This is the one page artist's statement I wrote to go on the wall for my art as therapy exhibition, Speak, in 2020. With some of the artworks.
Speak is a second solo art as therapy exhibition by Xanthe Wyse. Xanthe’s first art as therapy exhibition, Spinning Orbit, was two years ago. Spinning Orbit was messy, raw and intense artwork to help calm Xanthe’s mind while on a challenging journey towards stabilising bipolar disorder with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Several times in my life, I have been told that I am 'too honest'. Lying makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. Over the past few years, I have been working on an semi-autobiographical fiction book called Pet Purpose. I see it as semi-autobiographical because it is telling my story in disguise.
Originally, when I chose the title around five years ago, I intended to write memoir about my bond with pets. But more of life happened and the story has evolved into a story of courage as a young girl suffers trauma and loss, is later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and with her determination to survive, finally starts a healing journey many years later in adulthood.
The story loosely reflects my own journey, but I have changed the story-line to protect myself and others, even those who have hurt me. Changing names wasn't enough. I made the decision to write fiction, to 'lie to tell the truth', to help ease flashbacks of PTSD. So that I didn't have to remember it 'exactly' and keep re-traumatising myself. So that I minimise upsetting people. So people can't say 'that's not really what happened' (because they won't know what really happened) and minimise my message. So that I could have some distance while I still tell a personal story. So that I could express my truth in a creative way.
I had a therapy session last week for PTSD. When I first started therapy, my emotions were shut down and I talked about trauma like I was a news reporter - factual without emotion. But last time I cried and cried.
I said, "I'm such a failure - failed in my career, can't work full-time, divorced, hardly see my son, own practically nothing."
The psychologist replied, "You're not a failure. You have bipolar disorder and trauma which has made things very difficult for you. You've been doing the best you can."
It's hard to find the words when I am depressed, but I will try anyway. I also don't feel like doing anything, including writing this, but I try to push through it. I first suffered depression in my late teens. I am now in my mid-forties. My diagnosis was changed from 'treatment resistant depression' and anxiety to bipolar 1 disorder, PTSD and social anxiety disorder. I want to try to describe what depression is like for me and some things that help.
One thing that is a common theme when talking to other people with bipolar disorder and PTSD is loss. Loss of a spouse, career, income, house, children, friends, dignity. I lost all of those. I am still processing the devastating loss after a pre-diagnosed bipolar mania episode. The sun went down on me in Australia. Most painful of all for me was that I had no choice but to leave my son in Australia and return to my birth country of New Zealand.
It's usually hard for me to get up in the mornings. But today I had something to do. Yesterday I decided to purchase a domain name and I started setting up this website. Today I wanted to continue to get it up and running.
Having some sense of meaningful purpose helps keep me going even though things are very challenging for me (unable yet to work full-time and live independently after two decades of being away from home). I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, PTSD and social anxiety in my forties. Previously I was diagnosed with 'treatment resistant' depression and anxiety in my early twenties.
Xanthe finds creative expression including writing and painting to be therapeutic and helps her to manage her diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).