I’ve been an outpatient with psychiatry for four years now. I’ve regressed and haven’t healed since entering their care as an outpatient. So much happens in those two months between appointments. After my latest breakdown, I begged them to give me more care. “I don’t want to want to die anymore” I cried. In the Irish mental health care system, you have to fight to be heard, to be cared for. It’s not right because so many people don’t have the voice to shout for their care. That’s why I’ve been stuck in the same boring tango with the department for these years. Each time I go there is a new team and you have to start from scratch all over again. Catch new doctors up to speed on your situation. Remind them what meds you’re on now. Where you’re working, if I’m working. In February just before my 27th birthday, I was sent to the hospital because I was suicidal. They admitted me to the day hospital, this gave me some hope. I assumed I would go in every day and there would be all sorts of counselling and services to avail from. This wasn’t the case. There was a group therapy session but that group was in the middle of an eight-week course and I’d have to wait another month to join. That month would never come as Covid-19 would put a stop to the services. The overworked nurse saw my frustration, my vulnerability, my desire to be looked after. “You should come to the pottery class tomorrow .”
I followed her instructions and went. The teacher saw my pastel pink hair and colourful jumper and said “well you must be an artist”, genuinely meaning it. Myself, another woman and a teacher got to work. Our pottery mentor was an artist and ceramist and her soft voice could chat with us for hours. She gave me an apron, some clay and simply asked me to “build something.” For the next few weeks, every Wednesday I would get out of bed and make my way on two busses to the hospital and to the small pottery room. For two hours, I would carefully slab by slab build a box with little instruction. Instinctively I knew what bits needed to be joined together, I searched for holes that needed more clay, I shaved off uneven sides, I carefully engraved leaves to the exterior. The three of us women would chat, about all sorts, mainly about art and the great pottery throw down. When I was waiting for my work to dry my teacher got me to do the most mundane task of making clay paste with water, dry clay and toilet paper. For two hours I carefully tore off minuscule pieces of loo roll and proudly made ceramic cement. I hadn’t done any art since my previous depressive episode when I was first sent to the hospital. That was when I became an oil painter. I’ve turned to art because it brings me back to a state of flow and for the time in which I am busy with her colouring in shapes on canvas or creating pots I have no intrusive thoughts. The process is all I’m thinking about.
All outpatient and day hospital activities have been cancelled. I’m waiting for online therapy to start. I miss my teacher, my fellow student and the kiln. I miss talking about art, about our pots, clay, the teacher’s stories about her previous life in her artist’s studio. I miss the distraction of having somewhere to go, something to do. My box still is inside the kiln, drying. The paint colours I chose haven’t made their way onto my floral jewellery box. While the pottery class isn’t going on for the foreseeable I’ve ordered craft supplies online and today started doing embroidery of a llama. After two years in hiding, I’ve taken out my sewing machine and bought cotton and thread. Maybe I can sew face masks for my family. Just the other day I got a bag of compost from Lidl while I await the arrival of a mass of seeds from a co-op. An ecologist told me the other day “it’s a good thing to plant many seeds just in case even one flower blooms.”