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,
revolt us –
and we smile.
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.