Creative Occupations – Sharing my Chronic Feelings of Emptiness

It was made in 5 minutes. We were asked to make a piece that represents holding our self.

Chronic feelings of emptiness:

This was the first time I had articulated the emptiness. 5 years of groups and this piece summed up the emotions the pain I was/ am carrying.

What did it feel like to make?

A relief, like I had made the hole opening just that tad bigger to let space reside inside me. And the hands just that little bit bigger to hold the pain. Space for this pain to slowly move around. Rather than feeling like a crushing weight pressed against my chest. This ugly hole that I couldn’t explain to anyone- even on a good day. The unbearable sinking and choking of memories. Each little piece of clay representing an event, a rejection.

Using my hands to mould it. The coolness and smoothness of the clay was like a small piece of sanctuary in my hands. Nothing else existed. No group, no leader, just me and the process. It didn’t look like the incredible works of my group members. But we were not there to compare. In fact everyone was so engrossed in what they were making that time just flowed. No one saw me as unequal. Rather we held a space for everyone to articulate their journey through art. And in this piece I was holding myself….holding myself.

Holding myself…but I hate myself. How could I hold something I hate? Maybe that self-loathing was starting to move,.

There were no words. I didn’t feel pressured to speak. But I wanted to. The piece was a vehicle that I used to touch a space of me that I didn’t want touched, seen or even noticed. Something I hid with silence, hollow eyes and a fake smile –now out there for the world to see. For me to see.

Looking back at this piece I can remember so vividly how relieved I was. In fact I have used this piece to explain to one other person what BPD feels like and instead of being met with confusing and horror. He said with tears and a small validating smile. “That is so deep”. That same person thinks my mask is incredible when I originally I hated it. Not that his perspective should matter that much to me. But my artwork he given me time to think, initiated a conversation I didn’t know how to put together. And now I have shared it with you.

So what am I saying.

People with BPD are so creative with their art. I absolutely love watching other people engage with the art making process. They are taken to a place where it is just them and a new canvas,

It has given me the backbones of acceptance and mindfulness. I have been challenged to make with my eyes shut, my left hand, with tea bags, leaves, sticks.

I have then taken these pieces home to create a therapeutic space where these pieces are outside of me. And no longer just secrets. I have used these pieces in my work with my psychologist and psychiatrist.

I have realised I am not alone. That my art therapist never judges. Rather she promotes an inquisitive mind of acceptance. The space is mine.

Art has become a significant part of my narrative and identity. I have used it to communicate how I feel through my clothes and the way I dress. It is now my biggest coping strategy for when I am thinking about self-harm.

But it is not something that should be pushed. 5 years… and in 5 mins I created this piece. The timing was right, the space and place was the right fit. The group leader and the group was the right fit.

Processing these emotions is not done in 10 Medicare sessions and will most likely not be done by you alone. This is the work of many health processionals and environments coming together to release a part of my trauma.

Focusing on the process changes the expectations of the session. People are no longer under pressure to produce work; it is about the experience of being in the room and interacting with others.

Furthermore, rather than ‘connecting with one’s inner demon’, art therapy can be an opportunity to directly disconnect from difficult and painful thoughts and feelings.

When absorbed in creativity, one can forget the real world and exist merely in that moment.

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