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Joe McConnell's blog - disability arts online
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Disability Arts Online

Joe McConnell is the new kid on the blog / 12 July 2010

Condemned to childhood (gouache on cartridge paper) © Joe McConnell 2010

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This could actually be called Joe Blogs. But the joke would run thin very quickly and must have been used many times before. That's me alright. Always joking. Partly because all my life I've had an impairment which falls into the tabernacle of taboo.

Well nowadays is there really such a thing? But if that is now, well way back then having a condition - acute hypogonadism - which meant that you hit the andropause before yer mates had even entered puberty was definitely taboo.

Drawing a discrete veil over the details, suffice it to say that this both massively fucked up my sex life and continues to present obstacles when accessing the built environment when needing to pass water. But the worse bit was you just could not talk about it.

Luckily for me I had a robust sense of humour that has more or less got me through up until now. And also some wonderful friends and creative lovers. But, every so often, Hilda Humour decides to up stumps and head for the hills. Bitch!

These are the times I hit a wall and, in the arms of the ever-caring NHS, am told that I am bipolar - some have even hinted at schizophrenia - and that a healthy whack of anti-psychotic drugs is all I need to be normal. This is on the basis, that when they see me well, I usually have quite high energy levels and when they see me unwell, I can barely move other than to share what they consider to be pretty dark delusions.

I sometimes ask them how they would be themselves, if they, all-of-a-sudden, acquired the above-mentioned physical challenges and suggest that, after a spell in A&E they would probably need a lifetime of post-traumatic shock therapy.

I feel blessed to have discovered Disability Arts (while acknowledging the ambiguity of that working title). Colin Hambrook was the first person I could ever talk to about my difference. This was because I found in his own work, and that of the artists who he has so stridently supported for countless yonks, a language which, for the first time, I could use to express the nature of being excluded from the mainstream of society.

It took me years to understand some of the concepts (social model etc). Nancy Willis, Colin, Tanya Raabe, and more recently, Rachel Gadsden are some of artists whose work explores themes that have really helped me make it through.

I wouldn't call myself an artist, but for the last six months and for the very first time, I can't stop making art. Mostly painting but some work with clay and other media as well. I have never felt better in my life. I know some of you are going to groan 'oh art therapy!' Well fuck off groaners. I'd like to use this blog to share my healing journey with you. So I hope you'll let me know what you think and that we can compare our different experiences.

Keywords: depression,disability art,gender identity,invisible disabled people,medication,mental health,visual art