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Tyttö olet helmi! -hankkeella oli ilo työskennellä 4.–6.9.2018 kansainvälisen vieraan kanssa. Australialainen taiteilija Chloe-Rose Thomas kertoo blogissaan omasta matkastaan liittyen anoreksiasta toipumiseen sekä pohtii ulkoisen tilan vaikutusta mielentiloihin.

My stay in Paimio marked a very special anniversary in recovery from anorexia and my career as an artist.
Exactly eight years earlier, on the 5th of September 2010, I woke for the first time in a psychiatric hospital. On the 5th of September 2017, I woke in a bedroom in Melbourne and threw away nearly all of my belongings. And this year, on the 5th of September 2018, I woke in Paimio as an artist.
In 2017 I knew something needed to change. I was relapsing into Anorexia for the fourth time in nine years and felt this time I might have taken it too far. I was losing hope and didn’t want to go back into the hospital and so this time, I examined my bedroom and the way I was living. My room was in complete disarray. It was disorderly, chaotic, and lifeless. Exactly the way my mind felt.
I decided it needn’t always be this way. I imagined how I wanted to feel and what it might be like to live without anxiety.
I wanted to feel calm. I wanted a place I could start and end my day that was dependably gentle and safe. I wanted a place I could care for myself. I wanted a place that looked after me the way the way I looked after it and I wanted a place I could feel accepted, loved, respected, and warm. I wanted a home.

And so, I decided to build one. I would build a bedroom that reflected the kind of person I hoped to be. A bedroom that was beautiful and functional; conceptual and safe; uncluttered and sentimental.

I read books about architectural theory and looked to designers and philosophers as I gradually stripped my life of what wasn’t necessary. I considered how my outer space was affecting my inner space. I thought of Alvar Aalto and the way he built the Sanatorium in Paimio to heal tuberculosis patients with sunlight, minimal noise, natural timber finishes and curved furniture.

I thought of the people and places that made me feel calm. I removed everything that didn’t bring me this feeling until I had almost nothing left. I was surprised. I’d been completely unaware of how damaging my environment was.

I rearranged the furniture until I found perfect harmony. I closed my eyes, listened to the silence and fixated on the feeling of how I wanted to wake.

In the silence, I finally heard what my body was telling me: I needed to let go completely. I needed to give my mind the same respect I’d shown my bedroom and allow it to empty, grieve, let go of negative feelings, and reassemble the parts of itself it liked.

I did this. Again, I was surprised by the space this afforded me. My mind felt like a savannah that I only I inhabited. I cared less about what people thought of me and whether they approved of my lifestyle. I felt capable and in control.

I realised my mind might believe anything I told it.This time I told myself the opposite of what I always had. I told myself I was capable of anything. I told my brain that without depression and an eating disorder I’d be capable of so much more. I told myself I could build the life I wanted and the kind of person to fit inside it. I told myself again and again until eventually, I believed it.

I wasn’t sure it would work. I wasn’t sure I would wake with less anxiety or that The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare would suggest joining them in a collaboration in Finland one year later.

In Paimio when I woke on the 5th of September, I thought about this. I thought about the times I was too scared to leave my bedroom and the times I was too weak to drive a car. I thought about my family who came close to losing their daughter. I thought about the friends who allowed me to cry on their couch and I felt an immeasurable sense of hope.

 

I was on the right side. The side of the hospital with staff and office chit-chat. I was in Finland with a brain and a camera I was once too depressed to use. I was 12 months relapse-free and part of the conversation. I was in awe of my brain, in awe of Alvar Aalto and in awe of the power of space, both metaphorically and physically.

Talking with the women from The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, I saw how deeply people care for those suffering from anxiety and how we are all shaped by our surroundings. I felt for the first time, I was truly on the other side and that if I had done it, if I had managed to overcome a brain controlled by anxiety, the young women who participate in the ”Girl, you are a Pearl” program have very bright futures to look forward to.
Chloe-Rose Thomas