The benefits of art therapy

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I suffer with a multitude of mental health ailments if truth be told . Anxiety and occasional low mood have been around so long they’re like old friends checking in from time to time. Like an overbearing relative that irritates the hell out of you when you see them and all through the visit you’re counting down to them leaving. You DO know exactly what I mean , don’t fib!

Them being old pals so long I’ve pretty much mastered the art of dealing with them . Anxiety can still manage to knock me sideways from time to time but knowing it won’t last , because it never has , helps enormously with acknowleding it’s showed up and waiting for it to piss the hell off again. Low mood similar , this too shall pass a credible mantra for me . As I always say when talking about mental health , I can only tell my story . Your experiences and techniques and symptoms will be different to mine but there’s often some kind of common ground there.

More recently we have a new mental health buddy to join the crew. Our newbie being trauma related . he brings with him flashbacks and nightmares and generally being scared of my own shadow. Loud bangs , noisy sqwarky birds??Yep that’s going to make me jump. In the stormy weather this morning a single leaf blew at me and had me jumping , heart racing ??? Not great!!

I needed a new way to deal with the bits in my brain that don’t work corectly and when Art therapy was mentioned i jumped on board. I know it sounds very touchy feely…new age …making clay out of your emotions nonsense , but for me it is a revelation. Here’s how it helps me?

EXPRESSING EMOTIONS WITHOUT TALKING

I’ve documented often on this blog how much of a struggle I find expressing my emotions verbally. That’s why writing this blog is really helpful to me actually. Expressing myself via the written word is so preferable to sitting talking to someone face to face *shudder*

Expressing my emotions with art , I have been amazed at how easy I find it. The session is led by an art therapist and there will always be a theme or some kind of a prompt. Themes such as resilience , feeling lost , guidance have all come up so far. As soon as I’m hearing these themes pictures and images just pop into my head and before I know it I’m there making art!! (ME the woman who struggles with stickmen!) I’ve also been surprised the emotions it’s stirred in me I’ve been teary a couple of times.

IT’S A GROUP THING

I wrote earlier in the year about how I feel like my my social anxiety has disappeared , walking into a group of strangers once upon a time would have been impossible to me . I’ve learned of late though , I really love people . I like hearing their stories and experiences and that although I am a big fan of my own company. Other people are great too!! The group is particularly nice and everyone listens and that dark humour that those of us in the know thrive on is apparent.

IT’S ALSO VERY INSULAR

My goodness I am a contridiction. The group setting for a chit chat before the session and then later to discuss our art is great . What I am benefitting from thoutgh is for that half hour, alone with my thoughts and my art materials I can completely absorb myself in my own emotions. Feels quite self indulgent , but for that time I am fully concentrated in expressing myself and it feels so good to be able to turn the world off for a little while.

IT CAN BE AN INDIRECT WAY OF DISCUSSING YOUR FEELINGS

So for a voacalising feelings phobe such as myself , and a woman who LOVES an analogy this works for me. We discuss our art and what we’ve made at the end of each session (you don’t have to noone will force you) I know I’m using whatever I’ve created to discuss my internalised feelings but it’s so much easier to discuss my boat in a stormy sea than talk about how lost I feel?

THERE IS TIME FOR REFLECTION
This is a clever one. Like i say I’m usually quite quickly inspired to create. Not too much though just get those ideas down. Afterwards though , later at home or a few days later even I can look at my own picture and almost appreciate the little touches and what they might mean.

As I say this probably isn’t for everyone , but it feels like it’s helpful for me . Expressing myself without needing to look someone in the eye and talk and getting to create at the same time . Well I don’t know why I didn’t try it sooner .

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