Anna McNay

Review of H’arts in Mind: Drawing Our Way Back to Health at St Albans Museum + Gallery


H’arts in Mind: Drawing Our Way Back to Health

St Albans Museum + Gallery
22 October – 16 November 2022

Paying lip service is not enough. The artworks in this exhibition, made by members of the mental health arts charity H’arts in Mind, cry out for an end to disability discrimination and for our society to start talking about and ending the stigma attached to mental ill health.

“… And then one day, you’d lost the ability to play. Just like that, your world was shattered. All you knew was gone. Unable to escape reality alone, you found yourself replacing this with a need to have that reality – your existence – verified by others, compelled to reveal entirely, to admit every thought and feeling, and to seek validation. Alone you were nothing. Invisible. You did not exist. But nothing was ever enough. You craved more. You couldn’t trust yourself. Your best friend had become your worst enemy. You had lost the child you knew, and she had been replaced by a stranger. A stranger you did not like.”

Anna McNay, 42 (Anorexia Nervosa, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, ASD)”

This text, an extract from a letter I wrote in therapy to my younger self, currently accompanies a black-and-white photograph of a gleeful four-year-old Anna – jumping for joy as she arrives at her uncle’s house in Australia, to discover there is a pool in the garden – on show in St Albans Museum + Gallery. I keep a copy of this photo close to hand, representative of my inner child, and a reminder to be compassionate to myself and, perhaps one day, to grow to like – or at least accept – that stranger.


Read the full review here