The repetitive motion of creating fibre art is a soothing, mindful process for Gulnoza Akhmedova, allowing her space to form ideas before getting in the zone and bringing them to fruition. It’s through art that Gulnoza has been able to manage her mental illness and move forward with her life.
“I only started getting treatment for depression and anxiety in 2018, and I went into hospital for depression that year as well. More recently I discovered that I’m neurodivergent and started receiving treatment for ADHD. I’m currently in the process of doing an autism assessment too.”
While Gulnoza was a good student who excelled in high school, she suspected something was awry.
“I often found myself in online communities with a lot of neurodivergent people and related to their experiences, but because I’d done so well in school, I assumed people would have intervened earlier if I needed help. It wasn’t until I was taken out of the rigid school structure and forced to find my own way in university that I really started struggling.”
Gulnoza says stereotypes about autism and ADHD mean some kids still go undiagnosed.
“Looking back on my childhood, there were signs. But I was just lucky that I was able to do well academically. Often, young kids’ ADHD or autism manifests as disruptive behaviour, but I think girls face more pressure to follow rules and be obedient. That means you can slip under the radar.”
Art has been a constant transformative element in Gulnoza’s life, allowing her to access feelings of calm while creating something unique and beautiful.
“Growing up I was very creative and artistically inclined. I started knitting and crocheting when I was about 12 years old and very quickly got into 3D objects, the more niche side of fibre art. I took a break at the end of high school, and since then I have returned to it and fallen back in love.”
|"Just 5 More Minutes" by Gulnoza Akhmedova on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
With life now moving along smoothly, Gulnoza takes a moment to reflect on her past challenges and how she’s grown and changed over time – all the while following a path to finding ‘her people’.
“During depressive episodes, I felt like I was on autopilot. If I didn’t have the external treatment, I might not have pulled myself out of it. Art has been a big part of my recovery – not just creating the art but also the community aspect. Within my social circles, I’m often surrounded by other creative people.”
“It was really exciting to be part of the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition and sell one of my pieces. What brings us together is what we’ve all been through and how our relationship to art manifests. Having that community is pretty special.”
As far as what she’s learnt about mental illness over time, Gulnoza’s simple yet effective sentiment hits the nail on the head.
“Everyone has a brain, and organs can malfunction at any time – whether it’s from environmental factors or internal chemistry. You wouldn’t say, ‘you’re bad, there’s something wrong with you’ if someone had kidney stones. The way I see it, it’s the same thing. The brain is extremely complex, and we don’t need the negative stigma. We need a little understanding instead.”