The hidden nature of a mental illness, such as PTSD, means we always find it hard to discuss our conditions with others. If we had a picture or a physical representation of what is going on our brains, we could explain to many what happens when we feel a certain way. We could show what happens when something that brings back memories of an experience and how this alters our brain inside, which might make things all that more easier to explain to ourselves and to others.
PET scans and other forms of medical imagery of the brain can show this visual representation of how our brain changes when it experiences the stress and anxiety of the results of PTSD. A recent study by Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation in 2015, looked into the physical health and genetics of veterans Of the 300, half had PTSD, and half did not; and in a sub-study, 100 of the veterans (50 sufferers and an equal control group of non-sufferers) underwent brain imaging, showing the differences in the images between sufferers of PTSD and not. Although these scans are not commonly used in treatment and diagnosis of PTSD, having this physical image for a sufferer to see how the brain changes with their symptoms, may allow them and their peers to understand the changes the disorder causes and make talking about the disease a lot easier, a lot like a broken leg or bone.
As a past sufferer of PTSD as well as a number of hidden illnesses myself, I know that having something visible to others makes it a lot easier to speak about an illness or mental health illness. I know if I had been shown a scan of my brain every time a trigger for my PTSD came along I would feel better about talking about the issues with others.
‘Be the best version of you’ consisted of large ink drawings of PET medical scans of both sufferers of PTSD at different stages of their suffering as well as someone who doesn’t have symptoms, the best version of them. The work aims to highlight the bright and beautiful patterns in the scans will be painted/drawn on a transparent surface, giving transparency and the illusion as if they are real scans and images. The images aim to show many versions of PTSD in a physical form, both whilst suffering and not, but all beautiful. I hope for the piece to encourage sufferers to see the how mental illness physically effects them on the inside, encouraging conversation and making it easier for individuals to speak about their symptoms. The work can be hung from above so the scans can be looked through to show the many different versions overlapping allowing the viewer to examine them and see the differences, even though one is better they are all beautiful. The work was displayed in store windows as part of the NHS ‘Now we’re talking’ Art trail in Worcester and Redditch.