Topsy Turvey – a world turned upside down

Have you ever felt so stressed out that you didn’t know whether you were coming or going?  Has your life ever turned upside down that you didn’t know what to believe in anymore?

Listen to Brody Swain, presenter at BBC Coventry&Warwickshire, interviewing Ron from Arty-Folks about his experience.  It will open your eyes to the reality of living with a serious mental health condition. Click on the bar below to access the file

Members of Arty-Folks are exhibiting masks at Coventry Central Library as part of Positive Images Festival from 15th to 26th of June

Hopefully you are lucky and you have supportive family and friends around you who will help you to keep a grip on reality.

But if you are not so lucky; PSYCHOSIS is a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external and objective reality.  It is often caused by major life events that put the person under prolonged and intense stress such as family breakups, bereavement, loss of employment, violence and abuse, etc.

While we were making these masks we talked openly and honestly about how it feels when boundaries between realities blur. Here are some extracts:

“The cards I was dealt left me with so many unanswered questions.  Is the joke on me or am I the joker?  Does the joker play tricks or is he a joke himself?  Is it just all by chance or a grotesque distortion?”

“I was so stressed out and I wasn’t able to sleep properly anymore. My life became a 24hour nightmare where reality and dreaming blurred into one.  And none of it was good!”

“I couldn’t get out of the situation.  I was stuck in a nightmare that just wouldn’t stop.  Everything became unreal and I started seeing things. Or did I?  How can you tell what’s real and what isn’t?”

“I was on edge, on the brink, on the line between daytime horror and dark nightmares.  How can you tell when you leave this reality and slip headlong into another nightmare? It doesn’t feel that much different.”

“I was so tense and stressed.  I started to have visions and they seemed as real as you and me.  I didn’t know and there was no way for me to know what was real and what wasn’t.  But did it matter?  There was no escape from either realities.”

“Crossing the line just happens and I’m not sure how I find my way back.  Actually, the other reality can sometimes be nice: sparkling lights, iridescent bubbles, beautiful dragons, loved ones are alive again, pretty colourful things…”

Seeing a giant headless Santa Claus may seem quite funny in hindsight but psychotic episodes are mostly extremely frightening.

“I was so stressed after a very messy divorce I was seeing things but I thought that they were real.   I was seeing dead people and I thought I could talk to ghosts.  I thought I had a connection with the spirit world, that I was psychic.”

“I can see faces of people who have done horrible things to others, I become a part of this horror film.  People wear masks to hide behind, anything could be behind there.  ‘It’ could suck you in or ‘it’ could come at you.  The eyes will give it away.”

At Arty-Folks we are a community who trust each other to talk openly about our feelings and experiences which can prevent stress from building up to such extremes. Talking about how we feel can literally make the difference between life or death: While struggling with their first psychotic episode 18.4% attempt to end their lives.

“It can last for days.  It can last just hours.  I don’t know how, where and when it will happen.  Friends and family help me through this nightmare. They distract me. They give me time and space to fight my way out of it. They help me with ‘reality checking’ and help me put my fragmented life back together.”

If you think you might be struggling with a sense of reality go and see your GP first. Then come to Arty-Folks and we will support you in any way we can.

Plain To See – Members Exhibition for Positive Images Festival

@Artspace Studios, 16 Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry, CV1 3AU
11am-7pm Saturday June 20th
2pm-5pm Sunday June 21st

January to March 2015 members of Arty-Folks worked with local artist Trudy Rees-Marklew to create sculptures inspired by Grayson Perry. The exhibition aims to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes that we may have about people suffering with mental ill health.Plain to See Exhibition Poster A4 copy

The World Health Organisation describes good mental health as being “A state of well-being in which the person realizes and uses his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to his or her community”.

Our exhibition aims to
• break down barriers between people and demonstrate that mental ill health is an ordinary occurrence that could affect anyone at some point in their life.
• challenge the viewers’ first impression of people’s artwork in a way that will enable them to connect to the person who created it,
• highlight the rich and diverse community of people who are fighting their conditions through their creativity

The effects of mental ill health on a person’s life can be devastating, often resulting in social isolation, physical ill health, unemployment and discrimination. A medical diagnosis can offer relief by naming the problem but on the other hand can disempower by labelling the person.

We all need to support each other through difficult times which can hit us all when we least expect it. Just when you think you are juggling well, one more (even minor) thing can tip the balance and what can prevent a breakdown from happening is having supportive people around!

We are exhibiting sculptures by 17 members that will support visitors to recalibrate their perceptions of people with mental ill health; that a person cannot be explained through a diagnosis of their deficits and disorders. We are also showing an uplifting and inspiring documentary about Arty-Folks our members created with the support of Frances Porter of Eyefull Productions.

Refreshments will be provided. We would much appreciate it if you could help raise awareness of this exhibition and of our service through your social media contacts.

We are looking forward to welcoming you. Please feel free to bring friends and family. The exhibition is suitable for children and is wheel-chair accessible.

The Positive Images festival – which started as the Multicultural Book Fair – is in its 21st year celebrating Coventry’s diversity and rich culture. This year the festival will be running from June 13th to 30th with a massive array of events and activities taking place throughout the city, from historical walks to musical fairs.  Visit <a href=””>website</a>


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