Art Attack

This is a blog about depression. If you are easily offended or take offence to my very sarcastic humour, please do not read any further. Mental illness is not a joke; it is not something to point fun at and I fully understand that. BUT…when the going gets tough, sarcasm and humour is my defence and so I will be parading it around all over this blog.


If you need help, please get it. Whilst I hope this has a happy ending, I don’t know yet and given I’ve not been able to fix myself, I really don’t want others using this as a ‘How To Be Happy for Beginners v2.0’



I wake up early. Earlier than usual and before the nurses have tried to give me my morning meds. This is good, hopefully it’s a sign for the rest of the day. I’m starving and so I’m looking forward to breakfast. I can have what I want. I’m saying this to make it ok to me! Maybe saying it will help. All bran, toast and a croissant are on the agenda. It’s breakfast with company too, hello Patient S, how are you? Not good it transpires. Ok, Patient C, this is time to put things into practise, don’t take on his feelings, don’t take on his emotions. Can I do it? Let’s see. Patient A and Patient A2 come to join us. Right Patient A2, I am getting scared now on your ability to hunt me down. At least there are others to help diffuse the situation. Patient S’s nurse comes over to explain his psychiatrist is here. To me, there is only one logical answer to such information. Immediately get up, head back to the ward, apologise for not being there (even though you had no clue they were coming) and try to make sure the doctor doesn’t think bad of me. Patient S, however, doesn’t have the same reaction as me. He’s frustrated but ultimately, he needs breakfast so he tells the nurse his psychiatrist will have to wait. Holy moly, you can do that? You aren’t worried what they will think of you? The answer is no! Wow, Patient S, I need some of whatever you are taking. Patient S, quite rightly explains, he’s paying a significant amount for all this so the least his psychiatrist can do it wait. My jaw is somewhere on the floor by now. I’m feeling a tad jealous. I want the courage to say and do that.


Patient S eats and leaves, Patient A follows him. Hold on, how did I manage to get stuck here with Patient A2 again? It’s bad but slightly buoyed up by Patient S’s defiance, I lie to Patient A2 that I need to head back for something. It’s technically not a lie. I’ve not had my morning meds as today’s nurses are late. It’s the only way I can think of escaping though. Naughty me.


Today’s first session is ‘Understanding Weird Symptoms’. I don’t know what to expect from this but I don’t feel quite with it at the moment and I’d like to get up and leave. I don’t though, wouldn’t want to break the habit of a life time and potentially have someone think bad of me. Instead, I sit there for the hour feeling increasingly out of it, increasingly frustrated at myself and increasingly tired. 3 Patients have gotten up and left, I am evidently not the only on struggling with this session. I’m jealous they’ve got the guts to do it. That’s 2 jealousy feelings in a short time. I don’t like it. The one thing I take away from this session is that smell is the best way to reset our anxiety and feelings. It only works in the short term so we should rotate 3-4 different scents. Well, it’s a good job I am a fully-fledged Jo Malone addict with no less than 10 of their scents then isn’t it. I should be on cloud 9 surely? This may need more work. My ‘more work’ list is growing quicker than I can cross them off.


Next up is art therapy. So far, I’ve not made any of these sessions. Tuesdays have a pattern of not going well for me. I’d not realised that until now but it’s also the evening I consistently miss writing my blog post too. Interesting. I’ll add this is the list too. Not sure which of my many lists at the moment but it’s going on at least one of them. Back in the room with art therapy and there is a new patient, Patient N2. This sparks my anxiety as I need to check she’s in the right group. I need to check things are in order. Oh, my gosh, why? Why can’t I let things be? Patient N is new, she is in group 1 and I need to stop worrying about something that doesn’t really matter anyway.


Concentrating back on the art and I’ve picked my paper, black – fitting for someone who’s depressed. I’ve picked my paints – white, gold, silver and bronze. I’ve picked my seat – near the door. I’ve picked my brushes – 1 fine brush and 2 thicker ones. I sit in my place and stare. Bugger, I can’t do this. Looking round the room and everyone else is busying themselves with their projects. The therapist comes over. Am I ok? No, not really, I’d like to leave. Being a therapist, the response back to this isn’t ‘ok, go for it, bye’, no that would be too easy and there is no easy in here. Instead, she wants to dig a little deeper as to why I want to leave. I want to leave because I am worried I’ll make a mistake. This unknown picture that I haven’t been able to plan for, review, tweak and get perfect is scary. What if I put the wrong colour down? What if it’s a mess? What if, what if, what if. I hate this part of me. It gets in the way of so many things in my life. It stops me from sending emails at work, in case I get some information wrong. It stops me doing colouring at home, in case I get the colours wrong. It stops me learning to play squash, in case I can’t learn it. It stops so many things in my life. It’s not a little thing. It’s a really big giant elephant of a thing. Patient R2 and Patient J2 tell me that there is no wrong with art. They don’t understand though, both their pieces look so good already and I am still staring at a black plain piece of paper.


Time out: I am obviously writing this after the event. Sat here right now in questionable carpet room, I can feel the fear and frustration building up again. I can only explain this never-ending stream of ‘I’m not good enough, I’ll make a mistake, I am bad’ remix that loops over and over in my head as torture. It’s tiring hating myself this much. No wonder I don’t have time in the day to get everything done, so many minutes are taken up really hating myself and reminding myself I am not good enough. Right here, right now, I want to try to stop this. I want to stop thinking I am bad. I want to stop thinking I am a failure.


Back in the art room and Patient R2 suggests using my hands like kids do in art. I don’t like mess. No, stop it right now. I plunge my thumb into the white paint and after a not so quick pause (about 3 minutes) I put my white paint covered thumb onto the black paper. First mark done. Is it wrong? I don’t know yet. This one thumb print may look small but it’s momentum. It’s enough momentum to dip my thumb back in the paint and do it again. And again, and again. Before I know what I am doing, I’ve got finger and thumb prints in a geometric pattern, all over the page. I’d have loved to have a random pattern but this is a case of do what I think I can manage first. Random can come later. Geometric patterns are safe. They are ordered. The design evolves as the session goes on and it’s starting to look like an African themed picture. This is probably not completely coincidental. The first, and possibly only, place I’ve ever felt true calm and contentment is in Namibia. The vast desert is very soothing for the soul.


Time is up, we re-group to look at the pictures and discuss them. I’ve really enjoyed the act of painting however, once the picture is on the floor with all the others, it’s suddenly wrong. The lines aren’t all straight, the zig zag pattern doesn’t like up. The finger prints aren’t symmetrical. The group interject my long list of errors to tell me they like it, it reminds them of a shield, it looks like a jewel and it looks strong. I wish it were a shield, preferably one I could use to protect myself from all these feelings. The pictures are ours and we can take or leave them. I take it, maybe this can be a symbol of recovering.

Patient R2, someone I’ve really empathised with and who has been so kind to me, is done. Her insurance runs out today and she can’t face IPT so art is her goodbye. Oh my, this is hard. This is the second person to go that I had a rapport with. The first was Patient T and I am still worrying about him. Now it’s Patient R2. Her insurance doesn’t offer any day care treatment either so she’s being kicked out into the big wide world on her own. I don’t know what to say, I wish her luck as I think it’ll be lucky if she can make it through this. We’ve swapped contact details and we live close to each other. The hospital doesn’t encourage friendships as they can be unhealthy dependencies but I can’t help it. I am worried for her.


I can’t face the restaurant after the good bye so it’s a quick panini stop before eating in my room. I need to focus on something over lunch or else I’ll continue worrying so why don’t I perk myself up with some TV, oh I know, Broadchurch that I missed last night. Yes, this seems like a sensible thing to perk me up. Or not! It’s 45 minutes of something to occupy myself though so I’ll take it.


I go to group IPT because I don’t want to. I need to keep doing things that go against what I want to do whilst still here. This is a safe environment, trialling it out here is going to help it feel more natural once discharged next week. That’s the thing though, I don’t feel safe to be discharged next week. In fact, I am starting to catastrophize about how wrong it could go. I start thinking too big and this overwhelms me. I feel I’m somewhat stable but I’ve been at this place before. If you told me I had to go to work tomorrow, I’d be able to. I’d be slightly late, I’d be struggling with my concentration, I’d not be able to send any important emails but I’d get through it, just. This has obviously not worked well for me in the past and I am conscious of that. This needs to be different. I can’t plateau and get by because I’ll end up with a plan to commit suicide all over again. I’m scared.


The group is helpful. I don’t speak specifically about my worries but I empathise with the discussions underway. I need to lay a foundation of structure for my release without tipping too far into my OCD rituals of planning every 15 minutes. My home was my sanctuary, or so I thought. However, it was actually a place that enabled me to isolate myself. I need to make new, happy memories there to turn it into something positive. Therapist J suggests we create a RAG (red, amber, green) system of signs I might be struggling, what I need to do to help myself and what I need others to do to help me. I can get on board with this as I use RAG status’ at work so they seem nice and ordered. This is useful but I finish the session feeling I’ve got even more to work on to get me to ‘Normal’. It’s now that I remember what Friend EM said to me last night, I’ve got to stop focusing on what ‘Normal’ is and be selfish whilst I work out how to be ok. It’s true, I need to take ‘Normal’ off its pedal stool and, poignantly, normalise it.


The final session today is yoga but I can’t go. All the energy units are well and truly spent. I need something mindless and cathartic. Nurse A2 comes for the daily ‘how are we today, Patient C’ chat. I’m getting used to them now. I don’t mind. They are more helpful than I realised at first.


Supper time and I am in the restaurant at exactly 1730. They aren’t ready though. The eating disorder patients must be served first. My frustration is growing, why can’t they get the timings right? I know I am getting frustrated because I want to control the situation and because getting frustrated at this means I can ignore other feelings building up inside. I take a deep breath and try to calm down. Dinner, very disappointedly does not involve pancakes. How can the hospital have missed pancake day? I’m not a happy customer! Instead, it’s veg pasta bake followed by apple and sultana puff. Very tasty indeed. With 2 mouthfuls to go, I spy with my little eye Patient A2 entering. Oh, no you don’t Patient A2, this time, I’m two steps ahead of you. I cram the last mouthful down and in one swift movement, stand, deposit my bowl and exit. Phew.


Back in questionable carpet room and without realising, I’ve developed a new ritual. I’ve planned the TV for the night, including timings, intervals to do washing and channels. Oh, Patient C, you sad old lady. I know, this is a distraction technique. I know trying to create order is me trying to control my emotions. Come on, try to relax. Sadly, I can’t. In fact, my OCD beliefs get so strong they put me on edge. I’ve convinced myself that the flat is being burgled right at this very minute. I’m convinced this is true because I’ve not put something in the right order. My petcube doesn’t have night vision (that’s the newest version which I’m seriously toying with getting). I turn it on and turn on the sound. At least I can hear if someone is in the place. This is a stupid idea. Obviously a flat with 2 cats is never completely silent. I convince myself that the shadows in the dark is a man. Yes, this is silly. I live on the top floor of a converted property. The flat below know I am not at home so are keeping an eye on it and my friend goes every two days. The likelihood a man has got through the first door, up all the stairs and broken my 3 locks and safety bar is very small.


Dr E makes a flying visit, I’m relieved as I don’t feel like talking about my emotions. She’ll come tomorrow morning to catch up with me. Perfect, maybe I can find the vocabulary by then. Tonight, I am going to bed scared. I don’t like it.


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