Coping Mechanisms #1

Lithium

Although I am one to be held captive to my many vices, I have several coping mechanisms that I have found to be effective in distracting me from my manic and depressed states of mind. One of my coping mechanisms is through art. Well, not just any art, specifically painting and drawing. The above photo is something I painted during one of my therapy sessions.

Disclaimer: I do not seek art therapy, as that is a form of therapy often used with developmentally delayed kids and adults. My therapist likes to use art to engage the right side of the brain (the more creative and artistic part of your brain) along with the left side when discussing potentially traumatic subjects and it then becomes easier and less triggering to talk about difficult times in your life and various emotions. I personally have found it extremely effective because during my art sessions, I normally don’t shut up when I am talking to my therapist about a difficult topic as when I am not drawing, coloring, or painting, I can sit in silence or zone out the entire conversation because I block out those traumatic experiences.

ANYWAYS. I was always fortunate enough to have art as a part of my life. Although I consider myself to be no good at it, my mother insisted on my older sister and I having time every night before bed to read, write, or draw, back when we were kids. It is one of the few lessons I would like my future children to continue when the time comes because it really engaged my brain in ways that I never really got the opportunity to explore in school. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I realized I actually enjoyed drawing. I was forced to take a beginner’s drawing class in order to graduate with my class and although I considered it to be a complete waste of time when I was focused on my then boyfriend, debate club, my health, working out, I found myself drawing more and more in my spare time because I had the desire to do so, not because a teacher assigned a project to me.

As a senior, after I developed a severe kidney infection and had to have my appendix removed because it nearly burst (another story for a different time), I spent a lot of my time in the gym. When I was too symptomatic to work out, I found myself using my Instagram account to draw and imitate female Nike athletes in their prime, performing the event of their choice. As I learned technique, I slowly became better. Even to this day, I can’t freehand draw anything. But when I have an image in my mind or a photo to reference, I can imitate it pretty closely. For whatever reason, I set my drawing and art skills aside out of most likely boredom and focused on working out, my new boyfriend, and virtually nothing else.

It wasn’t until last year that I walked into my therapist’s office that was covered in paintings completed by her other clients’ that I realized that I wanted to give art another go. I asked if I could grab a canvas and paint something. She said of course! She was thrilled because she had a love for art and its therapeutic techniques for her clients. I believe my first painting was guided by her instruction and I created a 2D sunset with the colors that represented the emotions that I was feeling at that moment.

My first individualized painting was one where she asked me to write down all the words I would use to write about myself. The next week I came in with that list. Then she asked if I would ask those around me to write down words that would describe me. i completed that task and the next week I gave her the list. She told me to paint that and so below we have the following product.

Community

Now I stare at my floor that has a stack of paintings 15 high in less than a year. I love them all for different reasons. Most wouldn’t say they are good by any means, and that is okay. I am not trying to impress anyone but myself. They all have personal meaning and sentimental value to me and that is what truly matters. Painting distracts me long enough to keep me away from my various vices and helps comprehend the pain, the joy, the sorrow, the world, and the atmosphere. I can’t explain what goes on in my head half the time but if I can show it, I can be freed of the inner demons that consume me.

Til next time,

Dani

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