sketches from the psychiatric word

disclaimer: this is a repost, from when i first became blogger in chief

i’m struggling to articulate the mess of my loud thoughts at the moment so i have decided to return to my most popular post of all time, sketches from the psychiatric ward. as you’ll read, this was the first time i had picked up a pencil for many years, and since then i have been doing more and more art. would you be interested in seeing more? leave me a comment below. so here they are, the first ever set of sketches i did to cope with my first ever stint on the psych ward.

they’re strangely aesthetically pleasing.


in 2017, i was admitted to three separate psych wards, for a total of six weeks. it might not seem like a lot, and sure i had 46 weeks of non-psych ward living, but these were my first three trips to the emergency (ever), and first three admissions to hospital for any reason. in my hometown back in regional western australia, it is much more difficult to seek help for depression, never mind bpd. if i had gone to my local emergency department before leaving geraldton, it is likely i would have been turned away, told to stop attention-seeking, or sent five hours away by ambulance to the nearest psychiatric facility in Perth.

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which is sad, because the psych ward is not what i had expected. And not what most people would expect, i imagine.

let’s talk about that third and final admission for the year. i was discharged exactly one month prior to writing this. i was suicidal, and this time i was going to do it. fortunately, i was already at the hospital for an eating disorder assessment, and was admitted from there, which made things simpler, and far less anxiety provoking.

being admitted involved a lot of tears, emotional exhaustion, silence, withdrawal, scratching (a form of self harm), anxiety, screaming (not from me), locked bathrooms (because of the bulimia), quiet conversations in side rooms, and meetings with various doctors, nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists. it wasn’t much fun, and hospital is certainly not a place I ever want to be, but it kept me safe. (and since then, further admissions have continued to keep me safe, as shitty as it is to have my rights removed as an involuntary patient, i can mostly see the benefits of hospital retrospectively). i gained a lot of insight into how my depression, borderline personality, self-harm, and eating disorder function and protect me.

the psych ward also involves a lot of dissociation, board games, card games, drinking tea, sharing with other patients, making good friends with other patients, watching television, doing sudokus and crosswards, and drawing.

drawing is my lifesaver. i hadn’t picked up a pencil or a canvas since year 10 of high school, because i channelled all my energy into the single most powerful distraction in my life – study (and i still rely on this distraction today). but now that i’ve picked up my pencils again, i can’t put them down.

these drawings are raw, they are real, and they illustrate my mind in it’s most distressed state. behold, sketches from a psychiatric ward.

they’re strangely aesthetically pleasing.


your primary herder of cats and struggling artist,

rosie bogs

Permanency

I have tattoos.

People are genuinely surprised to hear this, because my first is on my hipbone and so not visible. My second is freshly done, and definitely visible (it’s on my bicep) but it’s winter now and hidden beneath layers of soft knits and scarves. Maybe people are surprised because I don’t look “the type” for tattoos; I’m not a barista. I’m not an overly muscular male pumping weights at the gym. In other words, I don’t fit the stereotype. I’m a tiny five foot nothing human, I’m a tutor expected to act as a role model, and I plan to become a doctor – eventually anyway, once I figure out my own health first. So maybe they’re just not expecting someone like me to have had ink permanently etched beneath my skin.

That’s kind of the point. The reason why I have tattoos is because they’re permanent reminders of where I am and where I’ve been and how far I still have to go.

The first is on my hip bone, and it’s a quote in cursive which reads “do not go gentle”, from Dylan Thomas’ poem by the same name. It represents the struggles I’ve been through and come out the other side of. It represents strength and perseverance and bravery in the face of adversity. It represents not giving a fuck. I will not go gentle into that good night. I will not let darkness consume me so easily.

On a slight anecdotal tangent, during eating disorder treatment, I was asked what kept me motivated in my recovery. I volunteered this poem as evidence. When I graduated the program, my team presented this poem to me, as a reminder. I told them I had had the quote tattooed on my body six months ago, and carried the reminder with me permanently.

I got my second tattoo a few weeks ago. I designed it myself based off of Rupi Kaur’s illustration “and here you are living despite it all”. Underneath, in my own script, is the word courage, and the O is replaced by the NEDA symbol. It represents being a badass, and reminds me to approach life as one. Recovery is one of the hardest things I have ever faced, and it takes courage, but here I am living, despite it all. Because recovery from anything, even just living with mental illness, makes us all badass.

Maybe people are surprised because my tattoos are not purely for aesthetic reasons. Maybe people are surprised because my tattoos mean something, and only to me.

They remind me of my own permanency, and my own fight. They remind me to keep on fighting when the struggle is dark, and now, each time I go to hurt myself, I will be reminded that I am living, despite it all, and with just a little bit of courage, I can move forward.

I will not go gentle into that good night, no matter how much I may want to at times. The lure of death may be strong but I will rage and rage and rage against the dying of the light. I will not give in, and I will not give up. I will not go gentle. Depression will not take me. The battle against my own brain will not take me, not yet. 

So yeah, I have tattoos.

Because here I am living, despite it all.

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