Art therapy lowers depression in breast cancer

artist

Recent research shows that almost every second woman with breast cancer is depressed or has anxiety; the risk for younger women is even higher. The findings of a clinical trial, published in a recent Palliative and Supportive Care journal shows that signficiant lower ratings of depression and anxiety, were reported for a randomised controlled art therapy group, compared to the control group.

I took part in an art therapy course at the wonderful cancer support center which I attended. Being the absolute perfectionist that I am, this course threw up a lot of barriers and emotions for me. I have always told myself that because I am “no good” at painting or drawing I cannot “do” art, so I felt very frustrated when we had to draw or paint in the class. I had to learn to let go of this perfectionist streak in me, which I find time and again, so many of us cancer survivors seem to have, and learn to just accept my efforts and love them.  While I continued to struggle with this side of things throughout the classes, the times when we did collages were much more rewarding for me. I loved the chance to express my deepest feelings through this medium and continued with collages after the classes had ended. 

I also found myself continuously painting or drawing bridges and rainbows. I have always loved rainbows as beautiful symbols of hope and my heart soars when I see one emerge from the clouds after a spell of rain. As for the bridges, well I was searching for that bridge between treatment and post-treatment, which as you can see from the image on my blog and my writings, is still the theme I am most interested in.  How do you bridge those two states of being and doing? There seems to be very little help for survivors on that bridge.

In one session we were given materials to make a puppet or a doll. I made a beautiful doll which for me reprsented the child I feared I would never have as a result of chemotherapy and hormonal treatments. I cried over that doll, but it was a very therapeutic exercise. The doll is packed away in a box now alongside my rainbows and bridges, a receptacle for all those emotions I felt at the time.

How about you? Do you use art to help you deal you in a similar way? What are some of the art forms that have worked for you? Please share your stories with us here.