Anyone with mental illness will tell you that it’s difficult to know what life has in store. Danielle Hodgson had dedicated many years to study and scored her dream job in ecology when she had the terrifying experience of psychosis which would eventually lead to a breakdown and diagnoses of schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and severe anxiety (panic attack disorder).
“I was in and out of psychosis for a year, but it was hard to tell because everything was happening inside me. After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I fell into a deep depression. I basically looked at the situation and said, ‘well, this is going to be a life sentence’. I didn’t know what to do, at all.”
It’s been a long, winding road since 2017, and the trials continue to this day. But the difference now is that Danielle’s got art on her side – and it’s an ally that’s come with a whole new sense of purpose, pride and achievement.
“The 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition was so special to me because it was the first time I was proud of myself in a very long time. It was the first time I felt I’d achieved something, from start to finish. I was at the exhibition practically every day, because I was so stoked to be in this incredible exhibition in the centre of the city. I honestly can’t tell you how stoked I was – this stuff never happens to me!”
Tossing up between ecology and art at university, Danielle has felt connected to art for a long time. But she hadn’t picked up the paintbrush for quite some time until a suggestion of art therapy came about.
“I hadn’t heard of art therapy and frankly thought it sounded a bit ‘out there’, but I thought I’d give it a go as I was desperate to find something to help. Wow, it turned out to be a lifesaver – it taught me how to get in touch with my emotions and how to articulate them. I can’t even describe the wonders it did for me.”
|"Sweet Sunset" by Danielle Hodgson on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
Even though there are times that the devastation still threatens to swallow Danielle, she’s quick to point out the good things that have come from her experiences.
“One of my core values is justice, and I do believe everything happens for a reason. I think the silver lining in my situation is that I am fortunate enough to be able to speak up for those with the condition who can’t. Schizophrenia needs to be spoken about more, and I think I can educate those who don’t know much about it. There’s still such a stigma about major mental illnesses – everyone is familiar and comfortable with anxiety and depression, but the reality is schizophrenia scares the hell out of people, and it doesn’t need to.”