Thursday 1 November 2018

#Depression, #Anxiety and the #Healing Well

The creative drive is a constant companion but sometimes circumstances dictate that it must be summoned from a very deep well. For five years, I taught women art and writing in a therapeutic context. These women had a range of addiction issues and many of them had recently come out of Holloway Prison. Many had mental health issues as well. It was a fascinating and productive time. I wrote courses designed to help the women find the tools to help themselves. The primary teaching tool was empathy, combined with an ability to listen, in the context of creativity. I learnt a lot about mental health from those women. It was an inspiring time. And often plain hilarious. I was the nut mixing the fruitcake. It was never dull. And at least I knew what some of them were talking about. These ladies had their thumbs ever on the bullshit trigger, and if you weren’t authentic, you were covered in splat-a-tat-tat.

Towards the end of my time there, I had my first #breakdown, (thank you, Mother and co.) which ushered in six months of severe depression. I thought then that I was at my lowest. With the support of my husband, I was able to go to work part-time, given the two hour blocks I taught in, perhaps because I was operating in a therapeutic context and I was answerable only to myself. I was not unaware of the irony of my situation, but my students, in the main, continued to respond to my teaching and though I often felt that the marrow had been sucked from my bones, I was always uplifted afterwards. For that window of time, the family events that had finally tipped me over the edge, stilled in my head. Each session necessitated a climb over a steep wall of resistance to get there – even to leave the house. Once out in the world, though my hands may be pouring with sweat and my head swimming with shame, I am able to pick up the mask – I’ve been practising this act since I was a small child; it’s part of my resistance to what has been happening to me. I’m no passive victim. I believe in, and do, fight back.

In 2015, my mother, acting with relations who stood to benefit from her will, began a campaign of hatred and public abuse against me; at stake? – the acquisition of my mother’s newly inherited great-grandmother’s estate via my maternal uncle. I cannot divorce this toxic family until a court case settles this latest abusive act. (The family I was close to – my grandparents who were my parental figures, are dead - they, and my great-uncle, had character.) I used to teach my students that when writing was impossible, art, even just doodling, drew from the healing well. If picking up a pencil was not possible, immersing oneself in music was the way in, though the watershed of tears that music can brings, should not always be undertaken alone. Well have I understood this teaching myself these past two years where writing at any length, has been impossible.

This season, I have kept suicidal thoughts at bay, on a combination of faith; the punctuated joy of children; and drugs. Thus, last year, I was able to begin and focus on Hiraeth with lots of support and was able to channel a short play based on my experience of abuse. This year has seen the making of #art in protest and on occasion, the writing of poetry and lyrics. I am blessed that I have a husband and friends who have held me, sometimes suspended, through a dark sea. Creative endeavour has not been constant, unlike the depression and anxiety that has dogged me, but rather bright bursts of creativity exploding out of the darkness. What else is there? I can’t just melt into the seductive black. And now the #writing has come back in a flood.