Friday, 14 October 2011

Ian Springham - Portrait of a talented artist

One of the great pluses of working for a mainstream organisation like 'Imagine' is the opportunity it gives to meet and work with a diverse range of talented people.  The artist and painter Ian Springham has tutored in mixed media for Imagine.  He also co-organised an exhibition at Wimbledon Library gallery.  This is Ian's story:

'In my 30s, I experienced a series of breakdowns far beyond anything thitherto experienced. It felt as though the entire Universe had exploded, the echoes of which long reverberated in my psyche.

Whilst trying to find appropriate help, I had to deal with an ever-more bewildering set of diagnoses, as I revealed more of my inner world. My labelling starting with Panic Disorder and went through to Borderline Personality Disorder and beyond ..

Despite this admirable list, there seemed to be little means of help available and whilst awaiting therapy, as well as researching and joining groups online such as BorderlineUK and PersonalityPlus, I joined the Service Users Network. However, what I really needed was one-on-one psychotherapy. After incessant badgering from my wife, 13 psychotherapeutic sessions became available. Despite confirming many of my worst fears, they were over before I could start to stuff the released demons back into their respective bottles.

Further pressures from my wife brought about a 40-week series of sessions with an esteemed psychotherapist - such was the complexity of the presenting disorders. Having reached a greater understanding and acceptance of myself, there also being no more therapy available on the NHS, I set upon a haphazard course through Alcoholics Anonymous, Croydon College, and Merton Adult Education’s art classes for people similarly troubled.

There was no stopping me. I blossomed through art and Imagine Mental Health eventually invited me to run their art sessions. This was the outwardly visible start of rebuilding my life, as I found I could use my previously untapped empathy and experiences to help others. Classes and exhibitions of artwork followed, giving confidence in both mine and others’ recovery. Finally I’d found a way through.

Later the MACS drug & alcohol project further extended belief in my artistic and mentoring skills, and lead to me volunteering for the online forum that Rethink Mental Illness provides. I put longstanding IT skills and online experience developed as coping mechanisms, to better and wider use. RethinkTalk is an online community for everyone affected by severe mental illness to exchange ideas, opinions, artwork, and support. My roles there as moderator, guide, advocate, activist, friend, mordant artist, and occasional wit, have hopefully also helped others explore their situations in a safer, more supportive environment.'
Ian Springham

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