Creativity lives within the core of Alexandra Ellen’s soul, helping manage the mental illness that has been part of her life for as long as she can remember. Growing up in a stigma-free environment, Alexandra Ellen says mental illness was normalised in her family due to its prevalence.
“I am genetically predisposed to mental illness. Many of my family members have struggled over the years, and I saw my first counsellor when I was eight. I’d say I was ‘destined’ to be depressed.”
“I experienced a lot of trauma in childhood, turning to self-harming and suicidal ideation. When I discovered that none of my friends wanted to kill themselves, I thought it was so weird as that was all I knew. I remember self-medicating with Panadol as a child, thinking, ‘maybe this will help with emotional pain too’.”
Battling through her childhood, teen years and 20s proved long and arduous for Alexandra Ellen, yet she has turned a corner within the last year.
“It’s taken me 20 years to get to this point. Even six months ago, this would have been a very different conversation. It’s been like a puzzle and things are finally coming into place. I got onto the NDIS and that’s really helped – now I see an art therapist, music therapist and regular therapist. I also started seeing a dietician and physio to increase my exercise. It’s been so much work, but I’ve tried really hard and now I’m finally here.”
“Through all the dark days, I held onto my inner voice that said, ‘keep going’. It sounds cliché, but the little things really can add up to a big result – going for walks, getting sunshine, eating well, seeing your friends, doing some art, taking your meds, talking to your therapist.”
|"Water" by Alexandra Ellen on display at the 2022 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
Alexandra Ellen has been exhibiting in the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition for three years, captivating crowds with her colourful creations. She says connecting with like-minded artists has been a game-changer.
“Music and acting has always been a big part of my life. Visual arts came later, when my physical disability meant that I didn’t have the energy or capacity to perform anymore. I needed to channel my creativity in a different way.”
“Through Access Arts, the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition and indelabilityarts, I have connected with other people with mental illness and disability. Spending time with these artists has been really empowering and made me realise that I have a right to do art my way, in a way that suits my body. I can do things on my terms.”
While Alexandra Ellen acknowledges the difficulties of supporting those with mental illness, she says the important thing is validating their experiences first and foremost.
“I think talking about mental illness and normalising it is so important in helping those who are going through it. I’ve found it’s not helpful to impose your own views, it’s better to say, ‘I hear you, it’s really hard, it’s really uncomfortable to sit with this, you’re not alone’. That’s the sort of thing that helped me.”
Alexandra Ellen is proof that you can continue moving forwards despite the challenges encountered on a long and winding road. Overcoming numerous trials and tribulations just may lead you somewhere unexpectedly beautiful – to a life you love.
“With the support of loved ones and through my own determination, I have gone from shame to acceptance to pride about my mental illness and disability. It happened gradually and it took a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”