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More Than Words

More than Words is a gallery of podcasts, produced by Oxleas NHS, where people from Bromley and surrounding areas show their artworks as a way of showing how art helps them. 

Ok Michelle, could you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’ve been married for three years, I love painting, I love yoga, I love going swimming.

Could you tell us a bit about the mental health condition that you’ve experienced?

I suffer with severe anxiety, and also psychotic depression, I developed OCD.

Could you say when you first started painting?

Well, at school, my picture was put up on the wall to say how not to draw, all the mistakes I’d made and everything so I didn’t draw for quite a while, and then I become very unwell, ended up in hospital and I went to art therapy, and I discovered I could copy people like Vincent van Gough and Monet and I could copy them to a tee.

Could you describe your first artwork?

I’ll start off with the panther.  When I’m unwell, I picture myself coming out of it and that actually relates to my illness, I actually come out of the darkness.

Could you say something about what the art does for you in your life?

It helps me a great deal, first of all it helps me relax, also when I come to the group on Thursdays at my friends house, we all do art, and we sit around talking and we give each other support, and enjoy each other’s art.  Also when I’m at home and there’s not much to do I can lose myself in my art and I feel fulfilled and feel that I’ve done something that I really enjoy.

My name is Cecilia, I come from Sweden, I have a need for nature and I think that is in my blood.  I have also a need to be creative, if life is difficult, if I can be creative it helps me.

I am a carer for my husband, he’s got Parkinson’s. I think I can cope quite well with Parkinson’s, but it’s the medication, because of the change of personality.

Could you describe this picture?

This is all the turmoil around me, this is me again in the middle, and this is the life going around me, quite a lot of scary bits going around me, but this in the circle here, that is me in the circle, I feel that if there’s a problem, I’d like to do something about it, but there are things I can’t do anything about, so I really think ok, I can’t do anything, I have to surrender, so this is me surrendering, letting go, and it is quite empowering.

What would you say doing the art gives you?

It gives me the chance of dealing with what’s going on inside me, get it out on paper, and I can look at it and sometimes I can actually laugh at myself, because I can’t always take myself very seriously. I got it out, because if I keep things inside, I go into a little black hole, I know that, because I do go up and down, that is my nature, this is how I am.

Anne, could you just tell us a bit about yourself?

Well, I am semi-retired, the main focus of my life are my two children, my grandchildren.

Could you tell us about your caring role?

I care for my son who is schizophrenic, I find it very, very difficult to come to terms with.  You’ve always got in the back of your mind, is this person that you are caring for alright?

Could you describe your first artwork?

Most of my artwork – because I’m no artist, I don’t know what I’m doing, I doodle, and it turns into something.  Well the first one, I’ve got no idea what it is really, it could be a sheath of corn, I couldn’t say it’s the trunk of a tree, but it’s charcoal what I like because I can play around with it as I’m doing it.

Could you describe what the art gives you?

It does relax and makes me stop thinking about the problems of life, you know I do forget about it and I think also the fact that you’re with other people.

Ok Neville, can you describe yourself?

Yeah, I’m 42, good vintage, I like camping, every now and then I like to do a bit of swimming, I like nature programmes, I like science programmes.  I used to work, I had a breakdown.

Could you describe your first picture?

The first picture we’re looking at is called Polar Bear.  When I became ill, I also became unable to pay my rent at my independent living, I eventually ended up in a halfway house, and it was there that I took up painting as a hobby on a more interesting level and this was one of the first paintings that I did there and it’s special to me because it described a lot of my feelings at the time like this feeling of being constantly cold even when everything was happy and warm around me.  The more I looked into it the more I found I could pick out the different shades of cold if you like.

A polar bear would be insulated against the cold, is that important?

Yeah, that feeling of warmth is what I wanted, a feeling of comfort.

Both of the pictures you’ve shown us are very much about feelings aren’t they, and they’re actually about quite difficult feelings. Is it important do you think to be able to find a way of expressing those difficult feelings?

Yeah it is.  It’s a chance to speak without using words.

And does that help?

Yes it helps you make sense of what’s around. It’s like bouncing a ball off a wall, you can catch the idea back.  It’s a useful tool in describing pain where I found for me was when I was in pain I couldn’t describe to other people what I was feeling, what I was thinking.

What would you say to people who would say well this is all quite depressing?

Yeah, well, at the end of the day, having depression, it’s finding your way out of the darkness, it doesn’t matter who you are, I mean what happened to me could happen to anyone really, what you’re looking for really is a way of finding a way out of that dark space.  You’ve got to use every tool and any tool you can to make yourself better. It’s all about self-maintenance.

How’s your life now?

A lot better, things have eased up.