Hannah’s work

Drawing of mental health issues

A poster illustrating the struggle of mental illness

Explanation of the poster

The shading represents the inner darkness that is mental illness.

The skeleton shows we are all the same beneath our skin, that mental illness affects people regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, subculture and age. It is also reminiscent of the struggle to be thin which often results in skeletal bodies for those with eating disorders.

The monarch butterfly is a symbol for recovery from self-harm. It is also symbolic of fragility and paradoxically of emergence and strength.

The green ribbon is used because green is the colour of the Mental Illness Awareness ribbon. It is wrapped around the neck vertebrae in this picture to show how mental illness strangles an individual, sometimes resulting in death.

The violet ribbon is used because violet is the colour of the Eating Disorder Awareness ribbon. It is placed around the vertebrae, where the body’s stomach and intestines would be, to symbolise how an eating disorder is usually focused on weight loss.

The heart is depicted outside the ribcage to represent vulnerability. It is also symbolic of how, when people who are mentally ill open up to you, they are trusting that you will not hurt them. They show you a part that is delicate, in faith that you will not judge or take advantage of that fragility to harm them.



A very dangerous thing

We’re too brave.
We see things that should disgust us,
repel us,
revolt us –
and we smile.
We laugh.
We shrug it off because we’ve seen worse things in our heads.
And that is a very dangerous thing.



This short story was published in December 2012 in a printed anthology. It is a Gothic tale illustrating, among other things, feelings of alienation and emptiness.


I was created by a man I call Fray. He pieced me together; he stitched me up and gave me a conscience. He gave me these deep black eyes and he gave me this porcelain skin. He said it was a gift and that I must be thankful – when I was younger, I knew I was grateful – but not so much anymore.

He calls me his Doll, and I suppose that’s what I am. He says I am beautiful, he admires his creation. But I don’t know if I am alive, or if I am just an ornament or perhaps something that entertains him and his friends. They admire me too. I serve them their supper and they look at me in fascination, at my ebony locks, my angular features. I overhear them say that I am a work of art. Is it true? Am I just an ornate sculpture that an artist made? I shall never ask. What would he think of me?

I sometimes visit the place of my birth; the gothic architecture that spirals up to the roof in great stone blocks, intricately carved with gremlins and gargoyles and dragons and basilisks, their faces staring, their eyes piercing the vale of stillness that hangs idly in the air; the guardians of this place. The equipment he used to make me is still strewn across the table on which his hands gave birth to me. I blink and wonder how a man of such genius could be a man so little known.

I believe I am his secret, but not that he cherishes me for anything but his pride of me. I am but a hidden thing, beneath the cloaks of secrets he hides me under. For I am the first work of his genius, the first child of his overgrown, hazy, perhaps slightly irrational mind; the briars and thickets I fought my way out of. Yet when I look over the table again, I can see that the tools have been set to work once more. His second piece. I took many years to create; so this must have, too. I visit here often but I have never seen much more than cogs and wire and metals and string, put together and pulled apart a thousand times before finding the right position. Yet now, this work is almost finished.

She is more beautiful than me. I can see it. Her long, feathery lashes so intricately placed, her golden flowing curls; her blue eyes so unlike my black pools of night. She is cold and staring, unmoving in the glow that the moonlight reflects upon her flawless skin. I touch her face and then mine. Hers is softer, lighter, lovelier. Am I angry? Am I jealous? I have never felt these things before. I have never felt anything before. But so recently, that changed. I had questioned Fray inside my small conscience; I had felt odd about him and his craft. Do I feel sad? I can’t tell. The overwhelming emotion leads my black eyes to her chest, the one place her skin does not cover. Beneath it, there is an empty space surrounded by the cogs and wheels and metals he has crafted for her. I touch the skin on my own chest, feeling its coolness for the thousandth time. Fray doesn’t feel like me. Fray feels warmer, softer; he is a human and I am his ornament.

I tap the space there. So hollow, so empty.

My eyes drift again.

On the wooden workbench, a contraption of such complexity it makes my head spin has been left, as if it is ready to be fitted into his new artwork’s chest. I touch it; it is warm. It feels almost like Fray’s chest, but pulsating stronger. Like a metronome, the cogs tick and click together at every pulse of its mechanical pattern. He must be testing it, I think to myself. I pick it up to study it. It fascinates me, every notch fitting together in an endless circle of sculpted brilliance. It is heavy, too. I suddenly feel that I want it. I want it in my chest, not hers. I have been his for the longest, I deserve it, and I need it. She is just a shell. She has no conscious mind yet. He has not switched her on. So I take it. And with it, I break a hole in my skin to reveal the mechanics beneath. I must fit it perfectly the first time. I turn it with my hands, trying to find the correct position. I steal one last glance at the empty girl. I am about to become whole, and she – she will still be a shell. I smile. It clicks in my chest.


15 thoughts on “Hannah’s work

  1. Hey Hannah and Mairi-Anne,

    Thank you so much for sending me this link. I cannot describe easily in words how moved I was by your effort and your dreams to combat Hannah’s illness. You are doing a truely admirable thing in fighting this battle and I wish you God’s presence on this journey. I will eagerly keep up to date with the blog.

    With kindest regards

    Suzie Young

    • Hannah, you are you; never change that. I come from the north and have driven and walked the roads you did; memories are a fantastic way to unclutter the now. Your peers in class are fascinated by your strength and wish you all the best. You too Mum! need congratulating; when facing challenges, it is the positive environment around you that drives you forward.

  2. hey Hannah What a great adventure you are having! The scenery is amazing – like Miss K I grew up in the wop-wops so really familiar with the kinds of country you are tramping through. Keep strong and hope you and your Mum continue to enjoy the challenge and the experience. It was lovely to see you in class the other day.
    Regards Mrs Boyd

    • Thanks for your support. There is something about the bleakness up north that is clean and strong. We very much appreciate the geographical contrasts we have walked through.

  3. Well done so far girls!! Thanks for sharing this with us couch hikers …you bring it home for us!!
    Every step forward you take is an encouragement and inspiration Hannah
    Lots of love and prayers Margaret xxx

  4. Hannah and Mairi-Anne, (well, all you Nels actually!)
    This physical journey and your documenting of it, is so critical in helping others understand the pychological, spiritual and mental journey that goes on in each of us. You are pioneering a new pathway of compassion and education, of solidarity and support for those who suffer, and bear witness to ‘the thing’ in day to day life.
    How proud we all are of you: your courage, your resilience as you face up to the elements, the cows and their cow pats, the elusive markers on the track, the encounters with the delightful (wind chimes and ‘Uncle”), and the less amusing aspects of the journey. Keep walking, and know that we will walk beside you- either in spirit or in flesh, as you reach this remarkable goal.
    See you for the Auckland leg! Kia Kaha!

  5. Hey Mairi-Anne and Hannah,
    I just started reading your blog and I love what you are doing!! Walking for mental illness and sharing your healing and recovery as well as your scars are a beautiful testimony to love and the courage that complements being open to love. I have not read the whole blog but I will be following with interest! Hannah you are an amazing writer, hmm I think you follow someone with this gifting;) ! From the depths of your soul you reach out and touch others. Keep writing and blessings to you and your family:)

  6. I salute you, Hanna.

    You are walking the Way of the Warrior. You are doing holy work. I hope you remember that when the going gets really tough.

    I love, honour and respect the life and the light I see in you.

  7. I am so humbled and so proud. Humbled by the way you’ve opened your hearts to the world to expose the ugly underbelly of mental illness and proud because you are my friends and you’re doing something beautiful to inspire others. No one – unless they’ve experienced it personally – can begin to imagine what depression feels like or comprehend the way it corrodes your very essence. Although I am unable to be with you physically on your Mind over Miles (love the name) pilgrimage, know that I am with you in spirit every step of the way. With all my love, admiration and friendship across the sea from Africa. God bless both of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *