A Storied Mind
A short film depicting the realities of mental health illnesses. Giving hope to sufferers and their loved ones. Narration and poem by Nia Modley, videography by Lottie Barrett.
Six years ago to this day I was lying in bed, completely bed bound. I used to ski race and one evening during training in slalom, I had a big crash. Little did I know that was the day that would turn my life upside down.
Suffering with post-concussion syndrome and whiplash, I struggled to walk for more than a minute at the start, due to the pain, dizziness, sickness and drowsiness. Day after day in bed I couldn’t see the end to this nightmare. After about 3 months being bed ridden, I began to feel physically a lot better.
However, that’s when the flashbacks, hallucinations and voices entered into my head. I was 15 years old when I was admitted to a child and adolescent psychiatric hospital for my first admission. What followed was six years battling mental illnesses, hospital admission after hospital admission, I couldn’t see an end to it all.
It started with depression; a deep, dark, endless hole had consumed me. I lost all interest in everything. The voices and flashbacks were far too intense, they were terrifying. Life began to feel pointless, I didn’t want to be in the world anymore.
After two years battling with depression, I began to feel a huge lack of control, so I turned to food to control. My anorexia nervosa manifested extremely quickly, within five weeks I was admitted to an eating disorder unit. Things do get better though, I never in the 6 years of being unwell believed that. But it does happen. The dark stormy night has to eventually turn to blue skies and sunshine again.
While being bed bound due to my post-concussion syndrome, my dad decided to buy me a camera to try and get me to go into the garden, and on a good day to the park. This was the start of my love for photography. I started with black and white documentary photography. I then went on to take more conceptual, fine art portraits. A drastic change in style, but I loved what I was doing. I believe photography is what has kept me alive. Even in the darkest times I was able to look at my photos and feel proud.
Along my recovery I met Nia. We battled our illnesses and eventually overcame our anorexia. Nia who writes poetry, had written a poem for mental health awareness week. She asked if I could create a film to go with the poem. I was absolutely overjoyed and so excited to start this project together.
I was an 11-year-old who believed the world was my oyster. I could achieve anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. I was gregarious, outgoing and a lover of life. However, from the age of about 12 this outlook started to crack. What began as a niggle of not feeling ‘good enough’ (whatever good enough is), being unseen and out of control, developed into full blown anorexia at about 15 years old.
My anorexia, for a brief while, made me feel in control, like I didn’t need anything else in the world but it. It allowed me to tell the world that I wasn’t ok, without needing to say anything. People began to notice me, and at the time I mistook their caring as love. I believed that people saw me as a lot more loveable being sick.
However, my anorexia quickly began to stop working, it was almost my tool to deal with life and that tool stopped being effective. Fast forward a few years and it developed into bulimia, which was also accompanied by high anxiety. Despite the help I had received I wasn’t fully willing to get better, and to this day I don’t believe until youm have fully surrendered will recovery be possible.
After many a rock bottom, I decided that I really didn’t want to live like this anymore. My eating disorder was destroying everything in its path. The people around me were moving forward with their lives and I just felt like I was stuck in sinking sand. It was then that I found the courage that 11-year-old me had effervescing in her and decided to embark on recovery. I would love to say it’s been straightforward, but it’s been far from that. I hit a few more rock bottoms in my recovery, but I took it a day at a time and never gave up.
Throughout my recovery I realised that I needed to put words to how I felt. I could no longer use my body and mental health illnesses to explain it, even if it wasn’t to share with anyone, instead simply validation to myself that I wasn’t feeling so great. Half the time I felt like I didn’t even properly know what was going on inside, how could I try and explain this? However, one day I simply put pen to paper and let my heart unfurl.
It was an instant love affair, poetry gave me words, allowed me to express myself when I couldn’t find the words. It had no rules; I could end a sentence without a full stop and choose not to put a capital letter in the beginning, and I loved that. At the beginning I wrote poetry just for myself, an acknowledgment for how I was feeling, something to be proud of. It’s only in the last year or so that I have begun to share it with people around me. The kindness and identification I have received with it has been unbelievably heart-warming, and it makes me so inspired to share more.
I’m grateful today for my journey. I wouldn’t have the outlook upon life, the deep connections and friendship and my poetry had I not been ill. The journey I believe will never be a linear one, but I’m in a place today of contentment and happiness that I know my 11 year old self would be proud of, and just a few years back I never believed possible.