One of the things I like most about my therepist is that she encourages me to tackle my depressions creatively. Sometimes I really do have to force myself to put work down for an hour or two- I have to fight the feeling that time is money and I should be doing something productive rather than selfish. But then I always remind myself that life isn't just about work, life is about health and happiness too, and not only that, but I will work far more productively if my head is clear and I am calm and positive!
Recently we've been talking about an unhappy period during my childhood, which has been difficult for me to do. I pushed that 14 year old me so far back into my head, I totally denied that she was in any way a part of me, and was actually a little disgusted to discover I still have a lot in common with her.
But once I got used to the idea, I decided that what I needed to do was to sort out this problem once and for all. I would look for answers. I would pick apart every bit of that 14 year old girl and work out who I am now and how she is a part of me. I would undoubtedly discover something if I just analysed the information at hand. I made a spreadsheet and started filling it in, and decided to discuss my findings with my therepist. I have to admit, she looked a little taken aback.
It was at this point that she suggested that instead of analysing and filling in tables, I produce some artwork based on the question of 'who am I?' No in-depth thinking, no tables or lists or spreadsheets, just art.
And my only thought was 'it'll never work.'
How could I possibly learn anything without thinking about it and breaking it down logically? That's just nonsense.
I told her 'Ok, I will do some artwork, but it probably won't help.'
So I went home and thought over and over, how was I going to do this? I tried a few things, nothing worked. I was bored, I wasn't finding out anything I hadn't already thought of... and finally, yesterday afternoon I gave up and decided to go back to her and tell her that, as I had predicted, it hadn't helped.
So I finished my work and curled up with my hotwater bottle and a book, and for the first time that day, I relaxed. As I let go of the day and slipped into a world where the earth is powered by gears and cogs, and people are captured and forced to mop the decks of giant zeppelins, I became aware of a physical sensation of something unhooking and freeing up.
And at that point a floodgate opened up to some part of my head I hadn't visited in many years. I picked up a pen and started doodling.
At first, something inside me fought the process. In fact, I was a little frightened of what I was doing, as if drawing these characters would make them more real and I would end up schizophrenic. I mean, I’ve always had conflict in my head, and have toyed with the idea that I have different characters that fight to be ‘me’, but I have never really considered them to be ‘people’ in their own rights, or wondered what they would look like.
But now I was finding them in my head, letting them fill me up. It was almost as if they were just using my hand to draw self portraits. I wasn’t exactly thinking, I was just drawing what felt right.
And then, several hours later, I put the pen down. There, looking back at me, were 5 parts of the inside of my head. Characters that made perfect sense and seemed so familiar, but were so suprising and new.
It HELPED. So much more than my spreadsheets had done! It felt free and easy and more than anything else, fun! As soon as I closed my notebook I fell into a sound sleep, and woke up feeling clear-headed and positive.
And so I suggest to everyone, even if you don't think you can draw, have a go!