My piece in Bipolar UK’s 80/20 Exhibition

I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would never be able to open about my illness. I have spent so many years figuring out how to hide it, but increasingly it’s meant that a lot of the people I’m closest to don’t see me for months on end – somehow it’s easier to accept people being a bit pissed off that you’re never around than it is to think about them worrying about you, or fearing that you’ll become a burden upon them.

However, my lioness drawing is being featured in a collection based around the link between creativity and bipolar (manic depression), and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. I had the choice to either remain anonymous or to put my name to the piece, and I decided to be honest for once. Some people may have connected the dots when I was writing posts to go alongside Gar’s fundraising for Bipolar UK, but one of the reasons it’s really difficult to be up front about the illness is that the stereotypes around it are so incredibly misguided, so I was hoping to try to overturn some common misconceptions before I was open about it myself.

I’m also very fortunate in being able to focus my MA research on areas of bipolarity, and in doing so I’ve met a lot of amazing people who have been so incredibly accepting, supportive and, best of all, interested in learning about the reality of bipolar. Giving my first paper about my research into the social construction of manic depression was a real game changer for me; I feel now that I can be open about my own experiences, which is down to being around wonderful people and having such a supportive supervisor.

The link to the post about my piece in the Bipolar UK 80/20 collection is: 🙂

I have written a very short piece to go with my drawing – the whole thing reads a bit like Wonderland, but it is weirdly refreshing to be so scarily on display. In all honesty, I’m truly honoured to be featured in the collection at all. As a pretty wise guy said, ‘Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.’

I have copied in my part of the post below along with my lioness drawing:

“Depression is relentless in stripping your self-worth. I had my first severe hallucinations and delusions in bipolar depression at eleven, and since then recurring episodes have lasted from six months to over a year. Feeling such emptiness, hopelessness and shame has made me isolate myself, and when overcome with delirium, I can’t claw my way out of the rabbit hole.

“Periods of disassociation have nearly defeated me and although delirium is sometimes a wonderland of colours and curiosity, violence has dominated my experience of hallucination. When your consciousness and senses are tricking you, it can be impossible to call out the pack of cards for what they are.

Drawing has been invaluable in finding self-worth and a sense of safety. Art began as a means of reconciling the space between reality and terror, and I would draw the aftermath of violation, recreating it with a sense of wonder. Increasingly drawing became a sense of relief in the depths of depression and a way to manage the chaos of hypomania, so I started to draw beautiful things too – mainly animals like this lioness.”

“Now at 23, I cannot express how fortunate I am to be illustrating books and making art prints and to have the chance to research depictions of bipolar in my postgraduate degree. Discovering the association between creativity and bipolar has helped me override the shame associated with being chronically mentally ill and drawing has become one of the most important factors in the long-term management of my illness.

Dotwork Pen and Ink Lioness by Cerys Knighton

Thank you for reading, and thank you very much if you take a look at the art collection 🙂


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