Break/down/break/through

i’ve never had a breakdown. 

this year i had a breakdown

march, maybe april, i don’t really remember.

i do remember, the only thing i let get close was death.

it sat with me just waiting for me to say ye.

my breakdown was triggered by stopping my medication, like cold turkey.

i stopped and as the numbness fell away I finally had clarity. 

clarity of that pain

my pain,

well little me's pain.

and we all know are little us’s, their pain is just really fucking vast right?

********

i've learnt that survival is sometimes the only mode my/your

body knows when little me/you felt immense trauma, like that its default setting

but you forget.

seeing trauma flood your beings, your family, your loves. 

but you forget.

you forget that trauma does what it does.

it seeps into your little skin and writes you.

writes shame, no, stabs shame in you.

ever so small, so small you forget its there

till you remember

till you remember.

i remember now that i left her, 

little demi. 

i ran so hard i left you

and it wasn’t your fault, 

it wasn’t your fault. 

you deserved to grieve. 

i let go of you, before you could. 

your pain was valid.

it needed a ceremony, 

it needed food, 

it needed singing, 

it needed flowers, 

it needed  ritual,

you needed to let go.

Im so sorry you didn’t get that


******


but i can start now with the only thing I can build from, love. 


toni, my beloved Toni says it's not a breakdown it’s a breakthrough and I kinda, deep down thought that was bollocks, till now, this year.

if this breakdown has given me anything it’s knowing that the only thing that needs to sit that close to me ever again is love regardless how many times death will sit on the other side of me, i will summon, drag, pull, push love to the other side.

the legacy of trauma has been carried without consent for so many generations and i will dedicate my life to trying to put it down and i start with this. 

A series of images of celebration of me and my being. 

this image is for me

its soft 

its power

its resistance 

its open

its a reminder of these past months and how i will heal.


i will continue to post images from this series that I'm nicknaming breakthrough. cheese like, but #livingmybestlife

SHOUTING TODAY AND EVERYDAY I/YOU/WE HAVE WORTH AND VALUE REGARDLESS OF EVERYTHING AND NOTHING  X

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I’m Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired - The Podcast. 

What the world needs now is a pursuit of freedom rooted not in fear of someone “taking” what’s “ours” but in a radical kind of love that refuses to settle for meanings of justice, safety, and independence that re-create the shackles, borders, colour lines and other punitive forms of policing and surveillance we just escaped to claim our freedom”

-Rev. angel kyodo williams, Sensei

A podcast about POC, QTPOC, Womxn of Colour, Mental Illness and Radical Liberation.

I'm Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired will be sitting down with artists, activists, political organisers, mental health practitioners, cultural theorists, spiritual grandmothers to discuss, learn and dissect care, liberation and mental health for identities that are policed, denied and erased within White supremacy. 

*This podcast is currently being researched by just Demi Nandhra which is funded by Arts Council England* Below is her current/ongoing musings for the content of the podcast which has been influenced by wider reading and conversations.*

 

Discomfort is where real liberation breathes?

A kinder, gentler suffering inspired by Radical Dharma

Self-care for POC going beyond bath bombs

“You don't need thick skin in this industry you need white skin”

Political Depression and therapy for QTPOC, Womxn of Colour

The most important political activism starts with family & friends?

Love is not justice

The power and pain of shaming institutions

Collective sadness as productivity

 

We will be launching the official podcast space online in May 2018.  From now and then we are researching and looking for people to participate in - 

  • Research

  • Hosting

  • Interviewing

  • be part of a podcast conversation

  • Focus group

All involvement/labour will be paid x

Get in touch at deminandhra@hotmail.co.uk / 07545460907

 

A few tips for you and your diversity policy

1) When you push your ‘diversity’ agenda and is framed with the singular intention to ‘diversify 1) the content and 2) the team’ this is hollow and trivial bullshit. Take the word ‘diversity’ out of your title /address/seminar/and put real hefty, substantial words into your catchy title like ‘lets push to decolonise this theatre woo! or ‘lets address the systematic racism in this museum’ or even a bit far fetched but ‘lets look at my OWN prejudices and how that impacts how I programme work’

2) Adding more colourful creatures to your pot doesn’t automatically negate the actual issue that it is still YOUR pot! And with that pot YOU have the power, ownership and MOST importantly the privilege, that you embody and feel in your everyday interactions. YOU hold the seat, feel entitled to hold the seat and you, (arww bless you) are now inviting people to your pot, table, whatever.

3) When creating diversity initiatives let’s start with you and your organisation/platform/festival/theatre/gallery, don’t invite me in or others for an event to talk to you about the importance of diverse perspective and breaking structural oppression. WE know but do you. I want to be seeing all white cis men and women creative directors, chairs, board members, executives, producers to get UNCOMFORTABLE. Please start a fucking keynote with ‘Last week I was prejudice to a trans women and I need to this and thisl….’ Be open and vulnerable with your prejudices, deconstruct and un-pick! That un-picking takes time soooo pay an artist or activist to work with your team/space for a year (how radical) and not just one little workshop. Make real commitments to changing your attitudes, your spaces and your platform.

4) When pushing your ‘diversity agenda’ don’t clump all unrepresented groups into one event. Give the fucking respect and dignity each minority deserves. The intersections are important, dedicate resources, time, energy, MONEY to each intersection. I want to be seeing huge seminars on black queer women in the arts and then huge seminars/events on the trans perspective and struggle within the industry, and then a huge event on disability inequalities. How disrespectful to frame all the VALID and UNDER APPRECIATED MINORITIES into one singular event?

5) For the love of god have safe spaces for all minorities within your team/programme. This is the working of privilege when you don’t realise being a minority comes with all kinds of microaggressions that require space and time away to heal.

6) lastly but no means least you want some ‘diverse’ people at your ‘diversity’ event then pay for their goddam travel!

7) this is actually the last - Don’t get offended when we say these things to you! You ask for diversity, we provide the information, drain ourselves and then YOU feel personally attacked by legitimate and valued points. Don’t invite me to your table if you are not ready to give up a seat!

A Response by Selina Thompson

Artistic response by Selina Thompson to Life is No Laughing Matter at mac Birmingham Nov 2016

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Demi Nandhra begins her show Life is No Laughing Matter, hidden in plain sight.

There is only one person on stage – a young man, sat in front of a macbook, who looks bored, frankly. He looks up from time to time at a custard coloured blob, in centre stage, between two fans. It looks like it might be a bean bag. We hear a dog bark – not in an organised, this is a sound effect from the theatre way – the dog barks and is hastily silenced or taken out, his bark is pre show adrenaline made manifest, and he gives us an inkling of the intimacy that is about to follow, of just how close, skin close, Demi is about to let us be.

When the lights go down, the yellow blob moves, and we realise that Demi has been there, inside it the whole time. She attempts to feed herself, and the show has begun.

Demi is selfish, she tells us. It’s first thing she tells us, and she repeats this throughout the show. She has her boyfriend, Aaron on stage with her, because she needs him to do the show, despite his agoraphobia and hatred of public spaces. She buys a dog, tiny fluffy, white Yoko, who comes on stage and brings chaos with her; even though Aaron doesn’t want one, because she’s read it will help her. She doesn’t take the bits out of the show her mum doesn’t like. It is a show that radiates mischief and humour, cheeky and loveable, messy and rude, a spoilt brat with a distinct brummie accent. It is a delight, impossible not to love.

Because the things is, Demi is not selfish. And Life is No Laughing Matter is one of the least selfish things I’ve seen in some time. It gives and gives to its audience, it sees them in all their complexity and vulnerability and it is honest. Heart stopping, blisteringly honest. This is a show for depression warriors: for those of us who have been down in the trenches, not left the house, not been able to see outside of our own pain, not been able to stop saying those weird things about death. It is a work made in absolute solidarity with those that understand the subject matter, intimately. Skin close. 

This is a show that has come from a powerful brain. It constantly reshapes and reforms itself as it looks at depression from every angle, zooms right in on the personal and charges out into the political. What, Demi asks, happens if you end up in jail, where there is no CBT or access to pets? What, she asks, happens if you are diagnosed as an angry black woman and blocked from the support you need? Anticipating the next day’s election results, she reminds us that Depression is Trump, and a whole host of things outside of the control of the individual. Her stage is full of voices, opinions and advice that contradict each other, judge, aid and abet. 

She covers all angles – moving smoothly from the fare we would expect – what the symptoms look like, how it feels – into the knotty core of depression, the questions we are afraid to ask – the line between mental illness and your personality, the relationship between productivity, capitalism, mental health and medication, and the way in which wellness is packaged and sold to us. The show is heavy with animal analogies and richly imaginative – dogs, cats, Bengal tigers and unicorns all prowl about its landscape. At one point, she smashes a neon pink unicorn and pills of every colour spill out, as she reflects on her two months on Anti-Depressants growing into two years. She acknowledges her need for them, but her actions give voice to a deep anger about this need, and a system that cannot get her the talking therapy she needs for months, doctors who in the ten minutes they have, don’t talk about side effects or withdrawal.

She explores it all, a restless mind and a fierce intelligence that fights the listlessness of depression at every moment. There was never a stronger argument for just how much people with depression want to get well, and just how much they will try, then a breathless Demi, stuffing her face with bananas (she eats 56 in one week, Peter Andre got potassium poisoning after 10) running from one side of the stage to the other, as she and Katy Perry try to exercise it away.

If Demi is a hurricane, then Aaron is an anchor, the show’s fixed point. He does very little! He looks after Yoko the dog, when Demi is done with her, he cleans up – he fixes the boiler in a recording we hear of the two of them arguing. In the post-show talk when Demi mentions that if she doesn’t take her meds, she’ll be a nightmare the following week, he shouts out from the audience “it’ll be shit!” and I think it’s the only thing he says live all evening. But having him there is such an essential and important part of the show. An act of self-care imbedded in the work itself is not only a radical act, but also a reminder that often where there is someone with depression, there is also a carer. And in the final moments of the post show discussion, it is alluded to that this person also needs support, that this person is also bound up in our depression. Aaron, stoic, calm, sometimes bemused, sometimes bored, is the embodiment of that. I also think he is a little more knowing as a performer then he lets on – his poker face often a perfect counterpoint to whatever Demi is doing.

The show is at its strongest when it is at its darkest – when Demi goes into the territory that I think you only really, truly know when you’ve been through it. When she talks of driving around a roundabout, and not looking right – so that ‘it wouldn’t be her fault, just an accident’ -  I recall, so forcefully, saying to a friend ‘it’s not that I want to kill myself – I’d just like to let myself die’ that I stop breathing for a second. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so viscerally recognised and in solidarity with someone. When she stands, speaking of her Uncle’s suicide, and what it takes to just say ‘I’m out’, tapping into what, for me, has always been the darkest, deepest core of chronic depression; fearing it will always be like this, and wondering if your resilience has a limit, I am stood in my old kitchen in Leeds, looking out the window, and thinking – ‘I won’t come back next time, I can’t do this again’. She gets as real as it gets, as close as it gets. Skin close.

 

I don’t know what it is to have those moments on stage. I don’t know if you do start to heal or any of that. I don’t have the distance to make those statements. I think this is a show that will always be in a place of flux, moving in response to Demi’s relationship to depression at any given time, and this means that it is alive, live, in the truest sense.  And because of that, there is an ambivalence in the show I think – a place where depression, an immovable object, comes up against Demi’s resilience, energy and sheer beauty – an unstoppable force – and the show almost ends in a stalemate.

But in those last moments, when the lights go down; as Demi talks about making art as a way to live, the light of the macbook still shines on her partner, and on her dog. And every woman, largely, women of colour, in that room is with her. And even if the object doesn’t move, Demi and her audience have begun to make small cracks in it. And we all live another day.

www.selinathompson.co.uk