Creative ways to process trauma and calm a racing mind



I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder.

I have been making videos despite my social anxiety (which includes fears of negative evaluation) because 1. it has been helping me process by having a voice 2. I know it has been helping people by the feedback I have been getting.

I have been sharing some of the creative ways I have been processing trauma as well as calming a racing mind (combination of bipolar mania and extreme anxiety).

One of the things I did was to fill bottles and old tins with symbolic bottles. The little ‘fairy’ bottles were like a form of mindfulness where I was in a trance-like state putting little bits and pieces (shell-fragments, snippets of ribbons, beads, wool, gauze, broken jewellery, ripped paper etc – from whatever I could find around the house). I used a glue gun to seal the bottles shut with a bead from a broken necklace as a lid. I wrapped a little jar with ribbon and glued it shut. At the time, all of the objects represented something, and my mind just observed what it meant, like mindfulness. I do recall that the golden thread represented a Wonder Woman lasso – being compelled to tell the truth. Which is what I have been doing with my videos, even though I am writing semi-autobiographical fiction with my book Pet Purpose (to ‘lie’ to tell the truth).

I also collected little ‘treasures’ (buttons, snippets of thread in various colours etc) which all represented something. I do recall the button represented my childhood cat losing an eye in an accident). The objects like the paua shells have become inspiration for my storyline in my writing.

A meaningful project such as writing my book Pet Purpose has helped keep me going when things were very, very difficult (alternating mania and depression). Often my memory would be severely impaired and I was unable to write anything ‘organised’ yet still express creativity so I painted instead (which helped me to develop storylines).

I prefer painting abstracts to trying to paint realism as it enables me to incorporate multiple themes, patterns and symbolism that my mind sees. Also to express moods and emotions without being concerned if something looks ‘right’ or not – as there are no rules with abstracts. I feel freer breaking rules and improvising. I feel happier doing ‘unrefined’ art.

I paint for me, but I had an exhibition a year ago for mental health (another meaningful project to keep me going) and displayed my DIY art as therapy paintings and drawings. To my surprise, over a dozen pieces sold.

I am now seeing a trauma psychologist but she agrees that I have been doing most of the processing on my own in creative ways. I still do.

Source: Youtube