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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Nicola and I


Work in Progress - In response to writing by Nicola Schofield

Last Summer I wrote a post as an alternative evaluation of my my two year Arts Council England Funded Research and Development project 'Drawing as Experience'. In it I talked about the realities of being a practicing artist and a parent, and how this had impacted on my mental health. The post  resonated with other working parents, most of them mothers, one of them was the writer Nicola Schofieldwho got in touch and we agreed to meet.

What struck us both, particularly in an age in which so much is shared, is the continued secretiveness around maternal mental health, we both had close friends who had never revealed they were struggling until we hinted that we were, and then as if given permission, they would tell all in a flood. Hushed confessions while the children play at our feet. Why is this happening? Fear? Shame? Societal Pressures? Nicola and I both felt strongly that we wanted to make work that honestly reflected our own experiences and to use this as a catalyst, working with other mothers to try and normalise these conversations and show people that they are not alone.

We have been talking to many people about our project, and our contact with health professionals has confirmed the scale of the problem, poor maternal mental health is a massive issue today, for many different women in society, and it is growing.

Nicola and I are busy making work at the moment, I draw directly in response to Nicola's words, or carefully curate existing drawings to work together with Nicola's writing. Nicola also writes in response to my drawings.

Here is an example of our work in which we brought together a piece Nicola has written called 'Fear' with a selection of my drawings...


Fear

















The terror

Are the endless tasks to keep the dark thoughts at bay?

The terror of what might happen to you.




















The physicality of your presence.

At bath time you are at your most vulnerable, my mind thinks of children more vulnerable than you. 

I think of cruelty, neglect as I bathe you, wash your hair

This precious bath time sees my mind swim in muck – in the darkness




















I smile at your father, your grandparents when the ritual is shared

What would they think if they knew?

They see your light so why can I only see the darkness that surrounds you, us?

All that may befall you and I am your security blanket against all of this, I am the one to shield you

The one who’s head is getting lost to darkness, and so I smile at your dad, your grandparents because how can I give them this weight that I carry?

Every day I see stories of cruelty, parents in mug shots, I have brought you into a world of ugliness and I am to protect you from it

What must you think of me?  What will you think of me?

When you find me out.   When you see who I am. 

I fear your rejection.  Your rejection of my weakness, I want to be strong for you.  I want for you there to be only light and joy. 

When you were born I felt such awe.  Such strength. 

I had climbed the mountain and I had conquered it.  And there you were – my euphoria. 

I thought I could never feel fear again such was the hope of that moment.  The sheer joy.

Yet now I am afraid.  Afraid I will fail at being your mother.  That I will not be good enough.

Yet sad for all the children who are not as loved and wanted as you.

The contradiction in that.



















I thought how one day you will be old.  Will you be alone and I won’t be there to protect you?  I wept.

And others laughed at me for crying at the advert for a bank.  The familiar used montage. 

Hormones. 

Is it?

I watch the news in terror and on alert.  Imagine black boots walking past our house.  Bombs which blind us with their light.  Water rising through our house. 

All this as I feed you.  Clean you. 

I think new babies are so busy as a way to try and block these terrors out but mine are creeping in. 

Because what if something happens to you? 

What if I can’t save you?  Help you?

Protect you?

What kind of mother am I if I can’t do that? 

How do you love without fear?


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