Jade Bryant, 23, from Devon, UK, is an artist who is so committed to her art she has sacrificed part of her eye sight for it. Having lived in Devon most of her life, Jade is a lover of nature and all that is creative, who describes herself as opinionated and feisty.
Art was the first thing I ever loved, loved to such an extent I sacrificed a part of my sight for it, from the age where I first learnt how to hold a pen, I never put one down, only to change up the medium occasionally with crayons, paints or anything that made a colour. When I was 4, because I spent so much time inside blank pages and colouring books, my brain switched off part of the vision in my left eye, meaning I have had to wear glasses for the rest of my life, regularly visit the opticians and yet? Art will always be worth it.
Jade studied for a year at Plymouth College of Art and Design and also a year of Film, Theatre and Television Studies. With a personal preference for painting Jade also has a passion for film and has created a pilot music video for a Canadian artist called NLX, which she did against all odds with one poor camera, one actress and a dilapidated barn, but for Jade this was a worthy and gratifying challenge.
Managing Director of ASLI and Editor and chief of this publication Charlotte Farhan found Jade via an online BPD support group and was blown away by her beautifully raw art and invited Jade to join us and be featured in our campaign and we are keen to work with Jade on raising awareness of BPD, PTSD and general mental health in the future, subjects close to ASLI’s heart as both MD Charlotte Farhan and Artistic Projects & Campaign Director Lisa Reeve suffer from these illnesses and have done for most of their lives. Jade is one of our youngest artists but she shows a determination which is driven by a wise and philosophical view of the world which is in keeping with ASLI’s mission and aim.
We welcome Jade to our ASLI family and here is her interview and submission:
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?
I myself have Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder, and it is incredibly important to me to raise awareness about these disorders as they are so widely misinterpreted and this unfortunately leads to their stigmatised reputation, which so so badly needs to be changed. I suffered for a long time believing that my BPD made me weak, and that drove me mad, but it has only been since sitting and listening to it patiently that I have been able to accept that no, it is not weak at all. It takes immense strength for people who have emotional fragilities, as we do with BPD, to reach out to people and to just get through every day. It takes an amazing amount of courage to be able to convince your head on a daily basis that the issue that may be driving you over the edge, isn’t actually as bad as your head is making it seem, learning to eventually short circuit that panic is one of the most incredible things I have seen people with BPD do, and it is also one of the hardest.
What is your process when creating?
I tend to create best when I’m in a state of dissociation or clarity about myself or a situation. I can sometimes sit for days and just have multiple ideas of what I want to do in my head but unless I’m in that specific mood that matches the painting, I can’t create.
When I do manage to find the right frame of mood and mind I usually start with pencil if I have a clear idea of what I want to paint, once i’ve got the outline, i’ll start with the colouring, which often takes on a course of it’s own, as in sudden choice colour changes and just sporadic little details I wouldn’t normally have thought to do.
Who are you influenced by within your artistic discipline?
I usually use watercolours and my influences from this come from the work of Agnes Cecil aka Silvia Pelissero with her incredible emotively explosive watercolour portraits and abstract paintings.
Who inspires you in general?
My favourite band have always been Nirvana, and while there is a pocket of humanity who find it quite amazing how anyone can claim their inspired or ever were by Kurt Cobain then they must be insane, but in my opinion that is quite a shallow viewpoint. I have been inspired by him ever since I can remember, for many many reasons, in the terms of art, he was incredibly poignant, real and honest about it.
Quoted directly from Kurt Cobain Journals, a quote that has always stuck with me has been:
“I feel this society somewhere has lost its sense of what art is, art is expression, in expression you need 100% full freedom and our freedom to express our art is seriously being ****** with… I am far beyond the point of sitting down and casually complaining about this problem to the right wing control freaks who are the main offender of destroying art….
Thanks for the tragedy, I need it for my art.”
Most people would recognise Kurt clearly for Nirvana, but in his spare time he loved to paint. And his work, be it even little doodles have always inspired me, because they are true, there in the moment drawings, not planned or thought but just casually doodled while your mind thinks about other things sort of drawings. I admired that, it always intrigued me.
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?
I’m extremely passionate about the way mental health is treated across the world, in terms of new treatments, how people are treated, how government funding is being allocated etc.
I am also passionate about keeping the planet green!!
I support charities such as mind and rethink.
Animal rehoming shelters, especially local ones as they need the help. I am very passionate about the treatment of animals across the country, frequently keep up to date and try to pitch in it to help stop the fox hunting, Yulin dog meat festival, such other things.
I follow an anarchist political stance, and am passionate about this in terms of the UK especially. I have been following Unite Against Fascism for a few years now, too.
I also support the No To Trident campaign.
And the legalise marijuana campaigns.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
The statement “art saves lives” means a lot to me really, because I truly believe it can, does and will. Art is a hugely broad subject, meaning that anyone can find something they will enjoy, being able to use art for your head, to pour yourself onto paper with some paints is incredibly therapeutic and healing.
“Art creates change” is also a hugely important statement because I have always believed that is what art is for, what it should do. “Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comforted”.
Art has the ability to be striking, clever, witty, and intelligent. It can scream at you and still be beautiful, still make you sit up and see something completely differently. And in a medium which is so visual, it has the ability to create change universally, on a worldwide scale, you don’t need to be able to speak a certain language to appreciate it, or to understand it. Anyone can understand it in their own way because that is what art is, it is whatever you make it for you, whether you’re the creator or just the observer.
What are your present and future goals for your art?
I want to use my art to heal myself, and to help others heal. To raise awareness about mental health, and to just continue to grow into new techniques and styles.
The following question are about mental health:
Can you tell us about your own experiences with mental illness?
I have suffered with mental health issues since I was about 7. Since talking with my psychotherapist, I did display behaviours that met the criteria for conduct disorder but was never treated for any of those issues when I was young, as my parents didn’t really see them as issues as I hid most of what I was feeling or things I had done. When I was in my teens I went through periods of intense anger and depression, experienced bullying at school but when I reached the age of 15 started to see all the injustices and prejudices around me at school, to which my anger issues began to worsen and I often challenged authority figures on their behaviours in school, one particular incident with a young boy being bullied and then the lunch assistant shouting and punishing that boy being bullied because he had his lunch thrown all over him and it was a mess, led me to act quite aggressively to the staff. I have always been protective of those that are treated badly for no reason, I put up with in a lot of aspects in my life that when I eventually got my comorbid diagnosis of BPD/ASPD last year, I did gain some understanding of myself from all those years ago.
How does your artistic /creative expression help you with your mental health?
It helps me release emotions and feelings I wouldn’t be able to explain to people, it also gives me an identity. Since I lack a sense of who I am at all, painting what I believe I am, helps set a grounding of understanding as to my identity.
Have you ever experienced being stigmatised or marginalised due to your mental health or have you seen this happen to someone else?
I have far too often seen and been stigmatised due to my mental health. Have been made the point of jokes, belittled and laughed at, bullied etc.
My recent experiences with having my comorbid diagnosis come through has been quite harrowing. I was struggling hugely with my aggression due to a personal experience that had happened to someone very close to me, in front of me. At the time of this incident my BPD kicked in, leaving my ASPD side out of function, so I didn’t respond to the situation as I think I should have done to protect my friend, I regret that to this day. But dwelling on it over time has brought the ASPD to have feelings about the incident too, and typically they are violent, aggressive impulses that I have been trying to fight. When I was attempting to reach out to someone about it, to just talk about it and get it off my chest, I was told that because I was due to be put on the list for a cpn etc, they would have to inform the peoples protection unit of me, I found this to be extremely offensive and upsetting, I hadn’t done anything and I do not have a criminal record or a proven track record of violent behaviour at all, but they have consistently reminded me during my therapy that the minute I get aggressive the police will be called. Now as someone with BPD as well, im highly emotional in terms of my anger and Im extremely quick to agitate. Basically I have an emotional reaction to something and they take that as i’m going to commit a terrible crime, which is completely not the case, the fact I am sitting there with them and not already doing what they think I’m going to do should be proof enough im reaching out because I needed coping mechanisms and I was willing to learn them, but the constant threat of it being taken into a police matter just isolates the situation. And to me, that is hugely stigmatising, because predominantly it comes down to my diagnoses, they made an assumption based on a criteria in a book, not me as a person.
I have also had GP’s refuse to sign my sick notes because they said ‘I look well enough’, despite me saying about my mental health and that I was about to start therapy.
The DWP have been exceptionally harsh with me with my mental health, I can no longer phone them because it gets me to irate, they refused to issue my ESA despite having my sick note because of an address issue, despite me saying it then and there, the person dealing with my claim on the phone was incredibly rude and lied to me when I got obviously upset over the phone by saying it could take up to 6 months to get my benefit reinstated as I would have to wait for a form to be sent to me to sort the address things out. I rang back five times that day to speak to a different advisor that might listen to me and eventually found one that straightened the whole thing out in five minutes. It was a horrible position to be in though.
Have you ever received treatment for mental health and if so, what was it, did it help and was it private or state funded?
I am currently undergoing Art Psychotherapy and I do not take any medications for my BPD or ASPD, something I do for myself, I want to beat this on my own.
Do you think society and culture is accepting of people with mental illness?
I believe there are certain people who are accepting of people with mental illnesses, but no, I do not believe that society is at all accepting of people with mental illnesses. Todays governement is a clear example of this fact, with the cuts to disabled peoples living allowances, and the assessments you must attend to get your benefit still. It all seems very controlling, you have to provide proof of your illness, well when you have an invisible illness it isnt that simple, and unless you have suffered it yourself, very few people seem to understand, especially in any business or work sense.
People are afraid of what they cant see to understand, or put a reason to. Depression doesn’t need a reason though, just like many mental health issues.
How do you feel your Government in your country helps people with mental illness and could they do more?
I don’t feel my government does enough to help people with mental illness at all. With more cuts being put through to parts of the benefits system that so desperately need to keep it, it is no wonder the people in the country experiencing mental health problems is rising, and that as well can be partly put down to the fact the country is in the state that it is, employment being so difficult to find, housing being more expensive and more difficult now to even just get help from the government if you need it for those reasons, it seems like a never ending circle, but it needs to stop. There needs to be more funding put into mental health, give people more incentive, more happiness or chance of that. We need more walk in clinics and trained ambulance staff, definitely more services that deal with mental health crises.
Have you ever had any creative therapies as part of your treatment, did it help?
I am currently beginning my art therapy so I am yet to see if it will help, but i’m really hoping it will!
Do you think artistic / creative expression can be used to help people with mental health problems?
Definitely, any type of creative or artistic expression, be it dance, painting, music, anything. When you create you feel accomplishment, and happiness, content. And that for people with mental health problems is incredibly helpful I believe. We need freedom to create, that freedom to express because somewhere in our lives we were restricted or told we were wrong for some reason. There is no wrong in art, and that is why I believe it can be so helpful. And it can forever be unique.
Do you think artistic / creative expression could help raise awareness and communicate how mental illness affects people?
Definitely, art brings out the inner workings of the mind I really believe this, you use a certain colour you might not even think why at the time, but when you look at the finished canvas it settles itself, like a bruise settling, pain in the painting is healing for us, a way of letting something out, something go or just giving it a face or a name. Because art can be used like that for people with mental health problems I think it would definitely be fair to say that artistic expression can raise awareness about how mental illness affects people.
What made you want to get involved with ASLI’s MENTAL ILLNESS, HEALTH AND RECOVERY CAMPAIGN?
As mental health is a subject very close to my heart and I believe it is definitely something that should have awareness significantly raised, incorporating that with art is pretty much perfect to me. I believe art will be the way forward to raising awareness about mental health, at least it will be the most effective way, I hope!
Do you believe in more rights for mentally ill people in the workplace and for equal opportunities?
Definitely, there should be no shame around talking about mental health. I have had a friend put into a horrible position where they were told because they were suffering from their mental health problems they couldn’t work their normal shift alone as they would be a danger to themselves, but when they asked if they could work with other people as that would actually help, they were denied that too and told it was because they were a danger to customers and to other employees. This person had done nothing to prompt this behaviour other than take a few weeks off sick with mental health problems.
We at ASLI want to de-stigmatize diagnosis labels within mental illness so that people treat others and their own mental health label as that of a diabetic or any other chronic “physical” illness, as we know the brain is physical and this would further improve stigma and marginalising mental illness. How do you feel about diagnosis labels?
I fully support the idea of de-stigmatizing diagnosis labels within mental illness as it promotes equality, and greater equality for mental illness in comparison with physical health would really improve stigma.
Everyone within ASLI is affected in some way by mental illness, with our MD having several chronic mental illnesses and other members either caring for or dealing with mental health issues. Would this make you think twice about working with ASLI? And does this make ASLI “less professional” in your opinion and if so why?
If anything I think this makes ASLI more professional, so often I think the only people who can really make a fair comment about mental health issues, especially those such as personality disorders, are the people that have encountered those things themselves.
I have a great admiration for the ASLI team for that reason and it would in no way make me think twice about working with them in the future. I would welcome the opportunity with open arms.
Are there any artists/creatives/performers which you admire, who suffer from mental illness that you feel use their work to discuss or highlight mental health?
Francisco Goya and Picasso.