Edited by Farida Momtaz Kevin Bathman
Short essays and poems about the invisibility of mental illness experienced by BAME students and staff at Goldsmiths
Illustration: Henrieta Lau
Invisible Voices is an anthology of short essays and poems about the invisibility of mental illness experienced by BAME students in Goldsmiths Culture, social and economic disparities have been proven to effect mental illness and the way that it is diagnosed, experienced and treated amongst various communities. BAME communities are often in a despondent position due to the biases and inequalities that they face. They are more likely to receive poor outcomes, disengage from mainstream mental health services, which leads to social exclusion and deterioration in their wellbeing and capability to flourish.
Culturally there is a stigma and shame attached to the subject of mental illness, which is why it is not discussed and desperately hidden. However, this can make it worse and result in further isolation and loss of voice and identity. This anthology aims to break that cycle by creating a space for dialogue and discovery around mental illness, and how it impacts on those surrounded by it.
This anthology celebrates precarious and invisible voices, giving them the spotlight to empower themselves through art and creativity. The ethos is that art, creativity and community is a way forward to tackling mental illness. Each written piece is accompanied by artworks from Goldsmiths students and affiliates. Through collaboration we bring visibility, dialogue and eliminate stigma and isolation.
This is a community project, which displays how a hidden shame that has plagued BAME communities can be tackled through alternative and innovative approaches that increase mental and emotional well-being. Farida Momtaz Kevin Bathman Co-Editor
* Definition of BAME: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity
Illustration: Ade Awodefaju
Illustration: Ade Awodefaju
Anything Dead Coming Back to Life Hurts Abida Uddin men have come and go, performing seances to raise the dead inside of you but the spirits are stubborn you see. they’re spiteful, running amok under your skin, hiding under every organ you had ever used to love. most nights, you lie awake, naked stomach up in the air to hear them /curse/ you. they remind you that you’re haunted all the way through. these ghosts are lonely and lost too. some nights they’re quiet, so you sit by the window and howl upon the full moon, hoping they’ll return. worried that they might have found love elsewhere, a home in a woman with a warmer soul. a home in a woman who’ll bring them back to life. they come back to you in the end, because home is where they’ve come from; the hot grief bubbling in your belly. sometimes when you shut your eyes, the spirits grow hands and feet and hearts, bloody and gold like the burning sun. sometimes when you close your eyes, the spirits become one. and she calls you Mum.
A World that Rejected the Site of Red Sarah Benhamou A story, nay a tale! Please - sit down, will you my love? I have music, soft music, and I have warmth. Please do sit by the fire. I have laid out the blankets, the cushions and the tissues. It is dark and stormy. The sun will go down soon - please listen carefully. I shall whisper in your ear and tell you the truth. I should let you know, we can only ever speak in whisper, for I am afraid of being discovered. Hide with me, and I will tell you my story. I will tell you the tale of the girl who only cried when we she was alone. It is because these tears were never noticed that we must remain quiet about them. Do not worry, it is no secret; it is just unknown. But I do ask that you keep these words unspoken, for they only deserve to be uttered once. Let us begin. Through ignorance I continued to fail at what I knew I could not succeed at. I knew I was shy, but the ignorance enabled me to have hope that maybe I could overcome the shyness and be the girl I imagined in my compensated mind. The superhero version of myself. I thought I could fly, and on the day we must speak of, I jumped. It all went terribly wrong! I was torn. My heart had been wrenched, and I was falling. I wanted to catch myself but only a superhero could catch me, and I was no superhero. Not even the birds could save me, I was too heavy, and so was my heart. It was too full of the anxiety that pushed me over the edge. That makes me sick! Am I no different? Must I be a falling clichĂŠ in a world that suffers from indifference and carelessness. Could I not be the person that people look at and think, I care, even though it has happened to so many, I care. My heart - do not feel sorry for it, do not be fooled! I was foolish, but I faced the consequences. I do not want you to face the consequences. But oh! If only you knew what this disorder has done to me. I cannot say, not today. My heart pulled me, gravity took hold, and it sent me running for the floor. I was standing so high, too high. I was on a building. A very tall building. I felt the icy condensation and the wind hugged me goodbye. It was a cold display of intimacy. I thought the air would have been more forgiving, but it wanted to leave my lungs, and so I let it. I said goodbye this time, but my embrace was warm. I knew my fate. You think of me a madwoman. We have been transported back to the nineteenth-century. I suffer from hysteria! My madness is labelled a gendered imposition. Can I not read between the lines of these discourses to establish something new about myself? Am I to be okay with a history that makes me sick? Am I to be okay with a history that does not remain in the past? This history I speak of, I see before my very-real very-wide eyes. I am awake, do not think I am dreaming. There must be more to me, oh please! Tell me there is moreâ&#x20AC;Ś or maybe something better, something real but something better. I must be more than an aged old tale of mental illness.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Am I to be okay with a history that makes me sick? Am I to be okay with a history that does not remain in the past? This history I speak of, I see before my very-real very-wide eyes. I am awake, do not think I am dreaming.â&#x20AC;?
Illustration: Srikrupa Raghunathan
Illustration: Ade Awodefaju
It is not hysteria. Not that it ever was. Let me take your hand and bring you to today. It is social anxiety disorder. It was another interview. A group assessment I thought I could do. I left my home with closed eyes. I believed I could do it this time and that it would not end with me crying on the bus as I travelled home after complete humiliation and disregard. Need I say, my love, this was the end to my story. I was sat on the bus, on a very normal day, and I began to cry as I travelled home after complete humiliation and disregard. I had felt this pain before. The all too familiar disappointment and resentment; I had only let myself down. My body reacted with water which I did not want to pour and so I looked out of the window so to not draw attention to myself. I caught the tears at my lashes, just before they could journey down my face. I am not in control of my sadness, or my mind, apparently. During the interview, I had no control when my hands began to shake, and when my hands invited my voice to do the same. I could not control my heart beating to ears gone deaf from the anticipation of humiliation. All I wanted to do was leave. I considered getting up and walking out of the door, but I thought of the attention that would gather and the eyes of the people I envied being fixed on me. I wanted to become invisible, just like my disorder. Just like the invisible judgement from the people who did not understand and think me strange, uninteresting and awkward. In that moment is when I began to fall. In that moment, I was falling, and I did not hit the ground until I was alone at home. Nobody was there to see that my blood had soaked through the pores I had opened for a world that rejected the site of red. You see, my love, and let us be quiet â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I have social anxiety disorder, and all I can do is cry when it poisons me with its sting. If people were to see me crying, it would just be another weakness for them to see within me. It is because I have social anxiety disorder, and that I am not my social anxiety disorder, that I must cry alone. The world does not know enough. The world would judge and silence me. I would become nothing more than a hysteric woman in the nineteenth-century. You see, I do not want eyes of sympathy and an ever more patronising cacophony of cowardly whispers from uneducated mouths prioritising curiosity over human decency. Rooms can become awkward with the inaudible judgement of silent faces. So please, my love, you know my story. I am I happy to have shared! I will begin my journey to help myself, but only alone. I hope you understand.
Invisible Illness Farida Momtaz “STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF” “IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD” “IT COULD BE WORSE” Would you make these statements to a cancer patient or someone who had been diagnosed with HIV? I’m guessing you are probably shaking your head frantically and shouting no! However, these are the comments that people suffering from the illness of anxiety and depression experience like a circadian rhythm. Because mental health is an invisible illness… It is generally believed that disease is a physical manifestation; and the somatic devastation of the symptoms of sickness, makes the individual encumberment of pain accessible to the wider collective. Through pertinent visual aids, such as hair loss during the treatment of cancer, or the pallid, plaster bandages that dress the fracture of broken bones; these archetypal symbols represent the suffering caused by disease. Its existence is incandescent and thus cannot be doubted. This is not the case for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. They are invisible illnesses. There are no visible indicators, and thus no one is aware of their presence but the person submerged by its foci, and those who spend a lot of time around them. “WE ALL GET STRESSED” The links between the mind and the body have been traditionally disregarded, but science has proven that depression and anxiety begin in the mind and then hijack the body. An example of this, is the prominence of the stress hormone- cortisol. It is released in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system mechanism. Stress is a normal part of life and everyone experiences it, however ongoing stress leads to anxiety and distress. In normal stressful situations a reaction is required, and thus the cortisol that is released by the body mobilises it for action. However, ongoing anxiety, doesn’t provide an outlet for the cortisol as there is no real need for it, and thus causes the fight-or-flight mechanism to backfire. Cortisol levels build up in the blood and can wreak havoc on the mind and body. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease... and the list goes on. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase risk for depression and lower life expectancy. Stress can cause our muscles to become tense,
â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is not the case for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. They are invisible illnesses. There are no visible indicators, and thus no one is aware of their presence but the person submerged by it and those who spend a lot of time around them.â&#x20AC;? Illustration: Ade Awodefaju
â&#x20AC;&#x153;The smile that I put on everyday means nothing to me. I wear it like a broach, an ornament. It speaks so other people can hear it. It is the crutch that props up my mask of self-confidence, the drug that suppresses my ocean of fear, and the plaster that acts like a concealer, covering my wounds.â&#x20AC;?
Illustration: Michelle Huang
especially in the face, neck, and shoulders, creating physiological pain, or painful headaches. Ongoing stress for me manifests itself in the symptoms of fatigue, migraines and severe back pain. “I’VE BEEN THROUGH WORSE” “YOU HAVE TO GET OVER IT” With conventional disorders, society does not blame the patient, but with mental illness, the patient is often thought to be the cure and the cause. Society has been programmed to accept mental illness as an individual illusion. The phrases “I feel depressed” or “I feel anxious” are applied recklessly, causing the pilfering of their prominence. It is true that everyone gets anxious or feels down at times, but ongoing worry and fear, and a complete absence of hope and enjoyment is abnormal and scary! The illustration of mental illness is still tethered to archaic conceptions of frenzied creatures that have to be detained in institutions and eradicated from society. The island of Poveglia, near Venice in Italy is an example of the isolation faced in mental illness. It is one of three secluded islands, and its very corporeal vista quarantines it from the mainland. In 1922, the buildings on the island were converted into an asylum for the mentally ill; it was only closed after 1968. It is a popular belief that ‘actual’ mental illness makes one incapable of functioning on a daily basis. But this is a myth… A large number of people experiencing the wrath of depression or anxiety, have mastered the art of smothering their physiological symptoms. High-functioning survivors are not taken seriously, as they appear as ‘normal,’ ‘functioning’ members of society. In fact, sometimes they are the strongest and most confident people; the over achiever, the happiest comrade; but it is a façade. The smile that I put on everyday means nothing to me. I wear it like a broach, an ornament. It speaks so other people can hear it. It is the crutch that props up my mask of self-confidence, the drug that suppresses my ocean of fear, and the plaster that acts like a concealer, covering my wounds. Even when my heart is pounding, and I think I am on the verge of a heart attack, I am able to go through the motions of the day; it is a cognitive process. I know how to act, and I have trained myself as to how to behave to please others, while asphyxiating my own hardships. The simulacrum of ‘being ok’ comes with ease to a high-functioning victim of mental illness. “SUCK IT UP” “YOU’RE SO SILLY”
Mental illness does not discriminate and is encountered by one of every four people in Britain today. It mutates our body after destroying our mind. Ironically, during the embryonic stage of its corporal manifestation, just as its destruction becomes visible to the masses; pills can be administered to treat the physiological symptoms and hide it once again. But medication does not address the actual cause, so it continues to damage the cells of the body, mutely and imperceptibly. Stress is known as the ‘silent killer,’ and I have experienced its inaudible potency. I had my first smear test at 26, following the notorious death of Big Brother star Jade Goody from the disease of cervical cancer, which encouraged the Government to lower the age of screening. My initial and only examination annexed me with an abnormal result. Further investigation led to the discovery that my cervical cells had morphed into a highly atypical form and thus, I would have to undergo laser therapy. The mutation of the cervical cells is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a viral infection that is passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and the majority of sexually active people will get some variety of it at some point in their life, even if they have few sexual partners. The Doctor described it like a ‘common cold,’ and told me that most HPV infections go away on their own without any signs or symptoms, as the body fights it naturally. When the virus doesn’t go away on its own, it can cause serious health problems. The virus attacks healthy cells, deforming them and causing cancer. HPV is the principal cause of most cervical cancers. “Stress is the biggest killer,” the Doctor proclaimed after her explanation. According to science, stress stops the immune system fighting common infections like HPV, because it is managing the damage of other hormones like cortisol that would not have been activated normally. Although we think we are managing stress because there are no physical symptoms, internally our health is being malnourished, as our body is working extremely hard to compensate for and manage its affects. The mind and body are connected, so when the mind is unwell, the body becomes sick too; it is fragile and unable to wrestle the normal arrows thrown by life. “YOU ARE THE MOST ABLE-BODIED, DISABLED PERSON I HAVE EVER MET” “YOU LOOK SO WELL” Anxiety and depression are triggered by environmental and social factors, and thus applying holistic health strategies are most effective in treating the symptoms and affects. Although I feel to do the complete parallel, engaging in social connectivity is a valuable remedy. Recent studies have shown that the Vagus nerve (cranial nerve that connects the brain to the body, and
Illustration: Tasnia Uddin
consists of the parasympathetic and sympathetic parts), responds to human connectivity and physical touch to relax the parasympathetic nervous system. The “tend-and-befriend” response is the exact opposite to “fight-or-flight.” The “tend-and-befriend” response increases oxytocin and reduces cortisol. Daily physical activity is known to combat stress by increasing the serotonin (or “feel good”) levels in the brain, while ridding toxins from the body. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension in the body. Research has demonstrated that simply 20 to 30 minutes of activity most days of the week, lowers cortisol every day in the long run. “JUST STOP THINKING” This is one of the most annoying and condescending statements that people can make. If it was that easy to “just stop thinking,” wouldn’t we have done that by now! However, although we cannot cease the everyday stresses of life, we can control our thoughts, mind and body using meditation and mindfulness, which can explain how we can directly impact our cortisol levels and reduce stress. Finding time for silence, or to simply be alone with our thoughts (aka meditation) is a practice. Taking time to slow down and allow the mind to have a singular focus can help strengthen our neural pathways and calm our nervous system. It activates our parasympathetic nervous system and causes the body to “rest-and-relax.” The techniques combined should help us to feel calmer and worry less, thus reducing stress and excessive cortisol in the body, which ultimately improves health, increases functioning, and reduces the onset of mental illness. Not only is mental illness unconventional, but so is the treatment.
“BUT YOU’RE SO SMART” “WHATS WRONG WITH YOU?” My chimera of over performance misleads others into believing that I am well. People like me work every single day to build a ‘normal’ world. ‘High-functioning’ individuals like me do not hide our invisible illness because we want to fool others, we do it because we want to be a productive part of society. We try so hard to beat our illness, because we don’t want to rely on others to take care of us. We are terrified of admitting that we fall into the grouping of mental illness. But when we finally do, and we are met with rejection, little understanding, a lack of empathy, or doubt in our strength; it is devastating. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you ask for help from a family member or friend who should be able to understand you but doesn’t, and it leads to an extremely secluded place. Loneliness and isolation are the hidden enemy of the casualties of anxiety and depression, and many of us struggle to be taken seriously and can even begin doubting our legitimacy. However, nobody has the right to undermine our difficulties, and my advice is to trust that you know yourself so much more than anybody else. Depression and anxiety are invisible illnesses, and thus the person wrestling with them, often does this silently, and without anyone else being aware of their quotidian, relentless battle. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE STRONG” Fundamental flaws in societies understanding of the human mind, means that the desolation of anxiety and depression cannot be seen by others, and therefore doubted and belittled. But, it does not mean that it doesn’t exist! Eventually the physical paroxysm of my mental illness becomes evident. Rather than checking into a hospital, I take to my bed. It could be for a day, a week or even a month. I detach myself. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t show affection. I stop functioning. The absence of the chromatic world around me, soaks me in darkness. But I am strong! I always get back up. Its ok not to be ok, and sometimes even the strongest amongst us need help. So, when a ‘high-functioning’ person asks for help or admits to themselves or someone else their struggles with depression or anxiety, listen to them; because it takes a lot of bravery. It is the polar opposite of weakness.
Illustration: Tasnia Uddin
Illustration: Henrieta Lau
Illustration: Vivian Tong
“A third-year student from Korea (who like almost every other student interviewed wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of how they might be treated by the College) agreed that the English language is a core issue and went on to explain his experience with the well-being services. He said that he could not get help with his issues within the 15-20 minute bracket of the well-being sessions. He also felt very uncomfortable being huddled up in the corner of the office with all the other students who came seeking help. The student continued that, after trying the wellbeing drop-in sessions, counseling and outside clinical help, he decided that ‘ultimately there was no help.’ He felt that the College did not care about him or his cohort and just cared about their money. He had given up hope on the College soon after his experience.” Excerpt from ‘Why International Students Have Stopped Trusting Goldsmiths’ by Mehroz Shaikh, published by The Leopard, December 2018 Read the full report: bit.ly/LeopardDec2018
What Does a Black Girl/Woman Got to Do to Get Help These Days? Muna Hassan I often find myself asking myself this: what does a Black girl or woman have to do or say to receive any kind of professional help? This question has bothered me for so long that I have decided to openly share my thoughts and experiences. I suffer from depression. I was first diagnosed at the age of 18. I am also a self-diagnosed sufferer of ‘border-line personality disorder’ (BPD). I am. Multiple online diagnostics can attest to this. Now these tests clearly state that online diagnostics alone cannot confirm an illness as BPD, and that in all cases one should always consult their doctor. Only every time I consulted my GP or therapist about my concerns, they would completely brush it aside. My latest visit to my GP resulted in her basically telling me that I did not qualify for this illness and that I should not want to label myself. I said okay. Coming to the conclusion that I suffer from BPD was not light or easy by any account. My life experiences brought me to this conclusion. Spending a lifetime feeling as though you are different because of your experiences and their monstrous effects makes you want to find a name for that monster. That’s why part of me was so relieved when I did my research into BPD. According to most of the readings I came across, you need to have 5 of the 9 most common symptoms in order to be diagnosed with this condition. In most of the tests I did, I had at least 6 out of the 9 symptoms; some of which date back to as far as when I was 10 years old. I’m 25 now! Do the math. I first came into contact with my local mental health service when I was 18 years old. I was sectioned because the police found my behaviour to be too erratic. Prior to this event, I had already been to a psychiatrist who had diagnosed me with depression. A few months down the line, I attempted to commit suicide by swallowing a large dosage of my prescription medication along with some other pills. My first stint in a mental hospital ended with a group of doctors, social workers and psychiatrists concluding that I was merely a troubled teen going through some problems, none of which were deemed to be ‘real’ mental health problems. The next year I was sectioned again, this time I spent a week in the hospital. I don’t remember what the conclusions there were, but I know that I ended up getting sent back home with little to no after-care; again.
Illustration: Balraj Bains
Illustration: Balraj Bains
During my late teens I had on and off experiences with my local mental health team, and I went to prison several times for consecutive minor offences. In hindsight, I recognise that this was a result of not having been dealt with and cared for properly during my childhood and teenage years. Even in prison, I had on my file that I was suffering from mental health issues and was assigned medication and treatment whilst inside. My behaviour however, did not allow anyone to get close to me as I had built up such a great wall. When I acted out as a result, I was put in segregation. When this behaviour occurred while I was out, I’d be arrested, sectioned or thrown back into prison again. From the age of 18-20 I was arrested a dozen times, came into contact with dozens of doctors and none were able to give me the treatment I needed. I was a stereotype to officials. I was placed in the category of ‘young delinquent’ girls who hadn’t finished school, didn’t have any qualifications and were homeless. On top of all of that, I was Black. The treatment I received by officials was inherently different to the treatment white girls received. I remember one night, I had called the police because a guy I knew had assaulted me by literally throwing me down some stairs after I refused to sleep with him. The officers that arrived on the scene knew me from previous encounters and treated my whole claim as a joke. I asked them if they’d take me more seriously if I was white, they all laughed. I was generally met with a lot of degradation by police officers who found it rather amusing that I would wind up in their cells every week. They’d refer to it as my second home. In a lot of ways it was… My family and I were constantly fighting until I was permanently kicked out. I had overstayed my welcome with friends, and honestly, I was tired of sleeping on park benches and alleyways. Besides, sleeping in a police cell as a young woman has got be safer than sleeping out on the street right?
After I turned 20, I decided to turn my life around and make something of myself. I spent the following years catching up on my studies, working and helping out my family. I completely overlooked the issues that forced me out of my ‘normal’ life and onto the streets in the first place. This would come back to haunt me 3 years down the line. I went to visit family abroad on a holiday. This trip triggered my deeply-locked away emotions and feelings from the night I was sexually abused by my cousin, when I was 10 years old visiting family with my father and older sister. It was the first time that it had occurred to me that I was actually sexually abused. I had told myself over the years that it was a minor encounter, however big the impact it had on my mind. After reading countless stories and articles about child sexual abuse, I locked myself away whilst abroad and sank into a deep depression. I couldn’t escape the vivid images in my mind. The thought of my young self, hiding such a trauma from those I was closest to, deeply hurt me. Looking back, I’d spent the past 12 years self-destructing in more ways than one, and not a single damn person knew why, including myself; until that trip. Life wasn’t the same for me following that trip. I couldn’t work, study or socialise as I used to. I felt like a victim. Ashamed and disgusted with myself. Talking to my family was hard, I just couldn’t face them. When my situation deteriorated I sought help. I acquired a private therapist and in our first session I was able to finally talk about what had happened to me all those years ago. I felt light and relieved following that session. Unfortunately I couldn’t continue as the fees became increasingly hard to pay. Since then I have seen 2 more therapists, and attempted to get help through the NHS and multiple charity organisations which have all proved to be fruitless and tiring. In the end, as of 2 days ago, it became overwhelmingly apparent that I wasn’t going to receive the help I needed from any professional in this day and age, in a city like London. What annoys me so much is that they had all my information and history and even the combination of these two factors did not warrant any form of real help. The point of this all is that, mental health matters, like black lives.
Illustration: Vivian Tong
Dialogues with Doctors; Here and There Akanksha Mehta
“Are you on any medications back in London? Before I can make an appointment with the neurology specialist here, I need to update all your records from there.” Yes. Indomethacin for pain and Citalopram for depression. “Chronic pain is difficult, sorry to hear about that. But, listen, I understand your depression. I used to be huge too. Like you. Life is hard but once you lose weight, the depression will go away. I would say forget the medication that the doctors from there have given you and just focus on the gym while you are here.” My doctors in India have suggested that the chronic pain is intimately tied to the depression and we need to think about this together… how can we “Let me stop you right there. We don’t practice medicine like that in this country. Where you come from, over there, these things are done differently. But here we only practice evidence-based medicine. And I can say this with full confidence…. Don’t worry, my husband is also from there, he is Indian.” So I am not sure how to proceed – should I go back to antidepressants, but I am afraid of the weeks of serious anxiety and suicidal ideation in the beginning, or do you think we could increase the pain medication or are we going to consider both? Anything to get me out of this current state of fatigue, shooting pain, intense depression because I can’t bear it. “Hmm. Those are good suggestions and your doctors over there will suggest these changes because they want to make money from you. But, I would say the first and most important thing to do here would be to see a dietician.”
“I can see from your record that you have some history of depression. But I want to tell you – what is the point of all this? Doctors there have a passion for telling people they are depressed because they don’t understand the universe like we do. The culture is different here from what it is there. So I would tell you to focus on starting a family and integrating into society over here and taking care of your parents instead of getting involved in all this depression and stuff over there. Ultimately we will all go to the same final destination, wherever we are, so don’t choose depression there, choose family here.” *** “Look the important thing is to make you productive and focus on small steps. I understand that you feel that it is about other things – bigger things like the race racism stuff, the sexism type stuff, all these political things that you are very sensitive to. But you have to forget all that and be present here. Micro steps to counter your thoughts, changes, one by one.” But I am present…here…and so is all of that bigger stuff. It is here. In this room. In this city. In my workplace. In my life. Here. I live here and all this IS connected. “I am unable to recommend any treatment and counseling if you are unable to see how you are focusing on things that are not important to your health and don’t have anything to do with it. Maybe it is best that you also see a doctor where you’re from. It might be easier to understand and treat you there. These things are usually cultural.”
Image: Akanksha Mehta
A Conversation Kameron Locke What do I see? When I look in the mirror, can I say that is me? I know that person, right? Confused, so I stare, because I know that person… But, do I? You see, no day is the same One day I’m on clouds. The next, I’m on barren ground. And it’s hidden, y’know? Well, I hide it. Because, well, it’s no big issue, yea? It’s my problem. But, it festers. So, I claw at this image I see. Grasping to know him, if just for one day. “Look! I’m on clouds today!” …this is what I tell myself. But, it’s an act, This is all an act. So, I stare in the mirror, hoping that today I’ll know him. But, I still don’t know that person. Today…I don’t know him. But, tomorrow’s a new day, right?
Illustration: Erica Ani Ezeogu
Illustration: Srikrupa Raghunathan
Untold Story Srikrupa Raghunathan I am what I am, because of who we are. We are an untold story. At the first glance, we may look, confused, may be depressed, crude yet so different. Only if, you care to come closer, You may see us move, dance and speak.. We will tell you, what you may not have seen in us.. Each of us, are different. Each of us, have something to talk about.. Ourselves, our lives and time we live in.. and a tint of violence, assorted oppression, and of breaking free, plain pleasure, and the list goes on....... Slowly and softly, we will stand right in front of you.. We are, an untold story
Illustration: Erica Ani Ezeogu
“Heeone Park, another third-year student who helped interview some students for this article, said ‘In my second year (2015), I realized that I needed serious help, but it was something that I could not discuss with my friends; I was so desperate that I went to a counselor at Goldsmiths. I did appreciate that I had someone professional to talk to about my mental health issues. I wanted to see her more often, but I could not. She gave me the names of the charities that I could get help from, but I did not feel safe as they were not private.’ Heeone explained that she needed to see the counselor more because she could not discuss enough in the limited time that was given.” Excerpt from ‘Why International Students Have Stopped Trusting Goldsmiths’ by Mehroz Shaikh, published by The Leopard, December 2018 Read the full report: bit.ly/LeopardDec2018
Illustration: Erica Ani Ezeogu
Who Am I Tobi Yasin This piece was inspired by the writer – mentioned below – of The Lonely Londoners and by his subsequent literary and non-literary output. He has written extensively about the diversity of Caribbean cultures, but in his aforementioned seminal text he wrote a semi fictional account of black West Indian men in 1950s London. When Samuel Dixon Selvon said, “Three into one can’t go,” he meant his East Indian indentured labourer heritage, Trinidadian local and West Indian commonality with the Caribbean diaspora. When addressing a conference on East Indian identity in Trinidad in 1978, Selvon knew his audience and knew himself; at least I assume so. He understood his identity as an East Indian Trinidadian as his mother exposed him to Hindi as a young man. He also witnessed and partook in Hindu and Indian rituals and customs at weddings. However, in his address to the conference he negotiated his East Indian Trinidadian identity with the very creolised Trinidadian identity, due to his yearning to interact with black Caribbean fellows as well as his own East Indian Caribbean peers. Selvon was part of the generation of Caribbean’s that migrated to the UK after world war two, and upon his arrival to London in the 1950s, he quickly joined the black Caribbean intellectual scene. So, who am I? An Aristotelian axiom suggest that “you are the sum of your parts.” Like Selvon, I am made from various parts. I grew up in white workingclass Stratford, East London. I spoke and dressed like everyone else. Yet more than occasionally I was reminded that I wasn’t the same. In the good old days they used to call me Paki; now I am apparently a member of ISIS. However, it is important to note that this verbal abuse came from one man in a car with his three mates, and should not be taken as a generalisation of all white men (both honesty and sarcasm exist in this sentence). So what are my parts? I am a – Lonely – Londoner, and I am of northern English heritage from my mum’s side. I am also Indian Guyanese from my dad’s side. This makes me bi-racial doesn’t it? Or half-caste as they used to say back in the day, before political correctness went mad and we couldn’t be racist anymore! I can trace my mum’s family back to 15th or 16th century Lancashire, so I may have Scandinavian and Norman French heritage. If it weren’t for the Norman conquest of Lancashire and the harrying of the north, I may also have been able to trace Anglo-Saxon and native British or Celtic ethnicity; the later term is also a contested ethnic term. On my dad’s mother’s side my cousin has traced our family tree seven generations back to a husband and wife named, Bephia and Elahie Baksh, from pre-partition India in the Punjab area. Another ancestor, seven generation’s back was called
Subratan whose wife’s name is at present lost in time. I’ve been told the name may be Bengali in origin. My granddad Mohamed (known as Sampson) was born in Guyana in 1895, and worked in immigration, as he apparently spoke Arabic, Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian. So who am I? If three into one can’t go into Sam Selvon, then how many can/can’t go into me? Guyanese, Punjabi and maybe Bengali, Muslim heritage along with English with possible Anglo Saxon, Scandinavian and Celtic heritage. The list could be endless, so let’s not count. The question remains, who am I? But then I wonder who was I and who will I be? I’m often asked by white English people, “Where are you from?” This doesn’t always bother me as I can tell if it’s malicious or inquiring, but it does have implications. While most accept me for who I am, some white people don’t accept my Englishness because I have brown skin. When I talk to Indian Caribbean’s they sometimes talk to me as if I’m an “English boi,” but then on a brief encounter at a conference on indenture in the Caribbean, Guyanese writer and publisher, Arif Ali said to me, “Oh, you’re a coolie boi, welcome!”. While some Indians and Pakistani professionals and academics that I try to connect with seem to look straight through me, as if I don’t exist; can’t exist. So who am I? The rupture of my Indian Guyanese identity started with my family not discussing our heritage and continued with the experience of racism from my fellow Londoners, which is still present today. The media and political class tells me I must integrate but does not allow me to do so. While I may not be able to bare my fragile soul and declare my vulnerability, I can say that my inability to previously identify who I was and where I belonged, racially and socially has affected my mental stability to the degree that I asked the monolithic NHS for help! This ongoing state of precarity continues to make me ask, ‘Who am I?’ At present I can only say that I am a Londoner of Indian Guyanese heritage, with friends of African, Indian and Chinese Caribbean heritage, as well as Mexican, Turkish and European friends. In contrast to this diverse social mix, I am trying to find my place in an ever-polarised world. To my understanding, after reading Walter Rodney’s book A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905, the word creole means mixed and has come to mean, African heritage with a European influence as in the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean. However, the process of creolisation can be applied to anyone living under a colonial system that has an identity within the mix of that country. Seeing Sam Selvon, and his writing within the context of the wider Trinidadian and Caribbean diaspora, I can’t say that I can identify as creole or creolized. I can however say that I am mixed. I am not half caste, I am multi-caste. Now, who are you?
illustration: Bazik Thiana
Chelsea Chohan The works presented in this anthology are a visual depiction of the psychological journey of my struggle with mental health. The oil paintings are a manifestation of my issues with a troubled childhood, leading to alcohol and drug abuse. The process of painting and drawing consist of using both oil painting and permanent marker; the process is what I call projectile painting. The images are usually created within the space of two hours, it is a very visceral experience consisting of a short trance state that allows me to peacefully or maniacally unburden myself of (what I can only deem as) my demons. The creation of these paintings allows me the freedom to remain resilient against my psychological proclivity, and are an integral part of maintaining my mental health. I have never received any formative training in these artistic processes, and have stubbornly refused to learn artistic techniques, as I will lose the very essence of what my work entails. I believe my process must remain visceral. My work is riddled with mistakes, smudges and imperfections, but I refuse to have it any other way.
Illustration: Chelsea Chohan
Illustration: Chelsea Chohan
One African Caribbean Woman’s Journey Through Mental Ill-Health Amsara What Is Mental Health? “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected.” From: Mentalhealth.gov.uk I am an African Caribbean Woman born in the late 1950’s, in London, of Jamaican parents. I have situated myself in this way to explain the feelings and observations that I have decided to share publically for the first time. I experienced ‘depression,’ which is now called a form of mental illness, in my mid-thirties. At that time, what stood out in those two words was the emphasis on the phrase ‘mental.’ It was therefore a condition you kept to yourself and didn’t really acknowledge, in some cases, even to yourself! On reflection the main reasons for my condition stemmed from a lack of self-worth, maybe due to bullying that I experienced as a primary school child. Consequently, I made poor decisions in my choices of partners and allowed them to treat me with disrespect and disregard, because I put my feelings for them above my regard for myself. This behaviour created internal conflict and confusion that in turn led to pain/dis-ease, which presented itself as depression. As a problem solver, I paid for private counselling sessions. Sometimes they helped and on occasions they didn’t, but they did provide a space for reflection, self-challenge and perspective. I suffered from chest pain, and my consultant identified that this physical issue might be due to depression and stress, thus referred me to one of his psychiatric colleagues. She made a link between the mind and the body. I can’t recall exactly what the psychiatrist spoke to me about, but I do remember that she suggested putting me on an anti-depressant. This alarmed me as I had heard horror stories of people becoming addicted and reliant on them. However, I did agree to take them for a short period of time, and I think I found them useful. I went on to try homeopathic remedies; this is my preferred form of treatment, and I found this approach extremely helpful.
Illustration: Bazik Thlana
Illustration: Henrieta Lau
I read self-help books by writers such as Iyanla Vanzant and Louise Hay. Iyanlaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work and live presentations were particularly helpful as they located deeply held feelings experienced by Black women, which are often ignored. They also drew on her life experiences, so were very real. Her strategies for changing my outlook and perspectives were revelatory. Her daily meditations helped me to enforce positive thinking and deeply affected me. They are part of a number of things that have really helped me to be in the positive place where I currently find myself. Additionally, I have drawn on the services of a long-standing friend who practices several forms of natural healing. Fused with this approach, and my counselling sessions with a new counsellor helped me to see patterns in my behaviour that went back to my childhood. I was then able to identify the damage, hurt and anger caused by historic bullying. Nevertheless, I am very aware that I have been fortunate enough to improve my financial situation, thus I am able to work part-time and to have the freedom to attend numerous events and activities, which have also paid a large part in my improved well-being. In recent times I have had three bereavements: mother; uncle; and aunt. Yet in these dark times, I have been able to get off of my knees and be in a better place faster, because of my ongoing and holistic access to mental health support. That is why it is important to remember that whilst life can be very fearful, painful and dark, with the right support you can recover and begin to regain contentment and happiness.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Fused with this approach, my counselling sessions helped me to see patterns in my behaviour that went back to my childhood. I was then able to identify the damages, hurt and anger caused by historic bullying.â&#x20AC;?
Illustration: Henrieta Lau
“As soon as they enter they are overwhelmed by the distance, people and most of all the language. Their abilities are tested from the moment they enter the country. According to Minho, every sign, every interaction, from ‘buying a bottle of water’ to reading posters ‘reminds them that they do not belong.’ Excerpt from ‘Why International Students Have Stopped Trusting Goldsmiths’ by Mehroz Shaikh, published by The Leopard, December 2018 Read the full report: bit.ly/LeopardDec2018
An Eye-Identity Bazik Thlana the human eyes are the windows to his soul a window for looking in, looking out and illumination the windows to my soul are framed by small and narrow panes; polite passers-by in Delhi have sometimes asked me if I could see clearly through them i stare at the mirror and fake a smile: my eyes tell a different tale. i wonder if anyone would notice, i’m hoping someone would i hope they’d take a peek and see what’s inside i make my way outside i’m called a Chink - a reference to my eyes i suppose i take it in stride i’m still faking that smile but i’m tearing up again damn these eyes! did anyone see? they never do. nobody peers through the window when they judge it by the panes they gaze, they stare, they pre-suppose yet again my entity has been summed up by my eye-dentity a Chink - a flaw in the armour of unified India? a chink in the chain of uniformity? i’m taking it back a Chink - it’s narrow and slanted: it’ll do to let the light in if only they’d look in
Illustration: Bazik Thlana
Illustration: Bazik Thlana
Illustration: Bazik Thlana
Editors Farida Momtaz Farida is a Writer, Poet and an MA Cultural Studies student at Goldsmiths. Her research focuses predominantly on the British Bangladeshi identity and experience. Through the lens of poetry and fiction, her research provides new ways of understanding creative processes that offer insights into human emotion, thought and action, and alternative imagined futures. faridasworld.wordpress.com
Illustration: Paula Segre
Kevin Bathman Kevin is a Designer and Curator who is passionate about advancing social change through creativity. He believes that the arts are an untapped avenue for catalysing change. Currently pursuing an MA in Cultural Studies, his creative and academic areas of interest encompass the social, political and cultural landscape of Malaysia and South East Asia. carnivalofthebold.com
Writers Amsara Asmara is a Media, Communications and Cultural Studies student. She is interested in Black culture, and explores this through film, theatre, music and the arts. Sarah Benhamou Sarah is currently studying an MA in Media and Communication at Goldsmiths. A Writer, Poet and Essayist, she is working on her first novel. Her work explores the navigation of love, identity, tragedy and romance in contemporary society.
Muna Hassan Muna is a community organiser and campaigner. She currently works as a Youth Projects Officer with Race on the Agenda. She holds degrees in International Relations and Development, and Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy. Muna uses spoken word to tell stories about the intersections of womanhood, migration, Blackness and Muslim-ness, which continue to shape the myriad experiences that people like her face. Kameron Locke Kameron is currently an MA Musicology student at Goldmiths. He is a Classical and Jazz Musician in Voice and a Librettist. His work explores the role of identity and race within Western Classical Music, and their impacts on reception, awareness, and inclusivity in the canon. Akanksha Mehta Akanksha is a lecturer in Gender, Sexuality, and Cultural Studies, and the co-director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths. Akanksha currently convenes the module Race,
Empire and Nation, and her research lies at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, ‘everyday’ politics and violence. Mehroz Shaikh Mehroz is a BSc Digital Arts Computing student at Goldsmiths. Originally from Hyderabad; a Telugu, Urdu and Englishspeaking city in India, he was raised there and in Dubai, UAE. He is a news reporter at The Leopard; a student-run university newspaper at Goldsmiths. His course research, as well as his journalistic work, focuses on voices that are dismissed and neglected. Bazik Thlana Bazik is a Master Reseach in Curatorial/ Knowledge student at Goldsmiths. He defines himself as a socially conscious eccentric-owning a conscious refusal of a centrally defined axis as well as an unconventionality to his practice. His practice includes painting and drawing, installation, artistic performance and the curatorial. He make artist’s book, zines, comics and occasionally writes poetry. Abida Uddin Abida is a first year BA Media and English student at Goldsmiths. She is completely obsessed with true crime and sneezing dogs. Toni Morrison is her favourite author of all time, and Beloved is a book she holds dear. Tobi Yasin Tobi is mature student finishing his MA in Cultural Studies. His passion for Caribbean literature is reconnecting him to his Guyanese heritage, and Tobi plans to pursue a PhD to further research Sam Selvon, who is the subject of his current dissertation.
Chelsea Chohan Currently an MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy student at Goldsmiths, Chelsea is an artist who focuses primarily on painting distorted and eerie images, created through the process of projectile painting. She is also experimenting with moving images, film and sound to expand on her artistic methods and processes in order to create various forms of outlets of intense emotional experiences. Erica Ani Ezeogu Erica is a fist year Psychology student. She aims to dive into research on Neuroaesthetics to further her knowledge on the subject. Erica expresses herself through her paintings, illustrations, writing and new music. Aside from the arts, she takes an interest in sports. Henrieta Lau Henrieta is an art and community programmer originally from Vancouver, Canada. Living her entire life with chronic illness and anxiety and depression, her art serves as a key component to her personal therapy. Her programming, as such, tries to utilize the experiences of her personal life to help others explore identity and mental health through art and movement. Srikrupa Raghunathan Srikrupa is an activist, photographer and filmmaker from India. She has worked alongside oppressed communities (adivasis, dalits, peasants and pastoralists) towards sovereignty in India. She is currently studying an MA in Filmmaking (Screen Documentary) at Goldsmiths.
Paula Segre Paula is a BA Anthropology and Media student from Argentina. The main focus on her visual and academic work involves issues of representation and the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;performativity of appearingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, establishing links between anthropology and the visual. instagram.com/paul.com_ Ade Awodefaju Ade is London-based artist who believes that art does not discriminate, and it is for everyone without cultural or visual boundaries. Ade had been lucky to witness the transformative effect that art can have on an individual and on communities, especially when that individual and/or community have the chance to utilise art as a platform for expression. instagram.com/coldblackarts Balraj Bains Balraj focuses on arts that help to tell the stories and create experiences for people to connect with their authentic selves and create authentic connections with others. She wants to tackle social issues and norms through installations and multimedia art to look beyond who we are expected to be, and into who we want to and can be as humans. The power of introspection, finding strength in vulnerability and supportive community are key themes.
Michelle Huang Michelle is a student at New York University, studying Film/TV and Economics. Her work primarily focuses on Asian American narratives, primarily those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Vivian Tong Vivian is a freelance illustrator in San Francisco, California. Her work spans subject matters from folk creatures, street fashion, to positive affirmations and references to her own journey through mental health recovery. She is currently an MA Museum Studies student at San Francisco State University. instagram.com/sketchbeetleart
Tasnia Uddin Tasnia is a recent graduate from Brunel University, who studied Industrial Design and Technology. She is currently creating resources, for those who are newly diagnosed or still learning about epilepsy, by using illustrations to make it more enjoyable to read. instagram.com/epilepseed
Illustration: Erica Ani Ezeogu
Illustration: Srikrupa Raghunathan
An article in The Leopard in December 2018 states that many international students are not getting the kind of mental health support they need in higher education. This is one of the many critiques of the precarious position of under-represented communities at Goldsmiths. Invisible Voices is supported by the Alumni & Friends fund. Its aim is to showcase the creative work of ten BAME students at Goldsmiths, focusing on the theme of the invisibility of mental illness. It is an important topic to highlight, and one which is often ignored. It challenges hegemonic structures and empowers precarious voices. This anthology aims to break that cycle by creating a space for dialogue and discovery around mental illness, and how it impacts on those surrounded by it.
Cover illustration: Paula Segre Design: Kevin Bathman