Art is a Medicine That Doesn’t Need a Prescription
Have you been feeling sad, despondent or depressed for a long period? If so have you thought about seeking support from family, friends or a professional?
Pain used to have me curled up into the fetus position, crying and shaking until I was exhausted of energy. This happened weekly. I remember when the pain first came into my life. I was 14 years old and suffered trauma from a violent assault. A year later a good friend died by suicide. From that moment forward, depression became part of my life, but I didn’t realize I was depressed.
After so many years of feeling miserable, I believed in two things: I was a defective loser and the world was a terrible place. Seventeen years later, I finally understood that I was sick. A variety of therapeutic tools, resources, and mentors helped me heal, but it was art that sparked the light inside of me back to life. There was something about being creative, diving deep into a project of my own, that rekindled my lust for life.
An art project I started in 2011 was my tipping point for realizing I was depressed and needed healing. I was working at a resource center for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Even though I rarely interacted with clients at my job the finance department, the environment intensified my depression.
I was inspired to create a book for tween girls about sexual assault and domestic violence. I wrote from my heart and created artwork for the book. Even though the book wasn’t a success, the project breathed new life into me. During the three months I worked on it, my depression was barely noticeable. I felt empowered and happy. Feeling happy for such a long time was like discovering super powers. I had forgotten that it was possible to be happy for more than a week. That happiness made me question long-held beliefs about myself.
During the past several years, art therapy has been my favorite healing tool. I make collages with words and images that inspire me, draw in my sketchbook and write poetry about how I feel.
I also love to take coloured chalk around my city and write positive messages on the sidewalks. It feels good to share the creativity with others, even if it is mostly anonymous.
When I am using art as therapy, I think about how I feel, why I feel a sad, how I want to feel, and what I can do to feel balanced.
Art therapy is a real medical tool used to help people with both physical and mental illness. It is used throughout the world in a variety of forms. One of my favorite studies proving it as effective is so simple. Participants showed improvement after only 10 sessions of one hour of art. That study is “Painting from Within – Developing and Evaluating a Manual-based Art therapy for Patients with Depression” at the University of Gothenberg. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171106100128.htm. There are hundreds of studies showing similar results with a variety of art projects.
When doctors advise patients to take better care of their hearts, they prescribe medicine with exercise. Mental illness also needs physical actions prescribed along with medication.
Art therapy doesn’t need to be expensive or done with a professional. Though I do highly recommend finding a class or support group if possible. Two summers ago, I participated in an expressive art class. We painted with water colors and focused on how we were feeling, how we wanted to feel and what we wanted to gain from the class. Once our painting was completed, we shared what it represented. It was a wonderful experience. I don’t keep most of the art I make, but I still have and still love that painting.
Since that first book in 2011, I have been creating art and using writing to heal myself and inspire others. I’ve surrounded myself with creative people and healers and benefited from the power of collaborating with them. I recently published an e-book with many of those new friends. “Cultivating Radical Self-Love: A Collaboration of Healers, Artists & Writers” is free to download on my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/posts/book-launch-self-16085856. I also designed a free e-course, D.I.Y. Therapy, to help alleviate depression https://impoweryou.org/healing-depression.
Have you tried art therapy? If so what form and what was your experience. I would love to hear about it and sharing your experience may be helpful for others who are experiencing depression or sadness.