Monday, November 17

I am 41 but feel 14

I recently rediscovered my portfolio of drawings & paintings from my Art A-level & was pleasantly surprised by its contents. Contrary to my internal dialogue of never being good enough & never living up to the perfectionist vision in my mind, as well as the strict, unerring adherence to observation, measuring & composition imposed by our wonderful teachers, these drawings show a critical eye and unflinching commitment to detail, with all its imperfections. I can remember the precise moment each work was made, where I was, how I felt drawing it, almost (but not quite) what I was wearing & the smells that surrounded me. It was indeed a journey into past memories and a history buried for many years under beliefs of myself as an utter failure, which are helping me to consolidate my identity as an artist and enmesh my present with my past. It seems I could draw after all...

© xmb 2014

Tuesday, November 11


mourning the lost years
the agitated angst
of trying, trying, trying
to find a place
some place
of self
believing me to be bad
when really
I was simply

Monday, November 3


both © xmb 2014

in the dark © xmb 2014

slowly learning to assimilate my two halves, seeing them as two parts of a whole rather than two separate polar entities

Thursday, October 30


stamped ©xmb 2014

This Tuesday I was finally diagnosed by my psychiatrist as having Bipolar II Disorder. Or rather, he confirmed my self-diagnosis, thanks to my extensive research on the disorder, my descriptions of my erratic behaviour over the past few months, over my entire life, as well as a detailed document written by my husband detailing the impact all this has had both on him and our daughter.

So how does it feel to have finally been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? Initially I was punching the air. For months I have fought to get the stamp, the confirmation that my behaviour is more than just me being deliberately difficult, that it was more than just recurrent depressive disorder coupled with anxiety and mere bipolar tendencies, as per my original diagnosis back in March this year. Then the reality set in. The realisation of the implications, for my life, my work, my driving license even, what I would have to or not have to disclose to employers, to friends, to family.

xmb aged six

My entire life I have been mercurial. Extreme rages and temper tantrums peppered my childhood. A perfectionist by nature, getting anything wrong would result in my flying into a wild rage. On making a mistake whilst practising the piano or cello aged 5 years and onwards, I would pummel the piano keys, thrash the score and hurl my cello bow across the room, screaming like a demon. To which my dad would yell at me to shut up, unsurprisingly. My moods would shift from elation to despair in a matter of minutes. I’d put intense effort into drawings for art exams, sobbing with despair when they amounted to nothing more than a perfect 1cm square of a shell, a plant, or whatever: when faced with the acres of pristine white paper, I panicked with the realisation that the paper would never be filled, that I had failed profoundly to live up to the beautiful ideal in my head. And these are just miniscule examples of my behaviour, which became wilder and more furious with age.

shrine, ©xmb 2014

Upon leaving school I went to pieces. An accomplished cellist destined to become a professional performer, I indulged my mercurial impulses to stop playing, to go travelling, to study Philosophy and Anthropology, to drink too much, smoke too much weed, put on three stone in weight, to enter into a seven-year abusive relationship. I yoyo-ed from one extreme to another – too fat, too thin, too drunk, too sober, too happy, too sad – always punctuated with the most intense self-loathing. Never good enough, never had been, never would be. Fluctuating from extreme self-hatred to arrogant self-love, depending on where I was on the spectrum, resulting in destructive behaviour at every turn. I was labelled as a moody cow, that’s just how she is, difficult, a pain in the arse…

I spent years looking for myself, reeling from the deepest darkest depressions to the conviction in moments of cyclical clarity, that I had found The Answer, that this project was the one I was destined for, that this was put on this earth to do, that this was who I was destined to be. But each time I saw others effortlessly walking the path they were destined for, expressing themselves with creativity, empathy, a profound understanding of life and the world with the utmost ease, I knew this was something I had never had and had no idea how to attain. After the safety, security and support of school, I flailed for twenty three years, swinging wildly from one personality costume to the next, to the befuddlement of my long-suffering and eternally supportive parents, sister, husband and friends. Were it not for them, I would surely have ended up on the streets, the wastage of my destructive, abusive self spilling out in pools around me.

shrine (detail), ©xmb 2014

So now I have a label. Although I have known in my heart of hearts for months that I have Bipolar disorder, it has taken the acknowledgement of a psychiatric professional for it to truly hit home. I still don’t quite believe it and won’t until I see the diagnosis written in black and white before me. I am in shock, in mourning for the years lost to self-destructive rage, wildly searching for a self that was right in front of me, within me, but whom I failed to recognise as I was looking for a discrete entity, not one of two halves. The bipolarity is me. The poles, the zero to the 100% on the scale are what I am, who I am, who I have always been. I just didn’t know. No-one knew. In the days when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, manic depression was a taboo subject. It wasn’t something that well-heeled, well-educated, middle class girls had. It wasn’t recognised, let alone discussed.

So that recognition, that validation is what is slowly seeping into my psyche, into my soul, into my history. It will take time, healing and forgiveness for the hatred I directed towards myself and others all those years, couched in ignorance as to my reality. I wasn’t bad, I was just unwell, a chemical imbalance in my brain causing me to veer drunkenly from one extreme to the next. Now I understand. I just have to learn to accept myself as someone of two extremes, not two separate personalities nor a person lacking an identity altogether. I will learn to mesh the extremities, with the help and support of my family, my counsellor, my doctor, my cocktail of medications. It will shape the rest of my life as it has shaped my history, but with positivity, creativity and love, and I will fight the inevitable relapses that are sure to hit as life steers its precarious course.

I am Xaverine, I have Bipolar disorder, and I am ok.

©xmb 2014

Friday, October 24

trophy skulls

By merging myself with human trophy skull images, I am endeavouring to merge the demonic with the human, the deepest darkest depths with the superficie with which other humans experience each other. We know the depths of human depravity, or its potential at least, to wreak destruction over everything and everyone touched by it, both physically and emotionally. This is an attempt to exorcise that power and to realign some semblance of normality to my own soul and the life that I lead, lessening the chaos that lies in my wake.

"The practice of human trophy collecting involves the acquisition of human remains. The intent may be to demonstrate dominance over the deceased, such as scalp-taking or forming necklaces of human ears or teeth, or to commemorate the deceased, such as the veneration of the relics of saints. It can be done to prove ones success in battle, or to show off one's power to others. Murderers' collection of their victims' body parts have also been described as a form of trophy-taking; the FBI draws a distinction between souvenirs and trophies in this regard.

Headhunting has been practiced across the Americas, Europe, Asian, and Oceania for millennia. One analysis of the practice in early North American societies linked it to social distance from the victim. For example, groups such as the Scythians collected the skulls of the vanquished to make a skull cup.
The practice continued up until the 20th century in the Balkans, and occurred on a smaller scale during World War II and the Vietnam War. About 60% of the bodies of Japanese soldiers recovered in the Mariana Islands and returned to Japan lacked skulls.
(source: Wikipedia)

© XMB 2014

Saturday, October 11

the power of re:

One of the best things about mental illness, mental breakdowns, mental breakthroughs, mental experiences in general is the power of re:- re-examining, re-aligning, re-creating, re-living, re-purposing, although perhaps not re-peating if that is what got you into that state in the first place.

I am currently at a very raw place in my life. Having experienced all of the above, I am daily trying to re-place myself in the world. Having never really understood what my place is, this is kind of hard. I feel very lost. So I’ve been creating work that I feel reflects this feeling of disembodiment, of dislocation, of dismemberment. It’s similar to older work in that it’s autobiographical, that there’s an emphasis on process and repetition, but the difference is in its bloodied directness. 

I’ve never been in a place quite like this where I’ve been so flayed as to have no option other than to show my innards to the world. It’s not even unsettling to me as I’m so used to it. Perhaps it’s unsettling to others, I don’t know. I don’t actually care (all that much) what others make of it. It is work that simply has to be made as part of the cathartic act of healing. I feel so mired in lost-ness and unanchored-ness that it’s all I have right now that doesn’t jar, that doesn’t stir up seasickness and self-derision. So I will continue with it until it has finished with me, or finished me, whichever comes first...

triggered self (repeat)

Wednesday, October 8

states of mind - work in progress

[despire: 1. to despise (Old French, Etymology: Latin dēspiciō) 
2. to be aspiring and desiring 3. to desire and despise (urban slang)]

the falsity of facebook


headcase (detail)

triggered self

I'd give my eye teeth

I'd give my eye teeth (again)

I'd give my eye teeth (in passing)

día de los muertos

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