Art therapy has always been an intense passion of mine, but I never really understood that I was doing it until recently. It is a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing, or modeling, used as a remedial activity or an aid to diagnosis.
So, I have no official diagnosis, mostly out of fear of going to the doctors and therapists, but I have experienced trauma in my life that has led to what I think is chronic depression, dissociative identity, and PTSD... but, ya know, biology may also play a part in that. I'm no doctor, I'm no therapist. What I do know is that the only way I can live with myself, the only way I can literally get out of bed and get to work, is by making art.
"Draw a picture about how you're feeling," the therapist used to tell us when we were stuck in that dark room with the big windows and the leather couch and all the books. Back then, I was annoyed because that idea felt so silly and childish, because I wasn't a very silly or childish kid. I don't think I really could talk to her about anything - until I was 24, it felt like I couldn't talk to anyone about anything.
I do remember she told us to just keep a journal or a sketchbook for when you're feeling sad, lost, or confused. Both are practices I hold to this day, almost 17 years later. I always carry both on me, everywhere I go. Not so silly, I guess.
The truth is, art is not childish, it's childLIKE. It's about embracing that sense of play and uninhibited passion that flows out of you when you just... let go and create. It doesn't have to be pretty, trust me. By God, if you could look at my sketchbook, you'd see a lot of not-very-cute drawings that are for nobody to see but me. They illustrate the pieces of me that hurt the most - out pours some of the darkest corners of my heart. And trust me when I say they don't look very skillful or aesthetically pleasing, either. I would honestly be embarrassed to share them with the world.
It's worth it to get the ideas out somewhere, even if it's just for me. Sometimes it's worth it to see the way my creations impact others. It's worth it to teach classes and watch people be surprised at themselves for what they've made. If I bring someone a smile and a new thought, I think that is enough for me.
Many people believe medication is the way to go, like it's some magical cure-all for peace of mind and normalcy. I'm afraid that if I go that path, I'll stop feeling, and I'll stop making all the things I make. Is stopping myself from having the occasional manic episode worth losing all of this? Something tells me... no.
There is power in positive thinking, and I can create whatever kind of life I want to - it's all in my head. Just like it's all in yours!
I think there are lots of important things to focus on in life that bring positivity, but sometimes I forget them, so I will write them down here. ART! Family. Friends. Collaboration. Dedication. Nature. Sunshine. Hot tea and coffee. Laughter. Perseverance. Being grateful for everything you've been blessed with. Making an impact in whatever small ways you can. Sharing your truth, even when it's hard. Giving back to the communities and people that have nurtured you. Most importantly, inner peace, and sharing that inner peace with everyone you meet.
Because when you heal yourself, you help heal a tiny part of the world. When you love yourself, you help spread a little more love into the world. And believe me, in this day and age, the world needs it.
What is this blog about? I'm not sure. Maybe I hope to encourage you to make something. It doesn't matter what it is. Write a poem, doodle a silly monster, paint flowers, dance a little ditty. Give a little extra love to yourself, and to your family. Make someone laugh. Plant a tree. What's your art today? Listen, it doesn't matter if it's "good" or not. It just has to be yours. And when you share yours, someone else will feel brave enough to share theirs. Please don't be afraid.