Sometimes life comes at you fast and furious, and when it does we can often get swept away in the moment whether that moment is good or bad. Unfortunately, when the moment is bad and prolonged, say over a period of months or even years, we can easily lose ourselves in the crisis and trauma. The longer the crisis, the longer the trauma, the more severe the consequences we experience. These consequences can range from anxiety to emotional shutdown and anything in between.
Before I go any further I want to say that I am neither a doctor nor a therapist (nor do I play one on TV), but I am a survivor. Not only do I have mild Asperger’s Syndrome, but I have also had PTSD since childhood. I am also the primary caregiver of our now adult son who also has mild Asperger’s Syndrome among other things. There have been long stretches of time where I was so caught up in the moment, in the “now” of life, where I was so physically and emotionally drained, the thought of any sort of self-care wasn’t even on my radar. In trying to help our son through a prolonged crisis period which lasted almost five years I researched and studied everything I could get my hands on so that I could be a more effective caregiver and stronger support for him while he and our family navigated that extraordinarily difficult period. When the crisis was finally over and I was able to decompress, the idea of self-care sneaked into my mind. I knew that if I didn’t stop and begin self-care I wouldn’t be any good to anyone, so I started taking a look at some of the avenues that I had learned about while helping our son. That’s when I took a good hard look at art therapy.
As I said, I had discovered art therapy while looking at various ways to help our son express himself in healthy and acceptable ways, but it wasn’t a good fit for him so we never pursued it beyond a cursory level. When I took another look at it with my needs in mind I thought it just might be the ticket. I have always been a very creative person, and that creativity is an essential part of who I am whether it is being expressed through music, writing, art, or a number of other ways. For me creativity is just as essential as breathing, and when I’m not being creative it feels like part of me is dying. So when I finally started to think about taking care of myself and nurturing myself through creative expression I was very keen to try art therapy. Since that time I have discovered that art therapy is an excellent choice for expressing your emotions non-verbally, safely exploring and expressing darker emotions, relaxation, and taking time to care for yourself.
Initially I purchased a couple of adult coloring books and markers. I had remembered how much I enjoyed coloring when I was a child, and then again when our son was little. I enjoyed the relaxation and colors, but after a while I wanted to really be able to express my emotions, some of which had been unexpressed since I was quite young. For that I bought an inexpensive sketchbook and dug out my son’s crayons and colored pencils. After getting over my initial apprehension I found that I was indeed able to express myself through art. On angry days there were some pretty angry, chaotic looking scribbles. On more peaceful days flowers and more orderly pictures found there way into the sketchbook. One technique that I stumbled upon and that I will be sharing with you in more detail in the future is what I like to call Scribble-pops.
As time went on the love I had for art was reawakened and I decided to pursue my art in a more serious fashion. As my art has progressed it has become even more important to me and is more therapeutic than ever. I love playing some classical music, breaking out my colors and working on a painting. I can feel the tension melt away, being replaced by a wonderful sense of peace that helps carry me through the day. I can also tell when I haven’t taken the time for art, and so can my family. They’re very much in favor of me “arting” as often as possible.
I hope that you will join me and take some time to explore expressing yourself through art, or perhaps help a loved one express themselves through art. It may seem like a little thing, but it can have a tremendous impact.