The Journey Back: Darmin Cameron

From Horrific to Terrific – Nihilistic to Artistic – Pathetic to Poetic
Art by Darmin Cameron

Local Landscape
 I don’t know why I am telling this story, because to do so hurts. My life changed due to a traumatic incident and the Psychs just said “Spill your guts, unburden yourself from the weight of the emotional pain, it’s therapeutic.” Maybe so, but it also brings a certain amount of discomfort. “Hurt and pain, the currency of trauma, just needs spending” the Psychs repeat.  Bankruptcy in this sense sounds appealing, but it does not seem to work like that, not for me anyway or maybe it is working, and I would be much worse off than I am. It’s hard to tell.

Silver Sunset

Before the incident nature was my inspiration, the force that pulsed through my creativity. I worked hard trying to convey what a simple forest scene does to me and get it onto canvas, hoping that the viewer will be entranced and uplifted as I was. I was bedevilled when trying to capture the magic of the forest, it’s grace, beauty and calm.  Where I live on the North Coast of New South Wales near a little village called Nimbin, trees are sacred. Some people around here have risked their lives protecting trees.

Local Landscape #2
Being in nature, in the forest or on a beach is healing and calming. Many draw energy and strength from being in nature. Nature Therapy and Art Therapy are a powerful super-duo for psychological health. The artistic process of taking photos of natural landscapes meant spending a lot of time in nature, then getting the wild natural landscape from the camera to the lounge room wall  an engaging, challenging and ultimately satisfying experience. This was my artistic life.

Going Home
Before the Incident I was a functioning healthy socially engaged human being, in a long term loving relationship with a supportive family. I had a job helping and caring for others, it was rewarding and fulfilling. I only worked twenty-eight hours a week so I had plenty of time, for fun art and life in general. Taking photographs of nature and printing them large onto canvas, looking for the light, the shade, the contrast and the harmonic composition for the photo, a rewarding pastime.  I would take sailing trips to far flung locations to capture the magic and bring it back to the cities and suburbs . This process en-livened me. I was winning awards and gaining fans, then came the “Incident”. This incident precipitated a radical change in me and my approach to art, it was a tumultuous, I went from from Zen Forest Calm to Nazi Fascist Chaos.

Fraser Flight
Post-incident I lost the drive to photograph nature. I needed something else to give me that artistic Samahdi, the deep satisfaction that comes when an artwork is complete. With the Local Landscape series that often happened in the camera , the light, colour, form and shape all captured in  a moment , but now post-incident, I needed post-production. I needed to tell a story of shock and trauma not calm and peace. My inner world had been shattered, it was now dramatic, explosive and chaotic and that is all I could share.

Out of Nowhere
I had been managing to dance with Trauma reasonably well for many years, processing the old and new hurts and moving on. I was holding the ‘construct of myself’ together best I could with non-stop work, ambition, rules, rituals, religions, phobias. food, beliefs and a plethora of natural therapies. It all seemed standard, everyone was doing it. We all have our own set of unique coping mechanisms, it is normal, satisfying and as good as it gets. Then into my  personal solar system came the comet of reconstruction,  my sphere suddenly changed.

Comet of Reconstruction
The incident was a bit of bad luck, bad timing and bad management. One quiet afternoon in the office where I was working, three scared desperate people burst in seeking refuge from an axe-wielding maniac. One was hurt and bleeding, the other two were shocked and terrified. This bloody and messy office invasion  became a Critical Incident attended by many heavily armed police and highly- strung ambulance officers, the air was filled with tension and panic. I had to run around locking windows and doors because there was a madman on the loose, this was not in my job description.

The Incident
I did not know it then, but that Incident was the catalyst that precipitated my eventual diagnoses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a radical shift in my art. Some staff involved in the incident ended up with varying levels of un-acknowledge PTSD, this is not uncommon. The original critical incident was shocking and chaotic, instant war zone. To make matters worse management’s response was lacking, inept and ultimately harmful. The trauma bombs kept coming, and people kept getting hit. Un-healed and un-managed trauma festers and mutates into bizarre and destructive behaviours that lead to tragic outcomes. I became a tragic outcome.

A Tragic Outcome
Everyone’s experience of PTSD is different,  some seek refuge down a long dark tunnel where the light of life cannot reach. Life can be dangerous, out of nowhere an inexorable force can shock your view of the world. People shouldn’t use axes to injure others, victims shouldn’t  seek refuge behind  you and people should not  blame and publicly attack you or Gaslight you in vindictive and  vengeful ways, but they do. It is difficult to completely heal from a traumatic incident, that is just how it is and when Trauma is left un-processed and unacknowledged it becomes a hot potato that gets thrown around and burns all who touch it.

A long dark tunnel
After the incident, this trauma potato never seemed to lose it’s heat. One day it was hurled at me, and for some unknown reason I caught it. The bright shiny hot bowling ball of trauma had just struck every pin in the alley of my brain, it was a full strike on my psyche. Who or what I thought I was had been obliterated, it was disconcerting and un-nerving. A large unforgiving psychological force struck me from behind, I didn’t see it coming. I was totally unprepared. Blindsided I drowned in the Tsunami that is Trauma. It was overwhelming, and unrelenting. Trauma is invisible and miasmatic in nature. With PTSD reality loses it’s centre of gravity and becomes a swirling, confusing whirlpool of newly constructed and ever-changing realities. The capacity to see the beauty and majesty of nature evaporates under the harsh presence of trauma. Trees are  now bits of wood with green stuff on them. If their beauty can’t cut through the foliage that is protecting the last vestiges of me, they are invisible.

The journey back to sanity is slow and arduous. Mental Trauma is like snapping your backbone in twenty places and expecting a speedy recovery, it is not going to happen. The scaffold that is the construct of your mind has been damaged and it takes time, professional help and great effort to repair. A broken back never fully heals and a broken-brain is never the same. “Move on” the Psychs say “Try to notch it up to experience, get over it”. This is difficult because the tool you are using to recover and repair your mind with, is damaged. Your working with a traumatised psyche trying to repair its traumatised self. This has its challenges. Until you have been in PTSD Land, it is very hard to understand.

Has my Art changed because of the incident.?  Has this burst of creativity released some hurt from the incident?  Am I more free and less burdened by the trauma?  As I write this it feels like it. Writing is also part of the healing process, telling others seems to be unburdening. Releasing yourself from some of the stigma and shame that comes with a mental health diagnoses.
Everyone’s journey back is different, the time taken, and the methods used. There is no choice but to try and heal and move on, however painful. The alternative is bleak and pointless. My lessons from the incident; Work with what you’ve got, use every trick in the book and never give up.


Artist: Darmin Cameron
 The Journey Back artworks are 1100mm X 1100mm single edition signed Giclée prints on canvas with black floating frames. They have a signed single edition Certificate of Authenticity. They are $1000 AUD each, plus delivery.  Enquires:

1 comment :

  1. WOW!. Amazing to see the transition reflected in your artwork as you read the story. It's an insping story for those who may be suffering, or still on there way back from PTSD or any trauma really. Good on you Darmin and welcome back!


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