June 25, 2010 by sharonbrennan
In November last year I had a rubbish week. The paper I wrote a weekly column for finally gave up the struggle to survive and closed down. That same week I was admitted to hospital with another lung infection. It was my third admission that year and would mean that in total for 2009 I’d spent a month and a half in hospital.
Following conversation with doctors on what I could do to try and get better, it was agreed I’d give up work, at least for a while, to see if lots of rest and no stress would help where medicine was failing.
By January, I had lost all track of time. I literally had nothing to get up for in the morning and the whole week started to untether itself – each day had no more purpose than the next. Getting used to being out of work, especially as I didn’t know if it would be a permanent state of affairs, was incredibly tough. I’d worked in some form or another since I was 16, and a lot of my personality was focused around independence and feeling a sense of achievement through my job.
It took months to adjust my values so I could still feel like a useful member of society.
And one of the things that really helped was enrolling in an art course. It was a ten week ‘creative painting for beginners’ class held every Wednesday for two hours in London Bridge. Suddenly Wednesday began to exist as a concept in my week again. And I found I really enjoyed it.
This week was the last session of the course. I’m happier, stronger and interestingly enough my lung function has improved for the first time in 18 months. Of course I can’t attribute all of this to an art class, but I did notice that ‘Arts on prescription’ schemes have been runnning in various counties in the UK, such as Devon and Nottingham, since the mid-noughties. Open to those who are living with long-term illness, depression and eating disorders the aim is to increase self-esteem and reduce visits to doctors through involving patients in art.
Its hard for schemes like these to prove their worth through statistics, but from my own anecdotal experience, giving an ill person something to feel positive about, when most of the news from doctors can feel overwhelmingly negative, can truly perform miracles – reaffirming that life can still be good.
And here’s a picture of my painting, its not quite finished but I’m looking forward to hanging it on my wall as a reminder that things can get better.