Obviously it was something my therapist said.
‘Do you not think that your adult life has been difficult?’
I replied that it hadn’t, until she talked me through some of my experiences I had shared with her. Of having a serious mental illness and being fairly politically active. At which point I reluctantly agreed that she had a point and slowly became more comfortable with the thought of sharing these uncommon experiences.
Today, nearly a year after this conversation, I’ve finished reading all of the source material for Mental, my latest performance project.
It hasn’t taken a year to read around 1000 pages of mental health medical records, a few hundred pages of corporate documents [mainly legal action against me] and a few pages of what is a highly edited Police Forward Intelligence file, including a dodgy picture. Although the Data Protection Act gives information holders 40 days to comply or deny requests and most were submitted by December last year, I’ve only had most of the documents for 4 or so months. Also, for the last few years my ability to read anything longer than a few pages has been impaired, making the process 50 million times harder.
Reading all of this information has been a mixed bag of shock, depression, inspiration and on occasion, Kafkaesque comedic gold. I’ve got annoyed when things have been blatantly wrong or misunderstood, been transported back to very difficult experiences, to times of utter despair, hopelessness and near death experiences, but equally it has given me insight and hopefully I have gained a better understanding of perhaps what my therapist had picked up on around a year ago. That most of my adult life has been spent battling a debilitating set of conditions, internally and externally, both my inner mental state and external systems of power.
Is that going to be of interest to other people? I don’t know yet. Now is the next step, the process of selecting, editing and piecing together a narrative from these institutionally documented parts of my life, and understanding what it tells us/me and why that is or isn’t of interest.
Here are 5 that have been interesting so far,
1 – When asked if there is a history of mental illness in your family, saying your mother is a Vicar may be taken seriously.
2 – I’ve spent time around plain clothes or undercover police officers when I was sure I wasn’t.
3 – One person’s art is another person’s deliberate self-harm.
4 – I went for 12 years without being told one of my two main diagnoses.
5 – The Police Forward Intelligence Team now has my address.
Back to the pile of paper.