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Art Exhibition gives Firsthand Insight into Life with Severe Mental Illness

'On The Borderline' - An Exhibition of Artwork created by individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Sarah Eley is a 34 year old from Derby, who lives with a severe and enduring mental health condition called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Approximately 2-4% of the population have a diagnosis of BPD and and a shocking 1 in 10 of those individuals die from suicide.

Against the odds, Sarah has gone from being in and out of hospital due to this illness, to forming a registered charity called Borderline Arts. The charity helps others understand the condition, which is so often highly stigmatised.

Now Borderline Arts is preparing to hold their fifth exhibition of artwork created by talented artists who have a diagnosis of BPD. The artwork (in the form of paintings, drawings and photography) offers an insight into the condition, showing firsthand experiences of what it's like to live with BPD.

The Exhibition: 'On the Borderline' opens on Monday 27th November at 2, The Spot, Derby.

Sarah believes that having such a strong focus and passion to help fight the stigma of BPD helped her to break out of the cycle of recurrent crises to get to a place where she began to (unknowingly) form a charity to help others understand BPD.

It was in the midst of the worst times of her illness, that she became fed up of being judged and misunderstood. She explains that some professionals simply assumed that she was 'difficult', wasting NHS time, manipulative and attention-seeking before even meeting her. She feels that their skewed opinion of her was often based heavily upon their mis-understanding of her diagnosis. Rather than feeling supported by these professionals, she felt more worthless and hopeless than ever.

Sarah was exasperated at how little people understood about BPD and at how much stigma there was towards those with the diagnosis. She explains that it is an incredibly difficult illness to make sense of, and feels that if understanding of it increased, then attitudes would be very different. So she channelled her frustration into a drive to do something to try to fight this stigma.

In 2013, the Derby-based Arts Charity 'Artcore' enabled her to begin this journey by exhibiting the art she had created whilst in hospital. Her art expressed the sometimes harsh reality of life with BPD: the good, the bad and the ugly. The response was incredible: the art had clearly opened people's eyes and begun to reduce stigma.

As interest in her artwork and goal to raise awareness of BPD grew, more people got on board. The group began running creative workshops and performing theatre as well as exhibiting artwork by others with BPD. Two of these very talented artists (Vicky Vaughan and Sarah Clarke) are still very involved with the charity and will be exhibiting more artwork at the upcoming Exhibition.

Soon, the group decided upon the name 'Borderline Arts'. Later, they moved into their own office space and gained 'Registered Charity' status. Sarah still finds it hard to get her head round how all this has come about: "It is hard to believe how this has all worked out - not despite my illness, but actually because of it. If anyone had suggested that I would become the founder of a registered charity, I'd have laughed in their face! Having said that though, I now love being able to work with an incredible team to use my struggles and experience and of BPD to (hopefully) help others in a similar situation to myself". Sarah explains that she views BPD as a bunch of difficulties that she fights to keep under control, rather than letting it define who she is. With lots of support and therapy, she has learnt that the 'real Sarah' is a daft but determined animal lover, who is pretty creative and extremely obsessed with Lego. She also makes a point of spending plenty of time doing things totally unrelated to BPD.

Sarah explains that she is in no way 'recovered' or free from crises. She is still unable to secure paid employment due to her ups and downs...but she is fighting and getting stronger. Despite a wobbly 2016, which involved another 4-month stay in a Psychiatric Unit, Sarah's mental health has stabilised somewhat over 2017. She is back in action thanks to the support of the dedicated core Borderline Arts Team - Kev Bagshaw, Pauline Sharper, Lesley Edwards, Jill Broughton, Vicky Vaughan and Beccy Gamble. The team are currently preparing for their next Art Exhibition, which opens in just a couple of weeks.

The Opening Night takes place on Monday 27th November, from 6.30pm - 9pm.

The Mayor of Derby will be opening the exhibition, 'On the Borderline' and there will be free mulled wine, hot drinks, mince pies and cakes.

The artwork is created by artists with BPD and gives a unique firsthand insight into life with the condition. Madeleine Kerlake, Sarah Clarke, Beccy Gamble, Vicky Vaughan and Sarah Eley are amongst the artists with work on show. If you are unable to make the Opening Night, the exhibition will also be open for visitors daily until 9th December. Further information about times, location and contact detail is shown on the flyer below.


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