When I was in my early 20s, living abroad as a missionary, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
That’s the short story. The long story is much longer and involves a lot of frustration and frantic behaviour, many tears, and a lot of running. (Physical running that is – something that I have a growing and begrudging fondness for which probably started then)
I was in the middle of a manic episode, in Taiwan, speaking to my doctors in Mandarin (not my first language) and really struggling to manage my thoughts and emotions. A nurse, who knew that I was an artist, bought me a set of pencils and a book and pushed them towards me hopefully. What I made was a mess of faces, probably an accurate representation of how I was feeling at the time, certainly nothing of great artistic value, but it was the beginning of a more deliberate and mindful attitude towards my art practice.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always had a pen in my hands and I have always loved to draw, but I never really had to think about it – it was just something that I did. I learned to prioritise time for drawing and art, I learned how to articulate my feelings by practicing in my art journals, I learned how to identify my triggers and see patterns in my thoughts and behaviour. Art became part of how I managed my emotional health.
Diet, exercise, sleep, and art.
After hearing about my experiences I was asked by a psychologist to teach a small group about Creative Mindfulness and how art journaling has helped me to deal with stress and challenges, manage anxiety, and find joy. “We Are All Artists Cards” was born from that self-examination and my desire to share the tools that had been, and continue to be, so useful in dealing with my mental health and life challenges.
The cards and the classes have been sent and taught to people of all ages from all around the world and are straight forward enough for anyone to do them.
If you are interested in getting a set of your own, or just want to share some of your own experiences, I would love to hear from you!