This is a ten-part series in reviewing and experiencing through art experiential’s, the book by Cathy A. Malchiodi, The Soul’s Palette, the book we are studying in my Intro to Arts and Healing art therapy course.
CONTENT WARNING: Mental Health, Depression, Suicide
Chapter 8: Art as Reparation and Restoration
This is a chapter filled with many suggestions on how to use art to restore the soul, mind, and body; as well as help repair it too. It was interesting to find that a variety of different methods could be used and be considered art. Something I had not even been aware of, and that I had been using all along.
Still, a few key points of importance were stressed at the beginning of this chapter on how the mind also protects itself and dealing with emotions cannot be forced. The images the mind releases happen on its own timeline, not the one we think we have to follow.
For example, I suffer from clinical depression and a few years ago had no idea that my medication wasn’t working as well as it used to. Then, combined with being in a toxic friendship where that person had been gaslighting me and while living in an emotionally abusive environment, I began to recognize I needed help when I began to consider suicide. An option I didn’t want and it scared me that I had gotten to that point in my state of being. When I left the crisis center a week later, no one could really comprehend how I had gotten to where I had considered suicide and plain relief when, in their eyes, it was just a medication issue that needed to be resolved. It is a very sad fact that a lot of people in the world suffer from depression but also that many people in the world do not understand depression, nor, wish to understand it. It left me feeling very broken inside. I wanted to use art to deal with these feelings but my mind balked at it and I couldn’t force it. So to save the idea I wanted to use to deal with this issue, I did a computer graphic version. It would be many months before I could actually feel safe enough in my mind to actually make the art that reflected and represented how I felt with having to deal with depression.
Eventually, after many starts and stops, since I could only focus a little at a time on it as the feelings were too intense to sit with for long periods, I was able to complete the image and had a beautiful drawing done that eventually was used as part of my portfolio for when I applied at Marywood. In this sense, art helped to restore me and know I wasn’t alone in dealing with depression based on a lot of feedback I got from those who saw this drawing at a few art exhibits. It did repair me too in that I was able to safely feel and process that time in my life.
Further in the chapter, a lot of loving concepts to heal the heart are found. One such art concept is to create a loving garden. This could be inside or outside. I love to garden and no longer have access to a spot of land, so I had to improvise. I found a cute wall shelf for my bathroom and used several of my ceramic pieces to start a succulent garden. I love my plants and it really brings me great joy seeing them every day. Plus I love that I can see something that I had fun creating in the ceramics studio at Marywood being used for my garden. I even have a few pieces that symbolize my love of gardening intermixed with the mini-planters.
Another aspect of using art to help the heart is that sometimes its important to get outside ourselves instead of getting lost internally to our pain. Gratitude is a kind way to do this and a variety of art methods can help focus on what we have in our lives to be grateful. Drawing what one is grateful for, doing a gratitude scroll as suggested in this chapter, or even using a journal. I have a blessings jar and I write on small slips of paper throughout the day on what I am grateful for. At the end of the day I read through each slip before putting in my blessings jar. It’s like a piggy bank but for gratitude. It helps me a lot to remember that there is more to focus on in life than just my desire to get past traumas.