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The Existential Circus

Although I am part of Mad Pride in response to the shaming by the sanatised, I do sometimes feel that madness is a terrible impersonator of the self. I think there is something to the fact that sometimes the self needs to be played badly, an existential tribute act, in order to maintain dignity.

One problem is being ridiculed for not surrendering the dignity.  One tragedy is that the self and its inadequate impersonation are both unpleasant acts on a mediocre bill.

I am not talking about semantics of what normality and madness is, and whether they are socially constructed terms or ideas. I am talking about the existence of these inexpressible but knowable experiences in the human world.

Some people tell me that there is no such thing as normal and jokingly say that they are not, but they haven't stepped outside normal long enough to know if you are not normal, you would know about it quickly and heartbreakingly. You wouldn't be incautious enough to say that it doesn't exist.

Those who say 'there is no such thing as normal' don't bring down psychiatric instutions (why do we need them if no-one is normal), they still laugh and avoid those dragged into them.

Madness reacts to the normal world of abuse, trauma and unfulfilled dreams, but madness is mediocre too. I am tired of its show. Its dance seeks grace but just steps on feet. Its orchestra plays on tortured animals. 

I laugh at both. I cry at both. 

I don't know how the show goes on. 

Posted by Dolly Sen, 29 September 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 29 September 2015

Some questions for my readers

Hello readers, hope you are all doing ok.

Next year I am going to be moving out of London to somewhere quieter. I have decided not to work in the mental health system any more, and am toying with the idea of making my art a private pursuit rather than a public one. I haven't had much luck with getting grants for my art, it is all self-funded and shared openly, but I do need pay the bills, etc.

So I want to know what do you get out of my art or blog to see if it is a thing I should keep continuing with? But I am also curious as to what people get, if anything, from my work.

Thanks :) 

Posted by Dolly Sen, 28 September 2015

Last modified by Dolly Sen, 28 September 2015

What Comfort Zone?

I created this collage recently in response to the idea of comfort zones. 

Part of mental health recovery rhetoric is being told by some psychiatric professionals we need to step out of our comfort zones. What comfort zones? Comfort zones are a middle class idea for people who haven't been brutualised, abused, humiliated, or deeply hurt in life.

I have no comfort zones. My hell might have cushions but it is still hell. I have a memory foam mattress on top of my bed of nails. My dreams haunt me rather than entertain. 

So what can society offer me if I step out of my so called comfort zone? The soul-numbing, exploitative 9-5? A world where we get angry at people escaping war but not at the people who profit from war? The amount of people who have a seething hate towards refugees that I have directed to the arms fair in London to point the hate in the right direction but won't do a thing about it makes me want to return to my hell.

There is so much pain in the world and I try to change it for the better but I feel like I am pouring thimblefuls of water on an apocalypse. There is no comfort zone inside or outside me, there is just choices in torture, with love and laughter dancing with the horror. Yet I accept life is beautiful.


Posted by Dolly Sen, 18 September 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 20 September 2015

Shame on the mental health system

Human beings are such strange creatures. I think sometimes some academics and mental health professionals alienate the experience they study by labels, words and concepts, and get angry when the people they work with or study don't 'engage' or yield to their so-called expertise. I have done a couple of workshops on shame recently to try and get people to feel it instead of intellectualise it.

Mad people are at the brunt of constant shaming by society, family, media, systems, etc, and also struggle with self-shame. I asked people to pick their smallest shame and share it with the group, as mad people are often ask to participate in their own shaming if they want to 'engage' with services.

Well, the outcome of both workshops was that some got it and took part, and some people could have torn me to pieces, some got extremely defensive, and intellectualised even more.

What was interesting, less people could look me in the eye. Welcome to our world, but you could leave the workshop, but some people can't leave the shame so many systems create.

Maybe a little poem called 'Shame on Mental Health System' will help some professionals see the invisible monologues they have with their 'patients'.


Tell us your shame
Tell me your most shameful secrets
You are not going to tell me?
Then you must be sick.

You need treatment.
You need my expertise.
My expertise means I can have no shame
I can hide it
But you must always tell me yours when you see me.
Must I restrain you to protect me from myself?
Here, have more shame to drown you.

You must engage.
You must engage in your shaming.
I don’t know why you are not getting any better.

Posted by Dolly Sen, 15 September 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 23 September 2015

what would you prescribe yourself?

I ran a creative workshop yesterday at the wonderful Dragon Cafe inspired by Prescription of Stars poem.

Here is what I said to people: "Fed up of being prescribed tablets? Here is a chance, using whatever creative method you wish, to take over an A4 prescription-style template to prescribe yourself what you think will heal your wounds."

The answers were interesting and sometimes poignant. The most popular answers were hugs, massages and good friendships. One person said psychiatry should stop prescribing grief and isolation. What would you put on your form? Of course, I put sheep on mine!

Posted by Dolly Sen, 8 September 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 9 September 2015