This post is about my discovery of art as a means to wellbeing. I’m hoping my pictures will speak as loudly as my words.
At school I was studious and scientific and I suspect my art teacher sighed with relief when I finished his class to start my ‘o’ level options. I left arty, quirky and fun to my brother. In 2015 my dad was suddenly taken severly ill whilst on a break with my mum. I travelled across the country to support my mum for what I thought would be a couple of days. I ended up spending 2 weeks in a travel lodge with her visiting dad daily in hospital. I bought myself a grown up colouring book to while away the time. I was soon bored of colouring. In my minds eye I saw c s Lewis’s Aslan the lion telling my dad to take courage. I felt I wanted to draw it for him. I googled a photo of a lion and drew for my dad:
I was surprised by how well I drew. My dad was blown away. He was touched deeply and saidhe felt I’d been given a gift. I countinued drawing whilst we were away but when dad was transferred home my drawing dwindled to very infrequently.
It was 6 years later, after joining the Parenting Mental Health Community, that I began consistantly creating art work again. The group ran some creative connections sessions that coincided with me having therapy for recently diagnosesed cPTSD. I remember the first session really well. We divided our paper in two and illustrated our now and our hope for the future. I’m going to share that work with you here. I think it demonstrates what a difficult time I was in. It makes me so grateul to have come so far, over to the other side of the page in just 18 months. The art session helped me acknowledge and process just how challenging things were at that time for me at the same time drawing my attention to possibilities for the future.
The following week I found the subject of the creative connections session challenging as it was a trigger for a traumatic memory. Somehow I stayed in the session and just went off piste. My therapist had been encouraging me to imagine a compassionate friend. I imagined my little dog Rafi and what he would say to me. I drew the illustration at the beginning of this blog post. My reality was that I felt rubbish but Rafi’s compassionate voice encouraged me to hope that things would get better. That was the first of my ‘her little dog’ illustrations. At this point I have done about 60 different illustrations. I have a number available to buy as cards, canvases or prints here in my shop
I loved taking part in the creative connections sessions. They were a lovely peaceful, safe and relaxing place. They distracted me form the hard work I was doing in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) therapy, they were a break from the mental distress and in some way also aided my processing.
As I continued my journey of recovery from cPTSD art became for me, both self care and a tool for processing.I drew, scribbled and coloured what I didn’t have words for (I’ve kept these private). I also illustrated lots of Rafi wisdom, that I loved to share. From the place I am now in, of much improved mental health I have launched Rafiki Art. My tag line is: Inspiring hope. That is exactly what I want to do. If you or someone you love is struggling with poor mental health I want you to know that things can get better. Maybe art will help you too.