I just couldn’t figure out what was holding me back. I had found Arty-Folks on the internet and I hadn’t talked about my mental health to anyone before. I remember my mentor saying that I didn’t seem to realise how ill I was, and no, I didn’t. I didn’t think I was ill at all ! I thought it’s just my personality – I am a misfit, dislikeable, unacceptable, a failure, a burden on my family, too quiet and shy to make friends.
Coming from an Asian background, the expectation to be successful is embedded in me. But I failed 6th form and I couldn’t get out of my head that I started off with four subjects, dropped Art because it was too time consuming, failed Math at the end of the first year, took Economics and Biology but I failed Biology at the end. It was a waste of 2 years. I went to college to do a HND in Business and topped it up to a Degree, but again it was the wrong choice. I was accepting that I was a failure and a disappointment to my family.
One day, I was watching TV with my mum and I knew I should have walked away before she started going on about marriage, that I have only a couple of years because all the good ones go. I said nothing, looked down on my phone and cried. I have always walked away and I hoped they would get the hint and let off. My family see marriage as a law, it has to be done, and a good husband is the sign of success for an Asian woman. And even though no one is saying it out loud, I feel they look at me and think that I am a failure. They can’t break away from their old-fashioned ways, I can’t conform, and we can’t meet in the middle either.
What I really wanted to say was: “Mum, I know you want me to get married and you believe that finding Mr Right would sort me out. But I don’t. I don’t think like you. I don’t want to get married now and maybe not even later. I feel I need to do something else first but I don’t know what that is yet. Stop putting pressure on me and give me time to find out for myself what is right for me.” Instead, I retreated into my bedroom and cut myself. I didn’t feel like I belonged to my family more than ever before.
I have had so many part-time and temporary admin jobs since college and I tried hard to get on but they all depressed me deeply. I couldn’t fit in, I never felt normal like everyone else. Two years went by and some things had changed in my life but didn’t have much of an impact on how I felt. I was still up all night locked in my bedroom and not able to face the day, hoping that tidying up my room would tidy up my head, often cutting or starving myself. I knew what I didn’t want in life but I couldn’t map my way forward. I began to recognise that my physical health was starting to deteriorate and I finally accepted I needed the help of anti-depressants to stabilise my mood. In between jobs I have always come back to Arty-Folks, usually in tears. I felt Arty-Folks was the only place I had friends and was accepted for who I am, where I felt at home.
Arty-Folks encouraged me to make a commitment to myself, to listen to myself, to follow my passion. I began to realise that maybe, to find my own way forward, I needed to stop stressing, give myself time to work out what is right by me, and apparently the rest would follow. Frightening! But also exciting. I had always found it hard to have a say, to speak up, and now I had my peers listening to me, and Arty-Folks giving me time and space to become me.
Slowly, through my artwork I began to express my frustrations and to find my voice. So here I am now: I am following my passion and I am studying Foundation in Art and Design without worrying ahead where it would lead me. At the start it was hard as I didn’t feel I had anything in common with others again and I struggled to deal with the harsh criticism of my tutors. But I could always talk it through with my mentor at Arty-Folks and I am slowly learning not to care about what other people say.
September 2017, I am following my passion and I am studying Foundation in Art and Design at Coventry University without worrying ahead where it would lead me. At the start it was hard as I didn’t feel I had anything in common with others again and I struggled to deal with the harsh criticism of my tutors. But I could always talk it through with my mentor at Arty-Folks and I have slowly learnt to stand by my own views.
March 2018, I am preparing for my last assessment and I will be sad when the course
finishes because I have had a fantastic time and I have made amazing friendships for life. I had something to get up for every day and I have finally been able to turn my body clock around. Yes, I am not nocturnal anymore and I can get up in the morning and be on time! I don’t self-harm anymore and I am eating regularly. No, I don’t have a job lined up but I am not worried. I don’t think that I will fall into the same depth of depression as I have done in the past. I know now that a job is just a means to an end and not a measure of my worth. Most of all I am thrilled that I have been able to inspire some of my friends at Arty-Folks to follow in my footsteps and I will be happy to give advice and support if they need it through their Foundation year.
September 2018, I was completely upfront with my employers and colleagues about my depression and I was so surprised that they were so understanding and supportive. I am working full-time now and I am really enjoying it. I have not missed a day at work yet and I am always on time and I feel for the first time happy and content with my life.