The Healing Power of Art

by vliebenson@gmail.com
Travel art kit and art journal on a bed tray

I’m not going to lie to you. The past few weeks have been a sh*tshow healthwise.

On June 15 I had to take my husband for a medical procedure. I had one job. Drive him there and back. I didn’t even have to wait with him – due to Covid restrictions I literally couldn’t set foot in the office.

Killing Time Nearly Killed Me

I dropped him off and went to a nearby mall to kill 2 hours while I waited for him to be done. While I was there I started feeling dizzy and unwell. It took a bit to get back to my car where I’d left my water bottle. But sitting there for almost half an hour I felt worse and was out of water. I figured I would try to get back to the parking lot where I’d left my husband. But as soon as I drove out of the exit of the mall I realized I made a huge mistake. After two more blocks I was feeling like I was going to faint – my brain felt like gravity was pulling it down into my stomach and things were getting dark.

I already have a ton of anxiety around driving after having some other health-related issues while in the car. So now as I’m fainting I’m also having a panic attack. Somehow, I managed to drive around the corner back to the medical building where I left my husband. I thought if I could just get inside there were literally hundreds of doctors and I could get some help.

Doctors, Doctors Everywhere and Not a One to Help

But no dice. I couldn’t even stand up. So I called 911 and watched as an ambulance circled the parking lot missing my car 3 or 4 times – despite my banging the horn and having my flashers on. They eventually found me and as they drove me to the hospital, I frantically called and texted friends to see if anyone could pick up my poor husband. (Sorry to everyone who got frantic misspelled texts that looked like I was having a stroke and thank you to those I reached who stepped in and helped!)

I spent the night in the hospital, but they didn’t figure out was wrong with me. And I haven’t felt well since.

Back home, I was too dizzy to move around much, plus I woke up with a headache and neck pain in the hospital that still hasn’t gone away. I couldn’t work and was basically sitting up in bed trying to pass the time and not become completely depressed.

Art Heals

collage with art supplies

So I turned to my go-to strategy: art journaling.

I didn’t make a lot of art during the past year and a half. And what I did make I didn’t really get much joy or satisfaction from. After launching my art store last year and working on art designed to sell, I was burnt out and kind of lost my creative fire.

But I had watched everything on Netflix and needed to find something to take my mind off how crappy I felt.

It was right around the summer solstice and I remembered there is an annual free creative retreat I sometimes enjoy. So I signed up and did several of the creative workshops. I didn’t worry about showing them to anyone – except my sister (we text each other our daily art journal spreads). And I had bought a watercolor journal that really wasn’t the right paper for watercolor, so I didn’t care if I made a bunch of crappy in art in it.

Rediscovering Creative Bliss

As it turned it out, these low-risk, low expectation, paintings and collages not only distracted me from my symptoms, but they made me feel better while working on them. My anxiety decreased, I was in the moment, and I actually started feeling a sense of joy about making art that had been missing for quite some time.

I’m now back to creating some sort of art most days. I’ve become pretty enamored with collage lately. But sometimes painting or digital art strikes my fancy. Sometimes the media I use is completely determined by whether I can sit or stand at my studio table or need to be in bed. Painting in bed is dependent on what supplies I stuffed into my travel art kit and left on my bedside table. But it’s all good. I’m just happy to have a regular creative practice again.

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