest floor. A rug created from the actual forrest floor, delicate pieces of moss found growing under a cold wet fallen tree.
Now brings me to my most recent image. One I am so eager to display on my wall, a proud creation.
If you were to ask me exactly how this series was created, no word of a lie, I could not tell you. There was a day where I know I sat down to just play around. I was a little numb and my mind was definitely somewhere else, because at the end of the day, I sat back and took a breath. I looked at my screen and this is what I saw. It was like opening my eyes for the first time and seeing my anxiety had finally been given an identity.
I think everyone who suffers the burden of anxiety often share many similar symptoms and we all get it without understanding at all. We share common ground, but then someone will share their story and it will make no sense because that particular frustration is simply unfamiliar to me.
I don’t know if this will speak to anyone else, but for me, these three circles are exactly as my head feels amidst an anxiety attack. A fuzzy, thick, blurry, dizzy mess.
The day I created this piece was the day my release came. I sat there, with eyes wide open, with a fresh outlook and I cried. I remember the tears flowing and there was no end to them. I cried for what felt like days, but the clock gods tell me it was probably just an hour. An hour of sobbing, what I had craved for so long.
This image ended weeks of misery, I felt like my soul had opened up and everything came out, the weights that had been holding my shoulders down had lifted and my lungs filled to the brim with air.
When it came time to choose my entires for the 2018 State awards, I hesitated to submit this one. I felt my personal attachment to it was far too strong, and without anyone’s outside opinions, I assumed I was being far too biased.
But going against those instincts, I did enter it, along with 7 other images without showing another person first. I didn’t want to be told not to bother, I didn’t want to hear any feedback on what I could change, I just wanted to create something and let it be. This is my mental health on paper for everyone to see. Mental Health issues are so common, so debilitating and so personal. It is not something we could change, and no matter what anyone else says, we are stuck with it. So this is what I wanted to go in with. Love it or hate it, this is my Anxiety, shown in a beautiful and delicate way.
Judging day was awful, I was filled with regret for not showing anyone, what the hell had I done to myself! What a waste of time and money and effort, to go through all of this and not seek advice first! Dickhead!
And then it got a Silver. I was shocked and shaking and I cried again. I am grateful to this image for letting me cry. So much healing can be achieved through a good sob.
Now we come to this week. Without a second thought, in December I sent my Anxiety across to the other side of the world to be judged again. I find it so strange to have such angst over so much in life, but to put something so personal out there, knowing the feedback could be so brutal. But like I said before, Illustrative is so freeing for me. Of course I care about the judges thoughts, and respect their opinion, but that’s just it. It is the opinion of 5 people, 5 creative people looking at something with no explanation. So what if they don’t like it, when the creation of the work has already achieved what it needed to. The days I create my patterns, are the days where my head is clear. The patterns are born out of a complete mess inside and every creation is a complete surprise at the end.
Now my anxiety is is coming home with its second Silver award and I cannot wait for her to be on the wall for all to see, in my home, where I can seek guidance, where she can forever be my muse.
You can see all of my personal achievements over the past 4 years on the Achievements Page.