Mad Truth is an arts organisation and brand centred around the power of creative expression for improving mental health as well as personal growth. The capacity for creativity is intrinsic to human life and happiness and can also be used as a remarkably powerful tool for reframing tragedy, trauma and mental illness in a way where those things no longer oppress you and keep you down, but become a source of beauty, strength and resilience.
My name is Casey Soma. I’m the founder of Mad Truth, I do a lot of different things so whenever someone asks what I do, I usually just say I’m an artist. The content we make for Mad Truth consists of many different artistic mediums including photography, poetry, music and film making. I also host The Mad Truth Podcast where I talk to artists about their creative process and what it means to them. We have a lot of exciting things planned including documentary films about mental health as it relates to young people, and original clothing designs.
By Casey Soma
Strange things happen when you can’t sleep. Separated and removed from waking life, I would find myself wandering sometimes for miles in the early hours, without direction or purpose chasing the answer to a question I didn’t even know. It’s hard to talk about mental illness, for many reasons, it’s unpredictable, volatile and confusing. Ranging from depression and anxiety to addiction, to more serious and sinister conditions such as schizophrenia. To take into account the fragility of the mind and even of the body is heresy in a society where the core religion is the rat-race, where the value of a human being is stripped back and skinned to numbers and statistics, a person is not judged on their ability to love and be loved, to fulfil their individual potential as a human being in a buddhist sort of way, but their economic and societal status. Would you be happy if you had a big house? Shiny car? Diamond filled swimming pool in the back garden? Are you sure?
When I was seventeen I got very ill in the head, for a lot of different reasons that I won’t get into. I spent a lot of my adolescence up until that point going in and out of rooms, white rooms, clean rooms, small rooms, I once had an assessment in a children’s play area which is absolutely incredible for the ego. But now I found myself at a NHS mental health clinic overlooking a staircase, sitting quietly by myself, gazing bemused at three paintings nailed rather haphazardly into the wall. The first was this sleepy hollow-esque foggy treescape, tall trees with winding sharp branches like fingers ready to plunge themselves into your already vulnerable little brain. The second was this renaissance painting of a woman, on her knees in clear unbearable anguish. And the third was this bizarre red-skinned devil puppet thing with this sick twisted little grin. I wondered why these images were present in a place centred around helping the mentally ill.
Art is a reflection of reality. There’s a reason why the earliest examples of mankind’s capacity for creativity are creatures of the wild crudely carved by firelight onto prehistoric walls. Hidden in blackened caves, in the haunted shadows inhabited by our primitive ancestors for thousands of years. Imagination is the remedy for absence. Where there is a void, a sense of desolation, hopelessness and despair can be filled with light and vibrancy just by thinking about it. Whether that be a finger painting from a three year old, a teenager writing a poem for her school project or just because she bloody well wants to. Or the sistine chapel. All these things come from the same nucleus of creativity. To me creativity is the closest we can come to magic. Something from nothing. Sounds quite magical to me.
This is what we make the world out of, our lives are shaped by thought, by words, by concepts and ideas new and old, throughout the centuries we cling onto ideas, because that’s all we have. Ideas about society, about ourselves, about the narratives that run like train tracks beneath the foundations of our lives. I hated those paintings in the clinic, that ugly demon thing smirking at me, so I mentioned it to my therapist (a kind of really lovely guru woman who listens to my problems and doesn’t judge me for them for some reason) and miraculously she agreed and took them down. I’d like to think in some small way I made that place better that day, by expressing a feeling I had within my inner world.
Throughout my highs and lows, my journey from outright hating and rejecting my pain, my trauma, my damage. I realised that If i could channel that into creative expression I could externalise it, I could separate it from who I really was and see it for what it really is. I was able to identify the origins of a lot of my pain, of a lot of my issues by being open and honest. If a piece of art regardless of the medium is coming from a place of truth and authenticity it’s undeniable. Meanwhile I had this old buddhist idea circulating around my brain, I might as well staple it to my forehead so it’s at the front of my mind at all times, where it should be. “What you think you become” your life is not dictated by governments, by your family, by corporations or institutions but by you, in all your beauty in all your faults. But to have a sense of direction, to know the way. For you, by your own standards. Might be the thing that allows you to navigate out of the darkness and grow closer to the person you were always born to be.