Fibromyalgia awareness day, how art is therapy
If you already know me, you'll know I have Fibromyalgia. I didn't use the word suffer, because it's kindof negative and I refrain from using negative words. This is because I practice the Law of attraction..... what you think you become. So think of suffering and guess what.... more suffering will come your way.
That being said.... sometimes it's the only appropriate word to use. This week has been a small nightmare for me. I've recently came off my anti-depressants and it was probably a little too soon. Happy I gave it a go though, at least I know where I'm at.. always silver lining right?! So, not only have I been depressed and emotional (which isn't like me) I've been in so much pain I'm pretty proud of all I've manged to do this week. Even getting out of bed and finding the stamina and motivation to get dressed was a big feat. (you're lucky I got dressed for my live on my Facebook yesterday to tell you about my special non birthday offers for this weekend!). It was also my birthday yesterday, which I cancelled because well I feel like crap physically and emotionally, and it's been extremely anti climactic, so you can imagine I'm not a happy bunny!
I'm so grateful though, for the support I get with my condition and my art. Art plays a massive part in how I manage the fibro and depression. You don't even have to have a chronic condition to reap the benefits either, but if you do, no matter what it is, art therapy can provide great respite from the daily 'battle' you probably feel like you have to face on a daily basis.
First things first
You don't have to be any good at arts and crafts to benefit from art therapy! It's the process that is therapeutic really. And guess what... the more you do, the better at it you'll become... double whammy! It practices mindfulness. If you've not heard of this before, it's the practice of living in the here and now. Not focusing on anything else other than the task at hand.
There's lots of ways to practice mindfulness... meditation for one, washing the dishes or ironing can also me a great way to do it... but to most it's a little boring and this is where the issues lie. This is when your mind can wander onto other things. You don't stand there whilst washing the pots and purely concentrate on what you're doing ... that takes time to train yourself to just think on the task at hand (although if you struggle to sleep... getting up and doing a mundane task is great sleep hygiene and will help!). Also, if you suffer a chronic pain condition, this is painful and no fun. so it wont do what it's meant to... that's where crafting comes in.
If you do struggle with those pesky chattering monkey (most people do at some point) then it's good to get those worrisome thoughts out. That's exactly why I came up with my Fuck it Buckets. I don't lay claim to the term 'chuck it in the fuck it bucket' but these are 100% my design and brain child. The idea came to me when I was having words with those monkeys. I logically knew that the things I was anxious about weren't a big deal... or there wasn't much I could do about those situations that were going on in my life.... yet the chattering continued and just got louder and louder. I know the practice of writing down your worries on a pad to get them out of your head, but it just wasn't enough for me. I needed it to be cathartic and literally throw them away. And that's what worked for me. Physically writing them down and throwing them in the Fuck it bucket did the trick! And that's why I now sell them, because I know how great they can be! They can even be personalised too ! Check them out here!
Let's get down to business!!!!
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Choose to make a change and take control back!
The main thing to remember is... even if you're crap at it, to enjoy the process. (although art is in the eye of the beholder, I know of a lot of famous artists that don't actually have any real technique... take a look at some of Jackson Pollock's work... just paint splashes on a canvas!). Try different sorts of crafts. There's a zillion out there, so there's something for everyone. If you like to crochet but your hands are sore, try baking a cake! As long as you can concentrate on what you're doing, and it's fun, it doesn't matter what it is.
How this helps chronic conditions
I can easily use my Fibro as an example, as I know it first hand. Although the pain is always there, when I concentrate on the pain, or it's at the forefront of my mind... because it's yelling at me to be noticed, it can feel ten times worse. I'm not saying try to ignore this pain, after all, you feel it for a reason. If you've done too much, then it's your body's way of telling you it needs a break. So listen to it! But if you need a bit of respite, even just 10 minuets of crafting can help. And the more often you do it, the longer you'll be able to do it for. It's like muscle memory.
When you're painting, or gluing, or baking, or whatever you decide to do, it changes the focus in your brain. It pushes the tantrum throwing condition to one side on the naughty step, allowing you to just think of the project at hand. If you're thinking about something else, and it's fun, then the intensity of the pain or anxiety etc that you're feeling isn't the main point of focus. You'll soon see that the pain isn't so bad (or more to the point, you're just not noticing it as much... and that's the key!) It's always there, but you don't notice it. And this is true for any condition whether it's physical, mental or both! I can lose myself in a painting for hours sometimes, even if when I sat down to paint, I was ready to cry because it was so bad. That's when I know my art therapy is doing it's job.
One thing to bare in mind though... if you have a chronic condition, crafting is a physical activity (ok so it's not throwing yourself out of a plane) but you're still using your body. Think about your body position, what you're sitting on etc. After you've crafted you may notice the pain again because you've actually been doing an activity, so when this happens for me I just chill out on the couch and recover. So my tip is... make it worth the pain! enjoy it so much that it lifts your mood so you don't care as much about the physical pain you're feeling. It's all about how you view your pain. Change the way you see it and it wont look so ugly!
How do you decide what to do?
If you've never crafted before, a great place to start is Pinterest. It's full of ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Remember though, if you're wanting to make a business from your craft, then do not copy other peoples products and ideas, just use them as inspiration! They have spent a long time perfecting their art and ideas.... don't piss all over that by being lazy and stealing! If, however you're just making for yourself it's fine, just make sure to credit the original designer if you post to social media!
Another place is Facebook. There's lots of craft groups on there. I'm a member of a great craft group, called Craft Craft and More Craft, Its a place to buy, sell, ask for advice, show off your makes and just browse all the lovely things. Take a look and find the right one for you!
Look for local groups. Try the local library, Ucan centers or even ask your Facebook friends if they know of any. Shops like Curio in Heywood Lancashire hold regular craft workshops, or my very talented friends like Natalie Gaynor Designs does Embroidery hoop art classes and kits, and Alyson at Made by Tree does cute wooden workshops. There's lots out there, so check in your local area. These workshops you go to have other benefits too. Not only do you learn from a professional, but it gets you out of the house where you can meet new people and take your mind off things, and chances are you'll meet someone who suffers similar conditions to you, so it's a support network too!. I get how hard it can be to actually leave the house sometimes or getting motivated and finding inspiration to do things at home, but booking classes like this gives you that gentle nudge you may need. And.... if you feel you're lacking inspiration, they have it in abundance so they'll give you lots of ideas!
Last but not least
I could go on and on and on about this, but I'll leave it there because I've given you enough to think about, don't want to overload you..... but I want to leave you with this final thought.......
Talk about it...... if you're struggling, don't be afraid to have conversations. Don't hold on to it tightly allowing it to consume you for fear of judgement or ridicule. If people don't know how to deal... then that's their issue not yours! Educate them, educate the world, your friends and family, your neighbours... . No matter what your condition, it's ok not to be ok !!!!!!!
I've been in that place where you stiff upper lip it, and put on a brave face the 'Happy Mask'. People have no idea what you're going through... so tell them. Hopefully they'll never be able to actually empathise (wouldn't wish my Fibro on my worst enemy) but, if they don't understand or support you, then they aren't your support network.... go out and find it. Even if that network is online!
Speak to your doctor, but more importantly speak to yourself. Tell yourself you can do this. You can cope then the next step is to feel and actually believe it... but I'll get onto that in another blog.
For now, have a great weekend, happy crafting and gentle understanding virtual hugs!