The doctors here at the psychiatric clinic have told me that I am holding too much in. They tell me that this is the place where I’m not supposed to have a mask. I don’t think of myself as someone who wears or hides behind a mask. If anything, I tend to be brutally honest about myself and my art. But in recent years, I have built a wall between my internal experiences and others' experiences of me. I am open about having a mental illness but I am not open about what that entails, particularly the damage it wreaks, to myself and others.
I am, by clinical definition, insane almost all of the time. Over the past 20 years, I have rarely been 'normal' or what mental health professionals describe as 'well'. When someone asks how I am and I tell them I'm well, I mean I'm coping, which is about as well as I get. My early strategy for coping with my worst episodes was to withdraw. The rest of the time, I pretended to be sane as best I could. Those who were closest to me (and there are few) always suffered because it was impossible to hide it from them. They were involuntarily strapped to my roller coaster of psychotic delusions, paranoia, obsessions, auditory hallucinations, impulsive emotionally based decisions, distractibility, doubt, self loathing and rage. Nothing much has changed.Other than the odd crying jag, my meltdowns have not been public. I’ve regularly had psychoses and delusions but on the whole, I’ve managed to keep the worst of my madness private. I've had to: to build a career, to maintain relationships, to make art.I used to think that if people knew about my instability, they wouldn’t trust any my ideas, let alone respect my decisions. The fact is that I’ve been this way throughout my entire career: throughout every exhibition, every interview, every interaction with collectors, every blog entry, every public appearance, every success and every failure. I have tried very hard not to let my internal experiences fuck up my external ones, with varying degrees of success. But my being mad makes my every success assailable, subject to question. I am always asked if my drive for success is 'good for me'.Over the past couple of years, especially since my father died, I’ve withdrawn further from other people and from myself. I have come to loathe what madness has done to me. I try to take responsibility for it and develop skills to deal with it. But I have come to hate it – and with it, my self – and in many ways, I've stopped dealing with it as well as I should. I don’t go there anymore in my art. In the past year or so, I’ve made some of my best art but I’ve stopped making anything that involves revealing much about myself. I tried to convince myself that this was a good thing: after all, my mental condition shouldn’t have anything to do with others' experience of my art or me. But it has. The last thing I ever wanted to be a crazy artist. But in the end, that is what I am. Not making art that is tinged by my madness hasn’t made me any more sane – even if I still suspect it has made me a better artist. If anything, it has had the opposite effect. Locked inside me with no outlet, my madness has grown restive and become less manageable. Denying myself access to the mad parts of me has greatly reduced the resources I have to to draw on when I make art. So I've decided to let it out – or, perhaps more accurately, to let you in. I don't know how you'll react – I guess there'll be another slew of unwanted advice from strangers – but I know that if I don't, it will suffocate me.