Art of Psychiatry Society

Interview with Lorraine Nicholson
April 26, 2011, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Books, Interviews

“Flight Fantastic” by Lorraine Nicholson

Emerging from the darkenened caverns of the mind
To embrace a light so directional and bright.
A chrysalis once, a butterfly now,
Wings unfolded, taking flight.
A flight not of escape but of liberation.
Brave New World.
What a day, what a night, what a life!

Experiencing a spiritual rebirth,
Breathing a passionate air into my lungs once again,
Like a stiff, bracing breeze energizing the soul.
Life is in my eyes once again.
The window on the soul expresses the happiness within.
A childish enthusiasm fills all my days now.
Reawakened, impassioned and wide-eyed as I go out into the world once more.
The freedom of flight is mine now
To land at will wherever fancy takes me
To touch the lives of fellow creative souls
And deliver the message of beauty
In this oft dark world in which we live.
The flight of the butterfly is one to relish.
Spread your gossamer wings and fly….


Lorraine Nicholson is the author of “The Journey Home” a collection of poetry, artwork & photography which tackles the theme of recovery from severe depression.  Lorraine has kindly agreed to be interviewed by AoP blog.  Her website is

Can you tell us how you came to produce this book?

Like recovery it has evolved and taken shape over a period of 5 years. Back in 2006 the seed of the idea of publishing was sown during a 6 week solo exhibition I was offered showing my photography and emerging poetry which I called “A Carnival of Colour”. I used the opportunity to challenge the stigma which surrounds mental illness by going to the local press and having information up about the background to the exhibition being the visual expression of recovery from severe depression. It opened floodgates for people with similar experiences to open up to me in the gallery which was an eye-opener for me as I realised how common it is.
Subsequently in early 2007 I sent my work to several publishing houses without success. Ironically it was through a 2 month relapse in hospital in 2008 that I began to read recovery poems to fellow patients by way of peer support. One of the patients was somebody whose father was in the printing trade and on  discharge we met up and he offered to put the money up to have it printed and published. It was a dream come true to share in order to help others.

How does this book fit into your story?

The first two years of my illness 2002-4 when I was in denial and giving services the runaround I got to the stage that all I did was walk long distances and then when my weight dropped to 5 stones and I was in bed all the time the last thing on my mind was creative expression. There was emptiness, desolation within and numbness, no feelings, no response to anything around me be it music, art, people. All I craved in illness was isolation and darkness.

On discharge from hospital the second time in 2005 words started coming to me thick and fast, expressing strong emotions firstly of regaining my joy in seeing colour, experiencing light and feeling alive within. My first poem had the title “Flight Fantastic” and takes the metaphor of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon and taking flight. My prolific writings helped me to make sense out of the trauma and allowed me to reframe experiences. Over the course of 3 years I was slowly able to return to the extreme pain and vulnerability and express illness in a powerful way which often shocked me to the core.

In short this book is my story.

You talk of your depressive illness giving you a second chance – can you tell us more about this?

Depressive illness as a second chance.

Severe depression for me represented something majorly wrong with and in my life which needed addressing and changing.

It was a time to ask myself the big questions in life around who am I and why am I here? Depression was the stop sign that forced me to search for and discover these answers for myself so I could move on and stay well. I realised over the course of time that I had up to that point been living life for everyone else but me.

I see, in retrospect, that illness such as this was, for me personally, an opportunity to reassess and find balance and fulfilment, so that what initially felt like a curse, being in prison for a crime I did not commit, became, in the fullness of time, the greatest blessing of my life.

There are many references to the theme of rebirth in my book. One poem, in fact, is called RENAISSANCE woman. The identity I had suppressed for years yearning to be an artist, was surfacing in a very emotive way. It could no longer be kept underground. It was gasping for air and a chance to flourish.

Now that my needs are being addressed by going to art school as a mature student, I am managing to stay well.

You’re now at art school.  Where you an artist before your depression?

Since the age I could hold a pencil and before I was always keen to express things visually, having a strong visual response to the world around me.

It was something within me right from birth. Pre school age I would sit and draw everything in the room on the back of a napkin at a coffee morning with my mother. It was my main source of fulfilment and it continued right through to my teens with painting, drawing, making things out of wood/metal and then at 15 I was handed my Dad’s old analogue camera and began to photograph the world around me.

Then the academic world got in the way and art was regarded as a “nice hobby” but ” get a proper job” by the school. I had the academic ability to go to university and there studied modern languages but still took History of Fine Art as an outside subject.However, the writing was on the wall and after 3 years of success academically I failed to get my Honours degree in my final year dropping out at Christmas two consecutive years with stress and depression.

Yes I was very much the essential artist before suffering major depression at 40.

You said that you would never have thought of writing poetry before your depression – why do you think that you were inspired towards poetry as part of your recovery?

I didn’t feel as much inspired to write poetry, which, incidentally I never felt drawn to before I became ill, rather compelled to write poetry. It was a need not a choice and proved very cathartic . I didn’t choose it. It chose me and I have heard poetry described as the language of suffering. Words bagan to surface after the catatonic state of severe depression, like lava from a dormant volcano.
After long periods of non-communication and self isolation words put me in touch with the sense of self that had been absent for years. I began to feel emotion again after the numbness of  depression.Floodgates opened and I could express and attempt to make sense of the trauma I had been through. It was a huge release.

Do you still write?

I no longer write poetry which, to me, demonstrates its need at that time in my life which is no longer a need. My main channel now is art and photography.

Which artists/poets do you find inspirational?

Of course there are many artists and poets who have suffered depression in their lives or major adversity like Van Gogh, Munch and Frida Kahlo. For colour alone Matisse is my favourite and in 2009 I was in the tiny chapel at Vence he designed the interior of. The vibrant colours of blue and yellow streaming through the stained glass windows onto the marble altar suddenly had me in floods of tears but of joy not anguish as I was unable in the depths of depression to feel colour or have any emotional response to what i take pleasure in normally.

As far as poetry goes I love the work of Robert Frost.What he writes speaks to me. As far as contemporary poets go, Kenneth Steven’s work evokes a visceral response in me.

You identify depression as being connected to identity loss – can you explain?  Do you see this book as part of regaining that identity?

Many of my poems are related to this theme. “Labelled Lost and Found” being one of them. As much as a loss of identity in more focused terms it is related to a loss of soul for me.

I have emerged with far greater self awareness than ever before.

I now know who I am and what I am here to do.

For all my adult life I had suppressed my truth, my authenticity to “get the proper job” and to please others all at the expense of my soul’s truth. The art was an aside, an evening class here and there, a hobby, no more. I was bored, empty, hugely unfulfilled. Life was an existence.

Recovery for me has been a search, a seeking out of truths, a going deeper to explore, a PHD in self-awareness. A clarity is there which was a haze before.

My Book “The Journey Home” is an affirmation of my artistic identity. It is my unique signature on the world’s surface.

At the back of your book you thank the professionals who helped you recover – what did you find the most helpful?

The therapeutic relationship has been of huge significance to me wherein an approach is taken which is totally driven by the belief that recovery is possible.

Asking me to take the lead once I have been deemed ready to has been the very root. They have handed me back the responsibility for the future direction of my own life and invested in the development of my strengths, empowering me to be all I can be through active listening to my needs and goals.

They have allowed me to take positive risks which is the very kernel of personal growth and self-determination.

They have shown complete faith in my abilities.

Such consistency of support and encouragement to move forward in my life and go beyond the person I was before, has had an enormous impact on my self belief. The foundation of their approach is humanitarian-driven and stems from a genuine desire to care holistically and promote self determination, ultimately aiming to make themselves redundant in my care.

The recovery approach for me consists of a “way of being” with people at every stage from crisis through every ongoing step. It is an intuitive “felt” response to the way you are feeling at any given time. “Tuning in” to the person’s wavelength shows wisdom based on understanding what is needed at the time. The tone of voice, body language, choice of words, hopeful attitude makes all the difference to our outlook. Being surrounded by people who feel positive about you and believe in you undoubtedly boosts confidence but there is a right time for every word and gesture. Knowing when to step in and prevent and when to stand back and allow are crucial skills which will impact on people’s chances of recovery.

Recovery is not a buzz word. It is an ethos, a philosophy, an approach to life and caring.


You can buy Lorraine’s book here.  It has recently been reviewed on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website

8 Comments so far
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Fantastic interview. Lorraine as ever brings new learning, inspiration and above all hope for recovery. She is a a one woman campaign!

Comment by Simon Bradstreet

I love reading how you feel and the way you express that. It’s like you have picked my brains! Thank you

Comment by Leone Shaw Tulloch

I continue to be amazed at the work that Lorraine does. Wonderful!

Comment by Sally Clay

What an inspiring strong woman with an eye and a heart for the small hidden beauty….which finding expression in her work.

Comment by Loriana Pauli

sorry, made a mistake: …which IS finding expression….

Comment by Loriana Pauli

i have lorraines book besides me at the moment. it is great to leaf through it and look at the wonderful art works and images.
thanks lorraine – a great gift to all of us

Comment by graham morgan

[…] Nicholson, acclaimed author of The Journey Home, describes how this book of poetry, artwork and photography came into […]

Pingback by Guest Post by Lorraine Nicholson, author of “The Journey Home” | Centre for Medical Humanities Blog

Very inspiring interview Lorraine. Must talk to you about Robert Frost one day!!

Comment by Alan Douglas

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