Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Different kind of War story

My Grandad was a casualty of WWII.
He didn't die on the battlefield in a muddy mangled mess. He shot himself in his recruiting office in Halifax Nova Scotia. Deemed dishonorable we don't remember him the way we do those with medals. He was forever quieted and I don't even know where he was buried.
The following is my version of the little we know about the story:
David Fitzgerald Mitchell was an incredibly handsome, quiet, smart and warm man. He had many friends who adored him, parents who worshiped him and had he had married the Love of his life; Jacquie. They had one son, my dad. D.F (as I like to call him) was a recruiting officer for the Canadian army and was proudly sending troops to Europe to fight for the freedom of our great land.

The soldiers were young and  proud and full of hope for the job they were doing. I imagine them traveling with excitement of the adventure they were on. They had guns. What could possibly undermine their efforts? Their heads had been filled with the glory and glamor of travel in the greatest of uniforms..... Canadians through to the bone.

WW2, poppy, Canada, Flanders, rememberance day
Carrie Harper's Tissue Paper Poppies
The boats landed, the boys were slaughtered one by one. A blood and mud bath. letters came home to families-can you imagine the pain that came from every element of this horrific tale? The boys, their Loved ones and even us today as we remember what they did for us with their naive unknowing promise. I don't think this tale would have existed without naivety as..... who would sail into their own bloody demise? But the stories of those boys is for another to tell, I have no connection to them except my patriotism. My story is of another. a beautiful red haired man who was so overcome by his job of sending dreamy young to their demise that he imposed his own demise.

carrieharper, family, war, rememberance
David Fitzgerald Mitchell 3 yrs old
D.F.M.- I never met him. He was long gone by the time I was conceived. Yet his life has touched mine more than any other figure. We are kindred souls, he and I, woven together by our similarities. He took his own life and I had spent much of mine imagining of the same. Not any more, I should be clear. But there were years that I just wanted to vacate this Earthly war. I tried at least 4 times to move on to a bodiless place. Finally, the last time, as I woke up on the cold concrete floor of a little locked room I was told by an overwhelming force to "STOP TRYING, YOU HAVE THINGS TO DO YET". so I did, I have. I let go of the family curse. David Fitzgerald remains so close to me all the time; I can't, in fact sense where he ends and I begin. Instead of fear and depression I have delivered the two of us into eternal Love and forgiveness.
DFM in the striped jacket

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Friday at 10.10.10, Tribehouse event

On Friday Novemeber 2nd I strutted up on stage in 3.5 inch black patent heals. I was one of ten artists to present my story at the Tribehouse event 10.10.10. That night at Bottega in front of about 150 people I revealed a secret, I have bipolar II. "I'm a high acheiver", I said, "It's not just ordinary Bi-polar, it's TWO". My self diagnosis is "artist"....... wow, what a reaction! everyone clapped and cheered, I honestly couldn't believe it. On I trudged with my story,
"I have a messy brain, here's me in my studio with my creative chaos"

"don't let another day go by without telling someone they are magnificent"

 blog post #1 that I read:
A terrifying scenario: I'm shaking today so that when I draw, the lines are squiggly. When I stand up the room spins a bit, just until I adjust to the upright position. When I'm with other people I try to control the shaking and the shaking gets worse. I wonder what it must look like that I tightly cross my arms and attempt to hold my head steady.  This is what it is to have Bi-Polar II. To be mostly out of control of your faculties. To wonder if you can hold a pen or paintbrush, to sense that your bladder might give way at a completely inopportune moment  or to know that everyday you will make poor decisions that circularly lead back to shaking. The hardest part is looking backwards and seeing the clear and steady path toward mania and realize you were the last one to see it. And to be overtaken by an evil and wicked force that makes the world feel hostile, hellish. When you begin to screw up and lose control you wonder if you will have a friend or a mainstay again. It's so easy to forget that you've been here before and you got through it..... it's a tunnel shaped like a funnel and as you methodically stride in the direction of the narrow end it's impossible to see the goodness of creation. I suppose this is where the 'Bi' in it lives, that the up becomes the down. You can't really have one without the other you can only hope that with experience it isn't as black as the last time...... the 'jaws of the black dogs' will release a bit easier than the last time. To choose Love over Fear is what I wish for today, only that. When the fear is Goliath and behemoth and the Love is a tiny speck, I have to rely on the word of those around me and have blind faith that these thoughts are lies.

I'm choosing transparency and full disclosure, this time, so that the others.... my partners in mental illness can feel camaraderie.  I know, we frighten you in our unpredictability, intensity, electricity. But, I can tell you that for the first time in 45 years I understand that I belong and I deserve to hold a space regardless of my craziness. Go ahead, be threatened but know that I am here to mirror something in you; your own craziness maybe or creativity, instability or need for compassion. I am here to feel deeply the details of the pulse of the Earth and then to bring them back up as art. It's my job and the penalty is that sometimes the layers of overwhelm overtake, my brain is a soup of swirling ideas and my body is not my own to navigate this place.

I do wish for someone who won't be afraid of me and who can see that these times are when the genius resides and bubbles over. Someone who will see, for me, when I can't, that I can blow the top off of sanity for a short while in order to make something bigger than us all. For us all. Delusions of grandeur or maybe a moment in time that is meant to be.
If I had the flu or cancer or a broken leg you'd bring me chicken soup  but I don't. I have faulty wiring in my brain and therefore, I'm alone. My disease isn't recognized as a disability because sometimes I function very well (better than average) but then there are times like this when the tiniest of tasks is impossible. I haven't been able to hold a real job for over 20 years, I'm an artist, a painter.
I ask you to take this in just a little and hug someone you love a little longer. It will ripple out.
 • "Let's not go another day without telling somebody they're magnificent. We're sitting in a room absolutely full of artistic genius."

blog post #2.

Have you ever watched a butterfly just after it emerges from it's chrysalis and is a fully intact amazing creature but not quite yet sure of it's flying ability? It sits for a time slowly moving it's wings up and down........up and down............ up and down and then suddenly, as though it's done it for 1000 years,  lifts and floats away in a blur of brilliant colour. I think that's me, now. I'm sitting at the end of the dock just emerged from a long slumber and my wings are testing.... up and down...... up and down........ up and down. I haven't yet believed the moment that comes next. I think we are not prohibited to believe it because it is going to be so much more magical and wonderful than anything ever previously known. It is going to be huge. Possibly heavenly. I was given a glimmer of the fear I've left behind so I won't forget that it's behind me. Its talons used to grip me mercilessly for months at a time but that bird has officially flown the coop. I NEVER will feel that fear again, A new excitement of risk has taken its place. What a wonder is this world.

~standing O.......... it felt great!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Do What You Love

I decided to re-post this today, on Friday night I spoke out at Bottega about living with bi-polar II. I'm going to speak openly about it so I can support others to know they're not alone.

Carrie Harper

There’s a hummingbird lighting on the wild flowers and grapevines outside my window. More and more I see the beauty of the world instead of the darkness. I think as artists we need some dark to contrast the light, but it’s the light that shines out of us and attracts people to our work. I have been painting, sculpting, cutting, gluing and experimenting since I can remember then in 1992 I was fortunate enough to attend The Alberta College of Art and Design. When I entered art school I thought I wanted to design functional 3-D objects such as housewares and furniture. I imagined a path of study to include traditional art school and then industrial design. The course of life can change direction like a hummingbird, quick and unexpected. As poet David Whyte writes, “anything you can plan is too small for you to live”.
I started out as all art school attendees do in a foundation year and my soul came alive in a way I never dreamed possible. I studied everything from pottery to metal smithing to photography. I was home in the art world and knew then that I was an artist through and through, it had chosen me. Part way through second year I found myself expecting my husband and my first child and ended up majoring in textiles and surface design due to safety issues. The year of my pregnancy I focused on fabric design, paper making and colour theory. I came to love working 2 dimensionally. When my daughter was born I sunk into a severe post partum depression and there began my 16 year battle with undiagnosed bi-polar disorder, a terribly misunderstood condition. All along my career path I have discovered ways of creating no matter the direction life throws me. I always pour myself 100% into anything I’m working on (something that has served me well now that I am a mixed media artist).  As much as I tried to make art I couldn’t do it. It was like I needed to have my batteries re-charged but couldn’t find the power cable to plug in. I barely coped with looking after my new little angel baby. When my daughter was 8 months old it was discovered that I had a pregnancy induced thyroid problem and I was put on medication to treat it. Between that and anti-depressants I came out of the “jaws of the black dogs” and began to feel creative again and picked up paint brushes. All I could manage for a long time was watercolours. I am so grateful to that medium because it was simple, portable and I learned so much about the kind of artist I was. Up and down I went over the years, sometimes painting and sometimes just barely surviving. I had several suicide attempts in the very dark times, not something I’m proud of but I share it as an important part of my story. One of my missions, now, is to give Bi-Polar a face and to embrace everything about myself to be the best artist and mother I can be. I was terrified to have another child but when my daughter was 4 I had a beautiful baby boy. Joy of joys I did not fall into another depression!
In 2008 (after watching The Secret) I found the most perfect studio and partner to share it with, well within my price range. At the time I was still experimenting with many art forms but having a proper work space felt like taping my wings back on and spreading them to fly. I see the path behind me lead right into the arms of a love affair with Mixed Media. I am so grateful to artists Suzi Blu, Kelly Rae Roberts, Teesha Moore and many others for paving the way and making Mixed Media a legitimate art form. Through working as a Mixed Media and journal artist I have visualized and expressed the person I want to be. It has given me a clear map for my journey. My life is so interwoven with my art now and I’m happy and fulfilled. I have created a line of journals, computer/cell phone skins and I’m also working on resin pendants, canvas bags amongst other things, all with my art on them.
“Dream big” I say to myself! At first that meant; make a painting and go to a networking evening, then slowly it grew into; talk to galleries, set up a studio and write a blog. Dreaming big has served me well. Recently my doctor told me she believed that my bi-polar is in remission. I live now as imagine an athlete in training might eating simple clean food, sleeping well, surrounding myself with supportive people and doing what I love. My Life journey needs to be simple, clear and innovative if I want to stay well.