In a world awash with mental illness stigma, we don’t always hear the stories of hope, courage and immense bravery – of people who have endured unthinkable tragedy and still move forward in the direction of their dreams. It’s not often we hear that a full and meaningful life is possible with mental illness.
After a couple of minutes spent with Cate Bond, it’s clear she is testament to that fact. An aerobics teacher for 30 years, Cate also played cello with the Queensland Youth Symphony Orchestra for nine years and has a background in physiotherapy and experiential and creative arts therapy. Cate is an accomplished artist who has exhibited with us for more than 10 years, and a passionate advocate for bringing mental illness into the light.
“People need to realise that it is normal to have a mental illness. Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, you shouldn’t be looking down on yourself just because you have one. The community needs to accept it as a part of life.”
Cate was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2004, and has also lived with chronic pain as the result of a severe spinal injury for many years. Mental illness has been a part of her life since school, when her sister began a long battle with bipolar disorder that eventually ended in suicide. Cate, shattered beyond belief, turned to art to help her heal.
“My sister loved bright colours and my art has been very inspired by her. Art provides a pictorial medium for the expression of thoughts, beliefs and emotions and can convey a message more powerfully than the spoken word. I have done some dark paintings when I’ve been hurting – drain holes, skeletons just to name a few – really horrible things. I never plan what I’m going to create, it just evolves in the moment. Once I finish a piece, I reflect and analyse how I’ve been feeling. It all makes sense on the page and there is also the satisfaction of completing a work which raises self-esteem and improves mood.”
"Music Unlocks Emotions" by Cate Bond on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
Cate speaks with the experience of someone who has pushed through the lowest of lows. Reflecting on her journey, she says it’s made her a tougher person today.
“These days, I can reflect on my darkest of days and see where I was, and where I am today – I can see how far I’ve come. The pain you’ve gone through doesn’t define you as a person.”
While Cate agrees that things are changing for the better in bringing mental illness to the forefront, she believes everyone has a role to play in building a better future.
“It’s important to talk about mental illness and not feel uneasy about it. Let children hear about it. If they hear about it when they’re young, they won’t feel ashamed if it happens to them. Mental illness exists and while not every day is going to be a bright day, every day is a brand new day.”