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Interview and images by Samantha Moss

Lucy a painter from Rosebud who likes nature and science. Lucy works part time in a research lab where she gets to look after some nice animals like sharks and axolotls and do cool things with microscopes and in her free time she paints. Lucy has a studio at commonfolk coffee in Mornington for the next few months if people want to visit.

What is your personal experience with mental illness?

I’m walking with my old friend the black dog. He’s been following me around for most of my life. In the last few years anxiety has come alongside too. I’m getting used to having them around though and I’m getting good at managing it. I’m in a much better place at the moment than where I’ve been in the past but I’m always wary that it could be only a temporary state.

How does your mental illness manifest physically, mentally and emotionally?

A lot of really mean self-talk and hopelessness. I know I’m hard to be close to because I become very negative and unmotivated. I also struggle to cope with ordinary tasks like making phone calls or filling up my car with petrol. I always feel guilty about the burden my illness places on those close to me.

Can you tell us a little about your experience taking medication and dealing with the stigma that surrounds medication?

I take a lot of pills every day to feel well. It’s taken a long time to get the medication “right” for me but now it’s working well and I know I can’t do without it. I’ll probably be on it forever but that’s okay with me. I don’t worry about having to take drugs to feel “normal” because how I feel without them is so much worse. I know I’m still me inside. I think the stigma about taking medication to treat mental illness is such a shame when it becomes a barrier to people getting well. Medication is such a powerful tool in the fight against any illness - why should mental illness be any different?

What have you implemented into your daily life to combat your mental illness?

I had to stop working full time because I just kept burning out. At the moment all I can manage is four days a week. On a work day I always make time for morning tea! (Sometimes I even have afternoon tea too!) I use my day off to have coffee with my mum, walk on the beach with my dogs and collect shells, and paint. It’s what helps ground me and fills up my soul.

How do you use creativity as an outlet for your mental health?

Painting is like therapy for me. I can paint for hours and not even notice the time. I don’t think about anything else while I’m painting either which is so restful for my anxious mind.

How does your mental illness affect your art and vice versa?

When I’m low I always think my art is crap and I don’t feel like painting and I get embarrassed about showing people my paintings. That’s when I usually paint over stuff! I’ve learned to just get paper out and paint a messy abstract face or something fun when I feel like that instead of trying to do something serious when I’m feeling critical.

Can you tell us about your upcoming exhibition and how your mental health influenced this body of work?

Over the past 12 months I have painted a collection of paintings I am calling ‘Fond Farewell’. They are markers along a path from a place of darkness to a state of balance. They are pictures about healing and ritual. Some are inspired by the small and significant acts of self-therapy I found myself performing in my attempts to get “better”. An overall theme is the willingness to “try anything” - dabbling with the mystical and unknown, collecting totems and icons of protection in attempts to get well. I’ll be having an exhibition of this body of work at the Meeniyan Art Gallery in June. Opening Sunday 24 June at 2pm with drinks and nibbles and running through till 29 July. I would love it if people would come along!

Do you have any advice or any last words for anyone who might be dealing with mental illness?

I think I’d like to give permission to people to use whatever treatment works for them for dealing with their illness. If that is medication, if that is yoga and cutting back from work or if it is something more mystical that you find that is helping you. Anything that works - grab onto it and keep striving for wellness because there is no need to stay in a bad place forever.

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