Lisa Blake had an interest in art as a kid but put it on the backburner in high school as she focused on academia and the pursuit of university. But tertiary studies turned out to be a stressful time for Lisa, who could no longer keep her difficulties inside.
“I had problems with anxiety and depression as a child that weren’t recognised for what they were. When I was 14 I knew I wasn’t well mentally, but continued to push it down and not talk to anyone about it. When I was 19, I couldn’t pretend things were OK any longer and I was admitted to hospital. I thought it was the worst thing in the world at the time and I didn’t want anyone to find out.”
Lisa says the 1990s were a different time, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Society led me to believe there was something wrong with me because I have a mental illness, that it was something to be ashamed of. It’s sad that there’s often still that perception, although I think it is slowly improving.”
It was in hospital that Lisa’s creative spark was reignited, and she’s been a keen artist ever since – even exhibiting in the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition!
“I like to use a lot of vibrant colours in my artworks, which often feature animals and patterns. I love animals, especially my cat, Toby. I love using ink on paper and doing comic-style artwork. Art brings me a lot of joy. When someone asks what I do, I now say, ‘I’m an artist’, which makes me feel quite proud.”
Lisa spent the better part of 10 years in and out of hospital and met many diverse people along the way. She also learnt more than a few key life skills to help manage her illness.
“I can say with certainty that mental illness doesn’t discriminate – I met people from a whole array of professions and walks of life- teachers, doctors, tradespeople, army veterans, students, parents. It helped me realise I didn’t get a mental illness because I was a weak or bad person, I was just one of millions of others. I also learned to ask for help when I need it. I used to suck at that, but I am a bit better now.”
|"Symbols" by Lisa Blake on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
While Lisa still gets frustrated with her limitations, she tends to catch herself and redirect her thinking these days.
“I still get awkward having to ask for things like a cleaner to come in and help me, but I remind myself that people with a mental illness have just as much of a right to ask for help as those with a physical condition, or any other type of disability. That bias can be there, even within yourself.”
Although Lisa’s path to acceptance has been long and winding at times, she’s no longer afraid of what the future holds.
“I’m glad to be where I am now, in a more accepting place within myself. I’ve always thought I was accepting of people with mental illness, but for a long time I didn’t accept it in myself. I think true acceptance only comes when you can accept it in yourself.”