From anorexia to depression, body dysmorphia, and BPD, artist Becky Johnston has had a lot to contend with. But her mental health journey also inspired her to use her creativity and experiences to support others, so no one has to feel alone
Mental health matters to me because… for what feels like a lifetime, I have suffered at the hand of crippling anxieties, depression, and the umbrella of cascading torment, BPD; the catalyst for the ‘mental illness flux’ I find myself in. Anorexia shrouded my reality, and body dysmorphia further impaired my already confusing life. It prompted my desire to use my experiences as a platform to inspire, promote awareness, and lend a hand to hold. The more we talk, the easier it will become for sufferers to open up.
When I need support I… pluck up the courage to be honest. That weight needs to be lifted from your shoulders, particularly when emotions heighten so abruptly. Talking is the first and most important step. Once you break through that initial barrier, you can embrace a level of freedom, allowing new doors to open. Take a breath of relief. People are much more understanding than you’d expect.
When I need some self-care, I… have found the use of a whiteboard and reward chart profoundly useful, with guidance from my mum. Mark down anything from brushing teeth to filing nails. Acknowledge it’s an achievement, and tick it off. My mum is my carer; there is no shame in dependence. I may rely on her immeasurably, but I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for her. Remember, mental health is paramount. If you need that extra support, it is imperative that you recognise and accept it.
The escapism I have turned to time and time again is... my crafts. Though my illnesses have taken a great deal from me, it’s for that reason my heart has held on to art. Not only is it a form of healing, but it allows us to express things we wouldn’t normally find easy to articulate. I hope to utilise my creativity to bring hope, spark conversation, evoke profound thoughts, or raise a good old grin. It is OK to be you, to be imaginative, dramatic, bonkers and brilliant. Explore the arts – allow your mind to expand and let go.
The best lesson I’ve learned in life is… you are not alone. The mind manages to twist things so we feel deserving of pain and anguish. But it is simply not true; no being deserves to be tortured by their own mind. Personally, I found my diagnoses to be somewhat of a relief – at last a reason for why I am like this. There are others out there. I am not alone. But you also need to understand that your mental health does not define you. It’s a part of you, but you are still a unique living being, and that’s pretty special.
The main thing I want people to know about mental illness is... it is not a life sentence. With BPD, the intensity of emotion can reach an internal pain difficult to fathom. My reality becomes distorted, fluctuating through psychosis, paranoia. Every aspect of life is a challenge, hard to differentiate between the imagined, expected, and even the past and present. And it can be extremely isolating. But I have learned that we can all survive things we never thought possible, and that we gain understanding, empathy, passion and self-awareness.
I have a desire to help others, because the constant agony I survive each day terrifies me that many more suffer the same. It has taken my mental and physical health to rock-bottom, and I wish it were better understood so there could be more research and less stigma. In the end, it comes down to us. We have to raise this awareness, we have to help one another. You have more importance on this planet than you’ll ever believe.
Watch out for Becky’s exclusively designed Christmas cards for Happiful readers in our December issue! Pick up a copy in our shop, or in supermarkets from 21 November
To view Becky’s art visit beckyjohnston.weebly.com