Gone too Far? Or Is It Just Fiction For HORROR HALLOWEEN?

Have we not gone a bit too far today with the “outrage” against Asda and Tesco, with their Fancy Dress costumes?

Have we not lost perspective somewhat?This is a HALLOWEEN costume.

Every year we dress up in gore, blood, gruesome, horrific characters in the name of Halloween. I think we’ve gone a bit too far trying to ban any costume that includes the word psycho, mental or patient. This is HALLOWEEN!  Does censoring Halloween take things a little too far? This costume is based on a fictional character that you might find in a ghost/horror movie in an old Victorian Asylum – NOT reality. I don’t think we’re giving the general public enough credit to know that this is NOT what a person who suffers from a mental health condition actually looks like. It’s fiction. People know it’s based on horror movies, just like the Tesco version is based on a character out of a movie.  Hannibal Lector costumes – based on a film.  The  “mad Scientist” costumes are not a true representation of a scientist. The gruesome doctors don’t represent our National Health Service.  0039017025

Are we going to start banning Freddy Krueger? I can’t imagine he “represents” many burns victims any more than this costume represents people with mental health conditions.
Are we not ADDING to the stigma by our reaction to this? Not allowing fictional movie costumes for fear of offending is no better than removing the Golly-Wog doll from the jam jars.
I HAVE a mental health condition.  My journey has not been easy BUT it has made me the person I am today.  I have talked about it openly for many many years. I organised a large event in Chelmsford, Essex called “Make it Mental” in 2010, and before that there was nothing organised to celebrate World Mental Health Day in our local town. Now the NHS Mental Health Trust run something every year.
I rang in to the Dave Monk Show on BBC Essex this morning to put my point of view across; to highlight that I don’t think anyone would see this costume and think – Ah ALL people with Mental Health Conditions look like this. I think we’ve come a long way since those days. He thought it was quite a “funny costume” but that it was the name of it that was wrong. It would be no different had it been called AXE MURDER. Dave Monk pointed out to me that people are killing themselves because of the stigma of their conditions. That’s not due to this costume Or ANY of these costumes.

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That’s because we are not given enough information, starting in schools, that help us understand our mental health. That give us positive ways to look after it. We don’t have mind gyms in schools; but we do have Physical Education. People commit suicide mostly, (although not in all circumstances) because of a chemical imbalance in their brain and medical treatment that isn’t fit for purpose.   I waited 18 months for a talking treatment 11 years ago. I was given anti-depressants though – even though they could’ve made me manic. One of the most harmful side affects of anti-depressant is…suicidal tendencies!

I find people talking out on behalf of those of us who have severe mental health conditions because “they can’t stand up for themselves” does far more to enhance stereotypes of mental ill-health. There are hundreds, thousands of people living with mental health conditions every single day – and have perfectly “normal” lives. I’ve heard that been said so many times today. It isn’t necessarily stigma that stops people “coming out” about it either. Some may just not see it is anyone’s business. Just like I don’t tend to tell people I have Asthma. Or announce to the world that I had crabs when I was a teenager. Or that I maybe had food poisoning when I was in my twenties. Do we not make it more of a big deal by demanding people “come clean” about whether they have suffered from depression? Not EVERYONE who has had that experience will want to relive it. Not everyone wants to stay in that place and have found a way to move on, which is no mean feat!
I worked for a mental health organisation for 3 years and was in PR and Communication. Luckily it was a “service user” involvement network so having my particular label was relevant. I did talk about it. I organised awareness events; we had forums, campaigns, and while I still think those things are essential, I do think that we need a more balanced perspective of stigma. Moulding Futures, the organisation I set up when the company I worked for closed, initially carried on the work I’d started. What I found though was the more I focused on my own mental health condition, the more I talked about it, the more I retold my story, the more likely I was to prevent myself from moving on. Hearing others stories, and problems with the system surrounded myself in a negative environment.
When I was on the radio this morning someone called in and mentioned me and how lucky I was that I was so strong. That I was able to stay positive BUT that there were still so many who were not that strong and needed support. I haven’t always been this strong, or positive. Years ago I was homeless, then acrophonic and have been through a series of events that have created this strong woman I am today. I had support – that I sought out myself due to a failed system – from MIND, HomeStart, Families In Focus and I also had therapy. I waited – far too long for both CBT and Group therapy but I did get there in the end and I worked hard on myself. My understanding of me and how I work. I continue to work on myself, finding ways to stay positive, to find alternatives to the debilitating medication. I support any organisation that supports people and helps them to find something that makes them stronger, and gets them through the other side or finds ways to help them to manage the condition.
Moulding Futures went from mental Health Awareness events to creating the Share a Smile Campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of smiling and connecting with people every day, even just a “Hello”.  Even smiling to yourself when you don’t even feel like it has chemical benefits in your brain. This led on to the Giggle Together project after I trained as a Laughter Yoga facilitator and the huge benefits this has to everyone. Creativity, play, laughter, self- therapy. The more I focused things onto positive solutions, the less bouts of depression I had. Bipolar II is usually more depression than highs, but I started to feel so much better just by focusing on laughter, creativity, gratitude and surrounding myself with other people who were positive.I’m even training to be an NLP Coach.

I’m not always strong. I’m not always positive – I still have a condition after all. But I smile, laugh and have great pleasure in helping others to do the same. I help others find their own spinach! I even started stand up comedy! This gave me bounds of confidence and that has now led me into Performance Poetry. Filling my spare time with creativity through art, poetry and helping others, but my main job is caring for my son who has Autism.

Our problem isn’t fictional, over exaggerated Halloween Costumes – it’s that we pigeon-hole people into “normal” and “not normal”. That people are not seen as individuals – more of their label and the generalisation of that label. But that is JUST an image. If you don’t buy into it then don’t. Employers need to change their attitude to Mental Health and see people as individuals and can tap into someone’s talents but they need to be flexible.  SOME people are survivors of mental ill-health, SOME people don’t feel the need to talk about it – anymore than the time they broke their leg. Those that want to, do. More and more people DO talk about it, which is great, But not everyone should feel pressured into doing so, and that if they don’t they are hiding it. It’s a choice. And If someone were to call me a nutter – I’d probably agree, laugh and see the funny side because people who know me call me that. It’s endearing.  I am “quirky”. I’m UNIQUE. An extrovert, and I make things happen because of it. And I really LOVE who I am, finally at this stage in my life. But I LOVE me because I think my experiences have made me who I am today – that I was always meant to go along THIS road. I happen to have a mental health condition – or even just a hormonal imbalance. That’s not ALL of who I am though.
I’ve seen so many people who DO have mental health conditions, some who have been sectioned, comment that this whole thing has done nothing more than make them laugh, and laughter is great!  Americans are so much more positive than us. They tend not to take themselves too seriously and I think we could learn a lot from them. No doubt the sales of straight Jacketed costumes will rocket to the sky this Halloween. Ironically, no doubt, worn by some of the people who have a mental health condition who find the whole thing ridiculous. Laugh more, smile more, play more. Try not to worry about what others think – the only person you need to impress is yourself. And we need to change MENTAL EDUCATION to give the next generation a fighting chance.
One in FOUR people will be affected by a mental health condition – and I’ve never seen anyone looking like that costume wandering around.  It’s NOT reality – It’s extreme – just as Halloween has always been; tapping into people’s fears on one night of the year. I wonder where it leaves us now with other costumes? Where will it leave Halloween? Risk assessments? Trigger warnings? No blood, no spiders for those with a phobia? It’s supposed to be a bit of FUN! People getting stressed about this probably caused more harm than laughing about the far fetched nature of it all. This costume wasn’t in the shops to mock people with mental ill-health – just for laughs. It’s a horrific costume for Halloween and there is a HUGE difference.

My Nan turns 100 next month and the most valuable thing that she taught me, and probably why she is still here today, was don’t take life too seriously; if you have laughter and love then everything else falls into place.


Reading My Poems

So recently I took a course run by the fabulous SUNDOWN ARTS in Southend, on Performance Poetry. I absolutely loved it! I think the year or so I have been doing stand-up comedy has really helped give me the confidence to get up on stage and perform. It was the suggestion of my partner, Chris, to start adding in my humorous verses into my comedy routine, but I do think they deserve a place of their own. So I’m starting another journey. I really enjoy sharing my poems. And I love that people get to hear them how I want them to be heard in this way.

I am rehearsing for an open mic spot I have next week and so have been recording myself so that I can learn them, work on the actual performance of the poem etc. It’s very different though. I find myself far more self conscious than I would be on stage in front of an audience. It is a great way to learn and improve though.

This one is not one that I’ll be performing BUT I do want to share. It’s by no means how it will end up. When I performed it at the workshop it was far better but this is a recording – you get the general idea, but, like I said, it’s much better live.  This poem came about when someone saw me and Jamie out and about while he was having a meltdown. I give you Autism Mum:

Illustration Friday: Together

I’ve not really done any art for a while as I’m in a lot of pain – waiting for my hysterectomy which was postponed until the 7th of October… I also haven’t entered Illustration Friday for way way way too long. This week I saw the prompt and this idea came into my head so, it’s only a quicky but at least I did something! 😀

Prompt is TOGETHER…

Illustration Friday: Together

Illustration Friday: Together

Nobody Is Perfect

Nobody is perfect.

People are made up of choices,

choices based on experience, pavements full of heartache,

but also love and laughter.

Of illness, addiction, abuse, maybe.

The people who overcome or even live with, such burdens,

large or small, find themselves stronger, deeper, and changed.

They find that this was the path that they had to go down;

to become the person they were always meant to be.

For it was just their route to becoming the best version of themselves..

and they keep going,

through more and more – head held high knowing that everything is as it should be…

That there IS a reason for this.

 It’s just part of the journey they must travel.

 To be the best that they can be.

By Tracy Shave – copyright 2013 – please do not copy my work..

Let’s Get Organised!

Well it’s been a rather long time since I blogged – apologies/lucky you depending on how much you like receiving rambles from me!

Unfortunately I’ve been a bit unwell of late, have been in hospital and it’s all resulting in me having a full hysterectomy. Yeah, quite a big deal but I’m assured by dozens of women that it will be the best thing I’ve ever done. I was due to go in on Monday the 9th but this has had to be rescheduled to October now and so I’ve decided to spend this extra time getting organised!

While I can, I thought it best to get straight to work organising my studio.  It is such a mess!!


I’ve not been in there for a while (as it’s been the 6 weeks school holidays) but when I went in there the other day it looked like the mess fairies have been having a whale of a time! They particularly went mad on the glitter, ribbon, glue. I stood with my hands on hips so they would see my disapproving stance and see I mean business this time!

So for this week (and perhaps for the whole month) I am trying to finally get my studio into a state where I can actually create in there again! It’s harder than I thought it would be. It already looks so much worse BUT I know it will be worth it in the end and while I’m recovering I’d like to be able to sit and paint in a calm, environment.

The next challenge will be to maintain it – and to be able to do that “stuff” needs a home. I’m taking photographs throughout this process and will share when it’s all done. Hopefully with some amazing space saving solutions that I’m sure will come to me… some day soon…. 🙂

How many times have you thought of an art project, remembered buying just what you needed but now have no idea where it is, and just buy more??

My Heart is Breaking….Poor Tiny Tubby..

Yesterday was a very sad day. I can’t begin to tell you how heartbroken I am. I felt maybe I was over-reacting but I’m not because 15 small pieces of me died.  Someone threw my artwork away! I’ll tell you the whole story.

A few years ago I created the Tiny Trail. It’s an art trail/treasure hunt for children and I made it when I was involved in the adult art trail, who wanted to get children involved. I came up with this idea of having mini-worlds in the same venues as the artwork so that the children would encourage their adult keepers to see art – even those who wouldn’t even think of it.

I worked my butt off getting 15 scenes made in time for the trail. I had stickers printed, maps made and the children loved it. I was lucky enough to be around at the HQ when a little girl had completed it all and it made my heart sing. I did that. In every scene I put my heart and soul there. I searched the house for tiny things I could use. Some scenes were based all around one single find. This was my treasure hunt too.

I also had recently made a Tshirt for Tubby – my partner Chris Pegley. It is his nickname and one night we were chatting and he said in a Yoda voice…”Mmm Tubby one you are” to which I added, “The waist is large on this one”. It was hilarious. Oh how we laughed, with a bit of wee no doubt. (sorry).  I decided to make him a tshirt (like you do) and designed this graphic..

Tshirt Graphic

And in a true “Traciness lightbulb” moment I decided to make the Tiny Trail “THE ADVENTURES OF TUBBY”. He came round one night to find 15 small cork versions of himself:

Tiny Tubby

Creating the trail in such a small time-frame had, if I’m honest, made me a little insane. You can imagine his face when he turned up to see an army of mini versions of himself on my table. I wanted each scene to have a Tubby. I thought it would add to the wonder for the children.. Perhaps they could meet the real Tubby at an event in the future. It opened up my mind to so many more possibilities for the Trail beyond this one.

I did it. I made 15 scenes by the deadline and took them to their venues and has since travelled to other towns, has entertained both adults and children in the Children’s waiting room of a local community hospital for 6 months, came with me to show some children in a school how to make their own worlds, and was due to be on display once more this July. It has been in storage. I was told it would be safe there and I figured it would be fine there. Life hasn’t been very easy this year and trails are usually in the summer so Tubby was left where he was. I’d made new scenes for one of the trails and when old scenes became a bit worn out I’d recycle pieces I wanted to keep and make a new scene…

So – I’ve been trying to organise collection of the trail pieces so that I can get them ready for this years adventures. It took 3 weeks for them to get back to me only to tell me that “it must’ve been thrown away as it’s not here anymore. All I can do is apologise”. BOOM! Just felt my heart lodge itself in my throat and it’s not really left. I had no idea I would be so upset over little cork people. Silly really but my word did I cry yesterday.

All that work.. no, it’s not even the work… each piece meant so much to me. Tubby and I worked on this together in the end as I ran out of time. He made 2 scenes himself! I made individual pencils for the people in his “cork board meeting”.  I had plans for them all. 3 weeks has gone by where I could’ve been making new scenes. The next trail was the 20th of July but I have to go and have surgery and will be recovering in a week so this one has had to be cancelled.  😦 I’m so very sad.

I’m not going to give up though! I want to recreate it and I need your help. I need to raise some funding to pay for a new Tiny Trail and I wonder if I could ask you for a small donation to help? Art trails have very small budgets and can’t afford to pay for this kind of thing. Even if it’s just a few £s or $s. Please help me recreate the Tiny Trail and bring back Tubby and his friends so that they are able to have more adventures this year.

Thank you! A big thanks also to the women over at Magically Mixed Media – one of the facebook groups I belong to. You were awesome yesterday in supportive grieving! I really hope that I’ll be able to move on from this… it may just be little scenes of silliness to most but it meant so much to me and I put my heart and soul into every single one. It’s such a waste! Luckily I take photographs galore in my life and had plans for this trail beyond using just the physical scenes and I guess this will push me to doing those. Look out for that! For now though here are a couple of those photographs in a tribute to the lost Tubby Adventures. I hope there will be more…. one day.

How To Use “Altered Text” in a Journal Page – (or at least how I did it)

Starting... with somebody else's words..

Starting… with somebody else’s words..

Editing videos always seems like such a mammoth task to me, because it’s something I’ve not really done before. I’ve been putting it off and have video footage sitting waiting, but something else always come up.

Well I decided to just go for it and give it a go. I started with the video introducing the Guinea Pigs and then went straight into this one. I LOVED IT!! It’s just like creating another piece of artwork as you play with it, piece it together and mould it just how you like it. I even contacted Trace Bundy and asked if I could use his music in my videos. I didn’t even think he would reply but because this is what I listen to when I paint – I thought it would be nice for you to hear that too. He did reply – and said yes!! I’m off to see him in September LIVE! Can’t wait.

So… getting off the point really (no change there then – oh shiny thing!) here is my first edited art video. I wanted to show you how to use “Altered Text” in a journal page.. Just in case you don’t know “Altered Text” is where you use either a magazine page, page from a book, photocopy of a page etc… and you then find your own statement within that sheet of paper among the words… instead of you cutting out words and sticking them on in the order and sentiment you want – you have to search and let the page speak to you…

I really hope you enjoy it – and that it inspires you to give it a go! Also let me know what you think.. it’s always good to get some feedback – even if it is just a “HIYA!!!!” – otherwise it’s a bit of a lonely place, (and people think I’m strange when I leave the house because I’ve not had any adult interaction for a while… very strange!) 😀 This page was actually started late at night – then I left it and went to bed. I then had one of those days – one where I think I experience every single emotion all before 12pm. Joy, pride, excitement, sorrow, understanding, empathy, deep sadness, anger, rage then peace. It was a very busy morning. I felt overwhelmed and thought I was going to spiral into despair at the overload… so I picked up my journal and just did. This is the result.  I wasn’t thinking of the art.. just getting out of my own head.

There will be plenty more where this came from! Take care!

Hearts, hugs and giggles..