What a Month of My Art Therapy Looks Like

Art therapy for me is a valuable and unique way of experiencing and expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions – and sometimes a rare chance to just be a bit playful or make something a bit pretty, depending on what is going on for me at the time. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a month’s worth of sessions (once or twice weekly, depending on bank holidays and the therapist’s leave) which come to an end on Monday so I thought now was a good opportunity to reflect upon what I’ve created over the past month.

From the start of this batch of sessions, the Art Psychotherapist, who has worked with me before, decided that a great project for me would be for me to try to test out creating very large, free, uncontrolled pieces where possible as I tend to let perfectionism and anxiety hold me back into creating very small and controlled pieces rather than letting my time in art therapy tap into the more raw emotions. We’ve both been pleased with the results of this project and the difference we have noticed in me whilst I create these pieces. It has been freeing and a completely new experience for me.

So, what have I done? Below is a taster. Most of these are created on A2 or A1 paper, mainly using paint (whether that me using standard brushes, rollers, sponges, fingers, or even squirting straight from the bottle), but sometimes using pens or pastels or a mix of media. Some of it is much more a reflection of my internal state whilst others were more about trying to be a bit playful and have some fun. I hope this gives some insight into what Art Therapy can look like.

12/05/2017

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Self-destruction in clay form

15/05/2017

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Emotional pain exploding from the head, tarnishing the world
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Just flowers!
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My internal world

19/05/2017

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Mess, confusion, confliction – walled in by pain and darkness
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The mess and confusion of my internal world
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Playing with painting with my fingers on a very large scale
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A session’s work

22/5/2017

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The monster in my head
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Hand for scale of the monster in my head

02/06/2017

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My internal world: pain, fear, overwhelming thoughts & emotions, and torment – spreading and tarnishing the world around me

12/06/2017

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Playing to make a pretty mess
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Close up of a pretty mess
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Close up of a pretty mess
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Close up of a pretty mess
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My world: cold darkness externally enshrouding internal explosions
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Pretty, though…

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The suicide monster with a tiny me in its grips

I’d really recommend anyone who has the opportunity gives art therapy a go; it is nothing to do with ‘Art’ or ‘talent’ or ‘ability’ but about connecting to and expressing your thoughts/feelings/emotions or being a bit playful at times when that feels impossible. I hadn’t done any kind of art since the start of secondary school (and even then that was begrudgingly) when I first tried art therapy, and believe me I was beyond sceptical, but look at all that is has sparked in me since…!

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A Gift From an Amazing Crisis Nurse

It’s a small gesture but in this situation means more than it seems and definitely more than she realises. 

Using Art Therapy to Test Out Freedom, Expression and Imperfection

Today’s art therapy was about going big and expressive as a step towards losing my ever-present intense control & perfectionism

Metaphorically Dumping Guilt and Self-Hatred

Following a conversation yesterday about the fact that it will likely be guilt that’s the final nail in the coffin (sorry for the dark pun) towards my suicide, the crisis team manager went searching for some boulders for me. Today she turned up hauling these with her and together we wrote ‘GUILT’ and ‘SELF-HATRED’ on them then metaphorically dumped them outside. 

I thought this was a wonderful gesture, some amazing ouside-the-box thinking by an already stretched mental health professional, and a great idea. Definitely well worth a try!

Let’s hope even part of those torturously heavy boulders can stay out there. 

Art Therapy: Enough Said!

I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital yesterday. One of the most therapeutic things about being in hospital for me has always been art therapy and fortunately this wsrs has it on Friday mornings. I drew a large, expressive picture which I forgot to take a photo of but also made this model of me which I then battered with a rolling pin and different tools…I think it says it all! 

Compassionate Other: The Muggle’s Patronus (Or How to Create Your Own Source of Compassion)

A brilliant nurse in my crisis team has recently been on a Compassion-Focussed Therapy training course and met with me the other day brimming with ideas. 

Self-compassion is something that feels entirely intangible and unachievable for me, so we’ve got our work cut out, but thankfully she’s willing to give it all a go with me regardless! I’ll share some of the different exercises as I embark upon them… first up is creating a ‘Compassionate other’. 

The notes I took from our session explain this as: Try to come up with a ‘compassionate other’ based upon the following…

  • this other will have the three core elements of compassion-focussed therapy: courage, wisdom and dedication
  • humans are fallible, so don’t use a real person, although you can think about which characteristics of real people you find comforting/safe/helpful and incorporate those 
  • could be a person, an animal or a mythical creature  [I like the thought of a protective mythical creature, like a dragon or a unicorn, personally]
  • use this compassionate other to counteract negative self talk

As drawing things helps me, we decided that maybe the best place to start was drawing this potential compassionate other to give me a visual prompt. Humans don’t feel at all safe to me, so I knew straight away mine wouldn’t be in the form of a human, and very quickly my mind jumped to mythical creatures and, more specifically, dragons. I thought of this dragon as being both gentle and strong, comforting and protective, and something that I could carry with me wherever I go…thus, the ‘Palm Dragon’ was born!

I think he’s rather sweet, but you can tell in his eyes that he can stick up for himself and for what he believes in, too. Now I just need to narrow down and foster his compassionate traits, and see if I can somehow implement him into coping mechanisms to counteract the never-ending, overwhelming negative self-talk and intense self-hatred.

I’m hoping this concept can also be fostered into something protective or safe-feeling that can be carried with me for other uses: my idea of a Muggle’s Patronus (for anyone who isn’t a Harry Potter fan, a Patronus is a “guardian or protector, which takes the form of an animal…one of the most powerful defensive charms…a pure, protective magical concentration of happiness and hope”.

I’ll fill you in when I get further along creating and cultivating my compassionate Palm Dragon. I’d love to hear of any of you have already or will now try to create one for yourselves, too!