Bex Simon

THE BIPOLAR BLACKSMITH – TOP TIPS

I am writing this bipolar blog about me, the artist blacksmith, very tongue in cheek. Bipolar is a very serious illness but I wanted to keep this light hearted with some humour. With that in mind I am writing as though it is one of my blacksmith top tip blogs… just in case there are some other Bipolar Blacksmiths out there wanting to learn from my experiences.


A BIPOLAR BEGINNING FOR A BLACKSMITH BUSINESS

I suppose I should start with saying something like “There are definitely a lot of highs and lows in having Bipolar” (budumm, sstcsshh)…. but actually I think my Blacksmith Business saved me from bipolar, and conversely the bipolar set the foundations of my Blacksmith Business. As, such I have tried my best to use it to my advantage by building like a ‘nutter’ in the mania and designing in the dark patches.

The manic side of me is happy to be part of the many Artists who suffer with bipolar but the depressed side would love to have a clear head, and the psychotic side, well … you can be the judge here, but it is probably the hardest thing for those close to me to deal with.

I was diagnosed bipolar in 2004 and on medication for 5 years. I am now fortunately drug free and managing to get on with my life and blacksmithing relatively well, and now have a baby to worry about…….

Top tip: Mood mapping by Dr Liz Miller is a great book for understanding yourself better. I am really not into self help books, they make me feel worse, but this is different and really helped me understand myself and I would definitely recommend it.


It was actually great for BexSimon, the Blacksmith business, when I was getting into a real bipolar pickle with myself, having panic attacks, thinking people were after me, jumping at my own shadow, hearing voices and wanting to hug the entire train carriage of people, as I had to focus on something to try and keep myself from going completely mad! And at the start of the blacksmith business I worked! I worked my socks off. I filled my brain with blacksmith work to try and quash the darkness and conspiracies going on around me……..the Bipolar me!


It was only after I suffered a panic attack in front of a client, that I knew I needed to find out what was wrong with me, and finally I was diagnosed and treated.

Top tip: have your own instruction manual. Find out what makes you happy and function. Eg I need to exercise in the outdoors, eat well and NOT drink too much! This helps me not to go over the lines to much.



The pictures above are from when I was really ill. I just made collages and dark drawings to try and keep my mind from sinking to ‘out of reach’. I had to keep myself doing something, even if it was something small. I have a sketchbook full of stuff that one day I will turn into works of art.


BIPOLAR BLACKSMITH WORK

One of my biggest blacksmith commissions is based on mental illness. I was commissioned by the Campbell Mental Health centre in Milton Keynes to design and make a gate and perimeter fence around the grounds. I worked with the patients, many of whom were bipolar, and together we came up with the designs.



From one side, the fence is cut out from sheet, so the design is the negative space, this represents the dark depression and as you follow it around it changes into a railing with the detail welded on, this is coming out of the darkness and into the light, positive space. The gate is called ‘the possibilities are endless’, and in it we had lots of panels with different things going on in a very sun like shape, this represented that the future is bright after treatment. This gate leads you out of the grounds…. encouraging you to go and explore the world again!

Bipolar is a pain in the arse sometimes, as my husband can tell you, putting it mildly……………

Top tip: Have someone you trust to talk things though. It’s good to be open with someone about what you feel and think what’s going on, so they can tell you what actually is……..even if you don’t really believe them sometimes because you think they are far to laid back to hear the conspiracies going on around you!


But we should remember that some of the greatest and most creative people have, or had, Bipolar; Spike Milligan, Vincent Van Gogh, Steven Fry, my Granny……the list is endless! It’s all part of the job really. Hammer, sketch book, Bipolar.

The one thing I do hope is that my daughter is spared from it, bipolar that is not blacksmithing!