“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Being able to say “I’m doing well”, and actually mean every word, is not something we all can do. According to CAMH, in any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem. If we think about it, Canada’s population is 35,540,419 - that is about 7,108,000 people that are having a hard time getting up and facing the world every morning.
Depression is much more than simple unhappiness, it is not a temporary change in mood or a weakness, contrary to some misconceptions it is not a character flaw. Clinical depression, sometimes called major depression is a complex mood disorder cause by various factors, including genetic predisposition, personality, stress and brain chemistry. Depression is not something that people can “get over” by their own efforts, it takes time, hard work, determination and help of professionals to be able to get better.
East is a local singer-songwriter I’ve met while doing research for the article, she was kind enough to talk to me about her journey through depression and how expressive art therapy helped her go through the toughest time of her life.
“ I realized, I found it difficult to function at my regular speed, had a hard time getting up in the morning, wasn’t able to attend classes, had social anxiety and was only able to feel safe in my bed” she says, “I was overwhelmed with sadness and couldn’t control my emotions”.
The most common ways of treatment for depression are talk therapy as well as medication, for East expressive art therapy was very effective. The therapy is founded on the belief that all people have the capacity to express themselves creativity. It promotes self-awareness, emotional wellbeing, healing, and empowerment and is mostly used for people who are having trouble expressing themselves through talk therapy or children. Expressive art therapy was suggested to East by her therapist one day and she decided to try writing first. One journal entry after another, by the end of the month she ran out of pages to write on, it was evident this was a great outlet for the feelings she could not express to anyone. Simple journal entries over time became poems and poems transformed into songs. One day while talking to a friend, East mentioned she had a few poems she wanted to share, little did she know, that particular friend was also writing music and had a few songs for her to experiment with. The pair collaborated on a first song and it felt great. After a while “It felt like the only way I could express myself” East remembers, “it made me feel okay”. Over the next couple of months she stayed in her room, writing, singing and recording. Being able to create music allowed her to completely open up and be herself.
Music was the first thing East turned to considering it was a part of her life since early childhood years. She started singing in the kindergarten choir, participated in few different talent shows and festivals, later on she was accepted in to a visual arts program at Cawthra Park Secondary School, also known as Cawthra School of the Arts.
Besides music East found a few other things helped her with depression, things like changing location, trying to be outside more helped her focus on something else beside the deep dark thoughts. Having a great support group is very important, even if it is just one or two people that are committed to making you feel safe and secure. The artist shares that she had to learn how to let people take care of her and be that light she desperately needed during dark days. Physical activity is extremely important, something as simple as a walk around the block could make your day better, just by finding a distraction from your thoughts could provide you with a enjoyable day. She also explored painting, drawing, making collages and scrapbooking, she found different colors and textures helped the mind take a much needed break.
At the moment East is proud to share her debut EP-Embrace the Wave with the world, it is filled with raw emotion, which can be heard through every sound of every song. It took a while but the artist is finally able to say she is on the road of recovery and is extremely happy to be able to use her talent to get herself here.
To the rest of the people going through something similar East would like to let you know… YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are millions of people going through the same thing, be your own best friend and never shame yourself for your feelings and emotions.
To find Expressive Art Therapy workshops or sessions please visit www.therapytorontotherapist.caOr The Mood Disorders Society of Canada and The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario