The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
I read the incredible memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly several years ago and also watched the film. I nearly always prefer books over films as they can be more rich in metaphors and nuances. Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a stroke which left him with locked-in syndrome where his mind was mentally sharp and aware but his body was light a lead weight with paralysis of nearly his whole body.
He authored a memoir by blinking an eyelid with a helper writing down the letter he blinked to. A very long and tedious process to communicate. I still remember after initially wanting to die, he used the short time he had left to soar out of being trapped in his physical body into his imagination. He shared what he did and it was very inspiring. I believe the key to creativity is imagination.
I have been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder and I also have trauma and anxiety in the mix. I've experienced euphoria and everything going too fast then breakdowns plunging into severe depression. Like heaven and hell often at the same time.
My body cooperates most of the time but my brain doesn't. I have difficulty talking sometimes and trying to communicate what's going on in my head. My brain keeps forgetting yet can remember what happened decades ago and some things continue to haunt me. So my brain takes me to a magical place in my imagination but it's like a butterfly that will fly away if I don't capture it while I still remember it. Sometimes the medications affect me so bad I can hardly walk or talk.
I am doing a near impossible challenge for myself - writing fiction. Fiction is much more challenging for me than memoir as I need to remember what things I've made up and my mind keeps forgetting, so I draw mind-maps and art to help me remember. My grammar and spelling during the process is shocking but I just need to capture what's in my head and sort those bits out later. Today I woke up wanting to write a blog post. There are likely to be imperfections in my grammar and spelling as my brain is struggling to be organised. But I feel like I am writing something reasonably coherent.
My artwork as and writing gives me meaning and purpose. I'm collecting up my art intending somehow to do at least one exhibition (my vision is more than one) for awareness about mental health issues. Also to show how art can be used as therapy because of the long wait for mental health services. Most of my materials are donated such as bits of wood panels to paint on.
My wings have been broken many times but I am starting to fly now even though I've had many crash landings. I am determined that this Kiwi is going to fly. I can fly in my imagination on a jet plane lolly. I didn't think I can write fiction and it's more challenging for me but I know I can. I just need to believe in myself. Through Spinning Orbit, I'm sharing my creative process. It's taken me several months to develop a loose framework but I have now started writing snippets for chapters in no particular order - my brain doesn't work in linear order.
I've been like a butterfly, going through a transformation process, but now I'm facing my fears head on and starting to soar in my imagination like an eagle. I hope to inspire others to have a reason to keep living.
My page Spinning Orbit on Facebook, where I frequently post.
Xanthe is a self-advocate and 'fringe'/'outsider' artist and writer with a vision of an art exhibition and book launch. She has suffered from mental illness for over 25 years and has been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety.