Creative Writing Was the Breakthrough Therapy for Me
I looked forward to creative writing the most. I reconnected with something that felt so natural and my words flowed with ease. I wrote poetry in minutes that captured my feelings and I was often taken on unexpected journeys. I’d always written imaginative stories from a young age and in later years studied English Literature. I loved to read, absorb and analyse. Through living a stressful life and spiraling into depression, I had simply forgotten my love for it. Writing is now the light of my life and is the only way I can truly express myself. I now use my writing to advocate mental health, reduce stigma and inspire others. It is incredibly rewarding and helps me focus on managing my own mental health. Creative writing saved my life and provided me with a vocation that now shapes my life.
So What Is the Objective of Creative Therapies?
They are useful to anyone, not just those experiencing mental ill health. They allow someone to express their thoughts and feelings unique to them. Some connect with visual activity whereas others feel more physical activities are effective. The key objectives encourage self-expression, active participation, using the imagination and connecting with the mind and body. Discussion is encouraged to assess problems, challenges and how they can be overcome. It is not about drawing out raw emotion and asking people to experience traumatic memories. Instead, it is about enhancing that person’s understanding of themselves and enabling them to resolve issues in their head. It is interesting with my poetry that even when I wrote a dark poem, full of depressive and negative thoughts, I somehow managed to write a hopeful ending. I found I came to conclusions that motivated me to make changes. I used to read my poetry over and over and as the words were there in black and white they always resonated and gave me strength.
The Development of Art Therapy
Arts alongside medical treatment emerged in the 1800’s and 1900’s alongside the development of psychiatry. Creative therapies became widely recognized during the 1930’s and 40’s and it was recognized that self-expression through non-verbal methods might be helpful for those struggling with mental ill health. Dr Adolf Meyer was a major influence and was regarded as one of the founders of occupational therapy in the USA. In 1895 his wife worked as a social worker and introduced regular activities into a mental institution in the state of Massachusetts so that:
“A pleasure in achievement, a real pleasure in the use and activity of one’s hands and muscles and a happy appreciation of time began to be used as incentives in the management of our patients.” - “Occupational Therapy and Mental Health” by Jennifer Creek, Lesley Lougher
It was identified that patients with mental health problems responded to activities they could accomplish and as a result their self-esteem increased. It was recognized that creative therapies had a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of patients. We know that in order to maintain our mental health we must build emotional resilience and having a skill, being able to problem solve, socialize and participate in physical activity helps with this. Creative therapies can give a person a purpose and develop self-worth and value. Instead of being a high flying career girl, chasing perfectionism and never feeling good enough, I realized my purpose was to be a good person, caring for others, a daughter, a sister, an auntie and an advocate for mental health. Those are the things that motivate me to get up in the morning.
I am a true supporter of creative therapies. They are proven to be extremely effective and I have experienced this first hand. I needed encouragement to interact with others and I needed confidence to feel self-worth. I can’t describe the feeling when you write or listen to music or create a piece of artwork. No matter how small your efforts are, you have been part of something, you have tried to rationalize your thoughts and you can walk away feeling as though you have accomplished something. From feeling like a ‘nobody’, creative therapies can help you feel like a ‘somebody’ and this is invaluable in the management of our mental health and wellbeing.