Sunday, February 22, 2009

Benevolent Structure

Over at Dr. Shock's Blog he has posted a blog about depression and art. With the post he has posted two paintings Klaas Koopmans painted of his fellow patients when Koopmans was in the hospital. They are beautiful.

Here are a couple drawings I did while in the hospital. My roommate, who I adored, had amaranthus on here beside was stunning, so I drew it. Then I drew the part of my hospital room that I found myself staring vacantly at while I was there.

When I went into the hospital for ECT in 2004 I brought my drawing board, paper and pencils with me. Drawing helped me break away from the fear I felt about receiving ECT, but it was also a really positive way to pass the time during a very dark period of my life.

( aside): ECT and my hospital stay was a positive experience for me. I read up about it and felt confident, and feel confident, that it is a safe and often effective treatment for major depression. There was however, some kind of primal fear about being put to sleep and trusting and allowing a stranger to do something physical to your brain. My fears were unfounded as the only negative side effect I was left with is crumby spelling (I used to have impeccable it is really bad...though this could be medication induced and/or caused by my decline in reading since being depressed. It did however, seem directly associated with ECT..There is always spell check, so not really a big deal.
It is taking me a really long time to learn one of the most important lessons I can learn:

Plan to participate in positive activities in my life, even when, and especially when, I am depressed .

It is extremely difficult given how, when depressed, I have so much fatigue and a desire to do nothing but sleep. In the end though planned activities like volunteering, painting, drawing, and singing work to help me in a few ways:

1. The planned activities create a "benevolent structure" (Dr. X's term) This benevolent structure creates an external "pull" towards my continuing to do things to help myself, even when my mood drops.
2. The plan replicates some form of structure, which emulates a sort of "work". I really need structure to get out of bed. I do more if I have a set plan to do things.

3. While it may not seem like doing things is helping, maybe while doing things I feel overwhelmed, overbooked or just plain tired, but...I know doing things keeps me at least more on track than if I avoid everything and sleep.

4. Scheduling and doing planned activities "forces me" to actually do something. I don't mean really forces, I mean creates a sense of responsibility to myself and others that acts as a motivation for my doing, rather than only thinking about doing. The latter only creates guilt.

5. "I don't want to, or I'm too tired to, (go, paint, participate, see anyone etc.) usually means "I am too depressed to"...if I am thinking these thoughts it is extremely important for me to challenge them.


Anonymous said...

It is a really vicious cycle as well isn't it? If I don't get up with a purpose on a saturday then i spend all weekend in bed moping, sort of like this weekend. Trouble is I am so exhausted by a friday, that the only thing which gets me through is the thought of a lie in on the saturday!!! **Sighs*** and I am sure i am part Lola, part dormouse!

Lola x

Hannah said...

I did lots of art therapy and craft and flower arranging when I was in hospital because it was a nice relief from what was going on around me and I also had people to do it with and encourage me. At home it's just me, I have the idea, I have the equipment but the motivation is seriously lacking, I need someone to nudge me along otherwise I scrabble back under the duvet and curse myself. If only they sold purpose and direction alongside the paints and paper in the art shop!

Hann xx

Life said...

Drshock just posted a link to your blog on twitter, are you on it? I love your artwork, pure natural talent :o) (long time reader prompted by DrS to visit tonight)

Aqua said...

Hi Lola and Hannah,
Your comments got me thinking and the next post i did is about the difficulties getting/staying motivated and sometimes just getting out of bed.

Hi Life, I'm not on Twitter. I can barely manage to keep up with my blog. I tried facebook at Lola's recommendation, but all I did was get frustrated because I couldn't figure it out...or if I did, the next time all the info was GONE (inside my head) again. I will see if I can check out Dr. Shock's Twitter post. Thanks for the heads up. Thanks too for the compliments about my artwork. It means a lot to me.