Why am I here?

Head shot of Anna Sexton

Me at a friend's birthday dinner

Working on my pages on Omeka has opened my eyes to the complexity of what I am asking each of the other four contributors to do in relation to telling their own story in a public space.

As I write this I feel vulnerable - what parts of myself and my narrative belong here? How will what I write be received?  How will I come across?  How do I negotiate the boundaries between private and public?

Why am I doing this if I find it so difficult?

It is because I have asked the four contributors to give something of themselves to the archive that I feel very strongly that I should do the same.  Although I can never thank Peter, Stuart, Dolly and Andrew enough for what they have done, I want to reciprocate, and I hope that in opening myself up to something of the same process, that I am reciprocating in a small way.

However, I recognise that our stories are different, the process isn't equal, and it never can be equal.  I write about myself as an active participant in the creation of the recovery archive, my reflections and my narrative are bound up with the process of creating the mental health recovery archive, and although I will try and touch on some of my deeply personal reasons for wanting to create the archive, the story I tell is not as painful as those that Peter, Andrew, Dolly and Stuart have had to write. I have never been abused, I have never been homeless, I have never experienced poverty or neglect, and I have not experienced extreme mental distress.  I can never claim to understand what it is like to write from such a position, and I can only imagine the emotions involved in seeking to communicate that position to others.

But that is not to say that I feel distanced from their stories. I feel a connection and a resonance with each of their individual narratives.  To the extent that I can empathise, I do empathise, and I find echoes and traces within their stories that reflect aspects of my own.  To the degree that I have faced challenges and hardship in my own life - where I myself have spiraled into negative and hopeless places - my journey out of those places can be identified with finding self acceptance, exploring spiritual expression, and at times relying on the kindnesses of others who have believed in me when I have not. So my story is different, arguably less painful, but still connected, and I believe there will be points of connection for everyone in the narratives presented in this archive.

My decision to frame my own story primarily around the creation of this archive is that I believe in context. What you see in the four contributors sections is their own personal narrative as shaped by the creation process.  It is influenced by my involvement, the involvement of the Wellcome Library, UCL, and Professor Jerome Carson, by the choice of OMEKA, by the frame of recovery and many more subtle interplays and interactions.  I want to try to reflect and talk about the creation process because I think it leads to a better and fuller understanding of what is represented here.  This is because I am an Archivist, and context is seen as fundamental within our worldview.  However, although Archivists like to be holistic we have come to realise that our best efforts are only remnants and the whole can never be recovered and captured in its entirety; my representation is always going to be partial and can only come from my own perspective; so while this is an attempt to be honest and truthful it is not a singular truth.  Each of the four contributors will have their own perspective on the creative process which is not represented here.  There will always be points of connection and dissonance around how we experienced and choose then to relate our shared reality.

Given the positionality and incompleteness of what I have to say....here goes!