Lifestyle

When I experience psychosis, painting pictures of animals helps me through


In doing art therapy, I was able to work through and process some of the complex emotions (Picture: Danielle Beck)

I battle with demons each night and it feels so real that I wake myself up panting and struggling to breathe.

It’s a phenomenon known as sleep hallucinations – they can be like nightmares, but much more real and vivid – and it basically means I live in the real-life version of Nightmare on Elm Street.

Unfortunately, this has been my reality since 2019 when I was around 22 years old. I noticed I couldn’t sleep properly around the time I’d get my period.

At its worst, I wasn’t sleeping a wink for four or five days at a time and it was incredibly frustrating. It caused me extreme pain and anxiety around going to bed.

I now know that I was suffering from debilitating menstrual insomnia that was slowly altering my reality and doctors think that was causing psychosis – I was losing contact with reality and conjuring delusions in my mind.

I continued to go to work at my corporate job at the time, but I wasn’t really ‘me’.

I had less concentration, I practised less self-care and then I started to hear voices in my head telling me to do things. It was like the TV, radio and music were talking to me specifically and commentating, but it wasn’t like a normal conversation would be, it was a completely altered train of thought.

I actually had no idea I was experiencing symptoms of psychosis at the moment it was happening.

I realised I especially loved drawing animals (Picture: Danielle Beck)

The voices felt normal to me and, actually, I looked ‘normal’ on the outside to a lot of people. Outsiders would say I was perhaps a little quiet – if only they knew what was happening inside my head…

One day, the voices convinced me someone was going to harm me. I thought I wasn’t safe where I was living with my family so I refused to come back because I was so scared and instead moved in with my cousins.

That’s when my mum became concerned and we reached out to Samaritans for help. They pointed me in the right direction with resources I could access for support and they were a huge help. After that, I went to the doctors and got referred to the early intervention team, who ended up changing my life.

They explained what I was going through and treated me with the medication I needed – it felt like a lightbulb moment in my life. 

Before then, I didn’t really know what I was going through. I would’ve called sooner if I’d known what it was.

I was eventually referred for therapy, which I was nervous about but tried to trust the process. It’s in one of my early sessions that my therapist uncovered my creative side and passion for art. That’s when she suggested art therapy to me.

As soon as she said those words, I was curious because I’d never really heard that term before. It’s essentially a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

During each session, my therapist would talk to me about how I was feeling that day. Then we’d channel that into my art. In one session, we came up with the concept of me being Alice in Wonderland so I created collages with elaborate fashion illustrations.

In doing art therapy, I was able to work through and process some of the complex emotions I was having at the time. Then I found myself wanting to do art while at home too.

The biggest thing my art does is help open conversations about my mental health (Picture: Danielle Beck)

Gradually, I realised I especially loved drawing animals – especially my two cats, Jazz and Callie. I would draw the cats as they’d walk around the house doing everyday things and it made me feel so calm and therapeutic.

This eventually grew into a whole series of pet and animal portraits – including what I call my snuggable art collection of animals with their babies, which portrays the hope and protection I crave in my everyday life.

I started posting my art to social media, doing live drawing videos and getting some really lovely feedback, which led to being asked to exhibit a collection in October last year. I was so happy and proud of myself that my art was being so well received, but also that it was speaking to others in their mental health journey too.

The biggest thing my art does is help open conversations about my mental health, which helps me find common ground with other people and make me feel like I’m not alone.

This is why I now talk openly about it all, because I want to be the voice that I needed when I had no idea what I was going through in those early stages.

I want people to know that they’re not alone. If I can share my story and someone reading it can recognise the early warning signs of psychosis in themselves, then I’ll never stop talking about it.

Today, I’m hopeful for my future.

I still get sleep hallucinations and insomnia, but I now have tools to help me cope with it all better – and a collection of snuggable animal art too.

If you or anyone you know is struggling this Mental Health Awareness Week, Samaritans provide emotional support 24/7. Anyone can contact, free, on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or visit their website here.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing James.Besanvalle@metro.co.uk

Share your views in the comments below.


MORE : Mental Health Awareness Week: How do we solve a problem like loneliness?


MORE : I was angry that I survived my suicide attempt – and then I discovered painting


MORE : How to start conversations on mental health with someone you’re worried about





READ NEWS SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.