In the Bible, after the Flood, God is said to have put a rainbow in the sky as a promise that it wouldn’t happen again. So whenever the rains came and however hard they came, you just had to look up at the rainbow and know that it would be OK. It would end. And it wouldn’t end in a flood. When you find yourself locked in that grey pit of despair, guilt, self-loathing, anguish, white noise screaming inside your skull, slashing at the inside of your head to get out, people often say something similar. “It’s OK,” they say, “you’ll get through it, I know you will.” They mean well. Most of the time. Some of the time, it’s true, it’s just a knee-jerk lazy response they give without thinking because it makes them feel better. The chances are though it won’t make you feel better. When you’re down there in that tight bubble of simultaneously heightened and greyed sensation that is your world, all shrunk down to the exact size of your skin and trying to get smaller, it’s impossible to make a connection with ten minutes ahead, let alone the idea that it will one day be gone, be “better”. And the tragic truth of the matter is that sometimes it won’t be better. And sometimes, even if it does get better, it will get worse again one day. Those well-meaning wishes, the survivors’ stories reassuring us with their “I got through it, so will you”, those rainbows held out to us – sometimes they can feel like the cruellest joke of all. Sometimes what we need most is to know it’s OK not to feel OK; to know it might never get much better but that’s OK too; to know that someone else has reached the depths we’ve reached; to know the noise is there in someone else’s skull too, the universal hum, the cosmic background radiation of pain folded into the fabric of time. When we’re at our lowest point, those moments that reveal the traces of that pain as they intersect the tiny lives of others, like a Hubble telescope pointed inwards, are what there is instead of rainbows.
The pieces in this exhibition are anonymous, but make no mistake, each remains firmly © copyright of the author/artist
With a word of thanks to Seaneen Molloy, force of nature behind The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive blog, who spoke on the same panel as me at a conference on mental health in the media last year and whose passionate plea for coverage of mental health difficulties that were not “survivors’ stories” first made me want to put on this show