For Roshie Trott, entering artwork in this year’s MindFrame PhotoVoice Exhibition was a major triumph.
She has four pieces in the show of work by Mid-Atlantic Wellness clients on now at the Bermuda Society of Arts.
Last year, she was in a very dark place.
“In November, I was suicidal,” she said.
Her depression was triggered by fibromyalgia, a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. The pain became so bad, she had to quit her job in the education system.
“I became so anxious that before I could go anywhere, I would have to go back inside and check at least four times to make sure that the stove and lights were off,” she said. “I would wake up in the middle of the night, crying and crying.”
She had always loved art, but became increasingly frustrated with it.
“The fibromyalgia impacts my left side and I am left-handed. I tried with my right hand, but my art just was not up to the standard I wanted it to be at. I would tear it up after doing it.”
Some of the people in her life were less than supportive. They saw seeking help from a mental health professional as weak or even irreligious.
“In the Christian faith you have to seek God,” she said. “The people I knew would say, what about your faith?”
She even approached a few counsellors but her trust level was not there, and it did not work out.
“I knew there were resources out there, but did not want to go to them because of the stigma behind it.”
She put on a brave face to the world, but was internally considering ending her own life.
“I don’t think people realised how bad it was,” she said. “When people are suicidal they do not want people to know. They put on a smile, especially if they are a leader in the family and people depend on them.”
Then one day, frightened by her own thoughts, she called the 24-hour MWI hotline for people in mental health crisis.
“A lady answered. I don’t know who she was, but she was awesome. She was so kind.”
Ms Trott had heard so many negative rumours about MWI, but the team there showed her only kindness.
“The team actually rallied around me and made me feel supported and grounded. I did not feel hopeless any more and I did not feel like I was helpless.”
She was treated like a person with a purpose.
“They don’t make decisions for you, they help you make the decisions. They bring out what is in you and help you become better.”
Doctors at MWI put her on medication for her anxiety.
“I know that it helped me,” she said. “It calmed me down. I can’t say that I take it as regularly as I should, but when I don’t take it, I get antsy. Taking it keeps me steady.”
She was also assigned an art therapist, who helped her see that her art did not have to be perfect.
“We talked through strategies to help me relax through it,” Ms Trott said. “Now I do not do art with such a rigid experience. I just do it to have fun. It has become a tool that helps me to relax.”
She put a lot of her emotions, good and bad, into her artwork. The hard part has been analysing her work, later, with her therapist.
“When she started interpreting it and asked me to interpret it also, that is what blended it together and made it a great help.”
She saw the power of her work, one day, when she sent a doodle to one of her friends.
“She had a daughter who was suffering from trauma and was not talking,” Ms Trott said. “The little girl took one look at the doodle and said, that is how I feel. She had not spoken in three years. From that experience, I learnt not to hate my pictures but to keep them because art comes in all forms. If I don’t appreciate it, someone else will.”
She now goes to art therapy at least once a week. If she cannot make it to the hospital, she does her therapy online.
MWI helped her turn her life around, despite the constant pain of fibromyalgia.
“It helped me to appreciate who I am. I have the keys now to fight depression.”
She is a lot more outgoing.
“I don’t walk with my head down any more. When people put me down now, I think uh, you have the issue, not me, because I am getting help.”
A year ago she would not have considered putting her art in a show. Seeing her work go up before the opening last Friday made her proud.
Pointing to one colourful portrait, she said: “This piece shows the stress that I was in and the warrior in me. It represents the different scenarios I have been through that just ran into one another, so I became overwhelmed.”
She wanted to share her story to encourage others struggling with mental illness to reach out for help.
“Don’t worry about what other people think of you. You have to take care of you. If you are suffering from depression, or some other issue, please seek help. Getting help means that you are strong. Reach out, don’t be ashamed.”
Ms Trott said some people worry that if they go to MWI the staff will tell their story to someone else.
“But my trust has always been kept at MWI. What I tell the staff there stays with them.”
MindFrame PhotoVoice Exhibition is on at the BSoA at City Hall in Hamilton until November 7.
For the MWI 24-hour hotline for people in mental health crisis call 239-1111.