This year hasn’t been as I’d anticipated so far, getting off to something of a false start for me. As last year drew to a close I had to say goodbye to a dear friend, my cousin-in-law’s father, when he sadly passed away. Unfortunately this was to be the first of several bereavements, the next being an uncle at the beginning of the new year and then my own father at the end of January, the latter throwing me into a turmoil with not only the grief to deal with but also a funeral to arrange and my father’s affairs to sort out.
As the waves of grief washed over me I found myself once again contemplating the meaning of life, as I have done many times over the years. I have battled with depression for all of my adult life, and anxiety for much of it, and naturally a time of bereavement can be a trigger, particularly as I lost my sister years ago in a car accident when she was just 18, and I was coming on for 20. I’ve never fully recovered from that and all these years later I’m still working through the intense grief that it brought on. It was this that triggered my contemplation of the meaning of life, a contemplation that over time has developed into existential thinking and now, with the recent events in my life, into a full blow existential crisis.
You may not be completely familiar with what an existential crisis is, although you may have heard of it and almost certainly can relate to some of the questions at the heart of it such as ‘why am I here?’ and ‘what is point, or purpose, of my life?’. They are the sorts of questions that we all think of from time to time but in the context of psychological wellbeing an existential crisis can throw someone into a state of severe anxiety or depression. I won’t delve too much further into this for fear of making this post too melancholy but if you are interested or can perhaps relate and would like to hear more then I can always talk about it another time.
My saving grace through all this, aside from the support of my wonderful family and friends, has been through immersing myself in art when I picked up a paintbrush again for the first time in a very long time. I spent hours, into the night, lost in the painting which carried me away and offered me an escape and a relief from the emotions and dark thoughts that had been consuming me. Painting, as with most arts, is such an immersing activity that you can’t help but be ‘in the moment’ – mindfulness at its best – as you carefully choose and mix paints, brush the picture into life on the paper or canvas, and wash away the paint from the brush in the water. There is a strong correlation between creative people and mental health issues such as depression and it’s fairly easy to see the links. There’s a form of escapism to be found from painful emotions and hardships of lives, and expression of overwhelming emotions, whether through lyric writing, dance and movement, acting and becoming someone else, or expression through art. It is those who think and feel deeply who are able to most easily express themselves in such ways.
If you need some time of escape, some relief from stresses and strains, or simply a fun way to relax, try turning to arts and crafts if you haven’t already, or turning back to them if you have. It can be as simple as picking up a biro and a pad and doodling, or a shopping trip to treat yourself to a box of paints (which needn’t be expensive) and some art paper. No one need see it, it can be for your eyes only, just let it connect you to your inner child and begin to play. A few minutes or a few hours of forgetting our adult woes and entering a child like world again is a true gift.