art by: Jerome Lawrence shadow voices: finding hope in mental illness
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Jerome Lawrence

I started having problems in high school. I noticed my grades dropped dramatically and I was afraid to even ask the teacher what page we were on in class. I would flip through the pages trying to find where we were in class and when I couldn’t find it, I’d just sit there and not say anything.

I really resent being hospitalized. I wanted to get help for my illness. So I went to the doctor and they said in order for me to get help I had to sign myself in. Well, I thought, I’ll sign myself in, I’ll get a nice bed, they’ll treat me. Well, I signed myself in and they locked the doors behind me and wouldn’t let me out and I said, I want to sign myself out, but they said it doesn’t work like that…

It was just a terrible situation. You don’t know what’s happening to you, and you look for some kind of friend in the doctor or the nurse, but they have very little time to spend with you. You don’t understand what’s happening to you, you don’t understand what’s going on with the people around you, they’re suffering from their various illnesses. It wasn’t a very good time in the hospital.

I paint things that are joyful, that have an element of hope and simplicity. I think that the kind of art I do is the kind of person I am. Inside I’m just this happy, joyful, simplistic person. I’ve seen so many artists paint things that were anguished and tortured and you can tell in the work by the slashing of the brush strokes and the dark colors that they were going through some kind of turmoil. And I was like that for a time in college, but now I’m more relaxed. I paint a friendlier type of art.

Recovery means different things to everybody … I’m not recovered, but I’m still in recovery; I am happy with my state of mind and my position in the world, the level I am in society.

I’m working to achieve more and working to have a better sense of my mental state, have a better grasp of what is going on in the world and better understand it. And I think that is what my recovery is, is understanding the world and how I fit in it and generally how to solve my own problems.