Stories of Recovery
“My name is Iris, I have a diagnosis of Clinical Depression, Anxiety and P.T.S.D. At first I was very reluctant to go to The Art Studios’ program, it took me a couple of months just to be able to sign up for it. When I was called in I had doubts and tried to come up with excuses not to go. Thankfully I did go to my orientation. I was really scared not knowing what to expect, I hadn’t done any art since I was in High School, ages ago. I then signed up for the Beginners Drawing Class and got in fairly quickly.
My first class was terrifying; I had absolutely no confidence in myself and what I could do. Once class started I got focused on the drawing. I was amazed at the kind of work I was doing and was developing skills I didn’t think I had in me. The instructor made me feel very welcome and safe. I felt very supported in The Art Studios environment. When I completed the Beginners Drawing Class I felt confident enough to take a Continuing Education Course at Emily Carr University. Since then I have completed eleven different courses there.
I was very grateful to The Art Studios and want to give back so I offered to be an assistant in a class.
Again I was very nervous about helping out. I didn’t think I would be much use. I was quite nervous the first day, my hands were shaking but once I got started I was too busy to be nervous and enjoying myself so much, that I kept volunteering. My confidence over this time improved a lot, I felt more worthwhile and useful as a person. When the Co-ordinator asked me to take over instructing the Beginners Drawing Class, my first instinct was “No Way!” But I totally shocked myself by saying yes. I thought, this is an opportunity I never even dreamed I would get, I have to take it. I also felt honoured just to be asked.
I feel that The Art Studios has given me confidence, a skill, a new role as a teacher and has made me feel a part of the community. The Art Studios is aiding in my continuing recovery. I know I would not be this happy and confident in my life if it was not for The Art Studios.
“Being connected to and a part of The Art Studios program has helped me tremendously throughout my recovery and journey to heal. I have been a member of the studios for several years now. Back when I first started as a teenager I was recognized as an agoraphobic. Attending the Youth Group was literally the only thing that motivated me enough to step outside my front door. I have grown so much since then and The Art Studios continues to play a major part in my life.
I have participated in the majority of the courses offered and now assist in one of the Beginners classes. I would not have been able to gain the confidence within myself to do the things I am now capable of doing without the constant support from staff and other members of the program. It is with that continual encouragement and belief in my abilities that I have now recently expanded my dedication to helping others and have become a peer support worker under mental health.
I have also noticed considerable improvement within my own artistic skills from having access to this wonderful resource. The safe and accepting environment provided ensures comfortability to explore varied creative interests while also strengthening interpersonal skills for individuals. Needless to say, The Art Studios is truly an exceptional program and I would be lost without it.”
The Art Studios has given me motivation and inspiration, to work and create independently. It has taught me skills to transfer to other areas in my life and helped me in building relationship with others. I have the opportunity to work one on one with a deaf individual and use my A.S.L. skills. It has given me a place to make art in a safe place to express myself and use my creativity. Despite my mental illness I have been accepted for who I am. And the staff and instructors have been wonderful.
I believe that The Art Studios is a much needed place for therapy and I hope it can continue it’s mission for many years to come.
“I moved to Vancouver from Canmore AB, my home for nearly 30 years. I had friends, an incredible recovery community and good home to live in. My clinical depression had been successfully treated for about 10 years, but my daughter was in Vancouver, and we only saw each other once or twice a year, and that somehow wasn’t enough. Along with the depression, I’d been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and discoid lupus. I’d been in pain with osteo-arthritis since I was 8 years old.
The decision to move was planned over 2 years. I made the move in 2004. Needless to say, the transition was stressful, and my living situation remained unstable till 2006. I was living in a bachelor suite, which I loved, but getting into a routine and making friends were challenging. My world seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. I wasn’t eating properly or taking care of myself, and my knees were sore. After a couple of years, I had both knees replaced, a successful endeavor. I knew my depression was worsening and my family physician could only get me an appointment in 2 years. By then, I was 63 years old and figured I could wait for the easily accessible Senior’s program available.
In 2011 my daughter and son-in-law and grandson wanted to rent a home in Vancouver, and asked if I would like to move in with them…this was something I had only dreamed of. We managed to find a suitable home, and moved in just before my 65th birthday. I self-referred, and within 3 weeks I had a team of Psychiatrist, Reg. Nurse Practioner who came to my home for an assessment. I was referred to BrightSpot program, started a CBT program, and began to feel somewhat better. I saw a psychiatrist at GPOT and life was beginning to feel better and better. I mentioned that I love to do crafts, knit, crochet, sew, draw, do beadwork etc. and one of the Occupational Therapists at BrightSpot mentioned The Art Studios.
After meeting with Monica at The Art Studios and being accepted into the Older Adult Beginner Watercolour with Colleen…my life changed…when the class finished, I wanted to volunteer to assist with the Older Adults again, and work with Colleen again.
That was 4 years ago, and in that space of time, I’ve given a sock-knitting workshop, taught 2 Beginner Knitting classes, and taken Beginner and Intermediate Pottery, Beginner Drawing…I’ve begun to take part in the Members’ Meetings, and sold my knitting at 2 Winter Sales, taken the minutes at meetings, attended Instructor/Assistant/Mentor meetings and made many friends…My world has opened up. I was a founding member of the BrightSpot Chorus, go to a wellness group, go swimming twice per week, spend time with my 2 grandchildren and love my life. Being part of my family at home and the family at The Art Studios and BrightSpot have really changed my life. I firmly believe that I haven’t had my best year yet. Both my children and grandchildren are here in Vancouver, and life is great.
This unique mixture of people has opened my heart to others, offered me encouragement and a chance to teach – something I’d never thought I’d like to do in a million years. How fortunate I am to be part of this wonderful place, The Art Studios.”
“I am an Occupational Therapist and an artist who has worked at the Art Studios since its early beginning. For twenty years I have been privileged to work with many individuals who have a mental illness and/or addiction who are artists. They did not know they were artists before they came to The Art Studios and participated in classes. But over time they have developed amazing skills which they now use to draw, paint (both acrylics and watercolour), make mixed media art, lino prints and pottery. They have met other artists and share ideas and are able to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery to be inspired by the art there. There is no cost for these classes and outings, which is extremely important, as most of the members have limited finances.
In addition, a number of these artists moved on to be mentors in Open Studio, or class assistants. Some of them graduated from being assistants to becoming instructors because of their experience and dedication to The Art Studios programs.
As one of the original staff members since 1994, I am proud to have been one of many who have helped create a safe and supportive environment for people to flourish in. I have witnessed firsthand the positive benefits of the art classes and workshops that we offer. Because of these classes clients learn coping skills that help them in their day to day lives. It is because of my belief in the benefits of this program, and my 20 years experience as an O.T. and instructor at The Art Studios that I became a Board Member of VRTAS. This is a unique program in Canada, that has so many benefits, and I hope it is able to continue for another 20+ years with the financial support of YOU!”
“My name is Colleen.
When I was 22 years old I had my first nervous breakdown and was diagnosed as Bi-Polar, with PTSD and Anxiety. After initial bad experiences with doctors and medications, I refused to take any medication for years. And I refused to accept my diagnosis. There was more prejudice back then so I tried to think, drink and self medicate my way out of the depression and anxiety. I’ve got a big scar on my left arm as a reminder of the times I really couldn’t climb out of my depressions.
Although it can be exhilarating, the manic perception of life is one without bounds and you forget you’ll crash eventually – like this time you won’t. But you do. You always crash. And you always forget how bad it will be. The weight of the pain is like you’ve lost someone close to you. And as hard as you try, you can’t just snap out of it. It took a long time to come to terms with it being a life long illness and that meds are a must.
Most of the time I’m good at acting like I’m ok. Normal, like my friends. So I acted like I could manage to hold down jobs, despite regularly calling in sick with migraines. Some were migraines. Some were the anxiety attacks keeping me from leaving my apartment, or even just getting out of bed.
I would cry my eyes out while I was getting ready for work. Then disconnect from my body and go “out among the living” as I call it. Staring out the bus window with my music piped into my ears to fight the anxiety (thank you universe for walkmans and mp3 players!!!) before having to switch back “on”. But once back home I’ve stared at the floor for hours.
Meds are not a cure. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they work for a long time and then just stop. Swinging from mania to depression and back can be very traumatic and energy depleting. The next worse thing is changing medications. But you do what you have to, to stay sane(r).
For me making art has always been my one constant source of peace – reprieve from all the noise in my head. And music. Painting with music is my own private nirvana. It leads to self discovery. And while the meds keep you “comfortably numb”, creating art helps you remember who you are. When you’re ill, its very difficult to reach your soul. That’s where The Art Studios comes in.
I started off taking classes and as my confidence increased I took on volunteer positions, then teaching. When I teach, even though I stutter my way through classes and lose my train of thought, teaching is my medicine. I blame the gibberish on my meds. That gets a few laughs and leads to conversations about weird side effects.
Now I teach a variety of classes and workshops. I have found my purpose. Not just teaching what I love, but week after week I get to see the transformation in people and hear their feedback about how the class affected them. “This class is my medicine”. “The Art Studios saved me from suicide”. I hear that one a lot. However, the other day, I was reminded of the fact that some people have feelings of shame and embarrassment about going there. I forget that for some it’s all too new. It just reinforces my need to be there. Teaching there is definitely my medicine.
On one hand we are too high functioning for other programs and not high functioning enough to go back to work. For some, just getting to class is a challenging task. Then they talk, laugh and leave with smiles on their faces, a testament to The Art Studio’s program. We belong to a community that speaks the same language through our art, our stories, our support and empathy for each other.
I live to paint and paint to live!”
Posted by Sheila on The Art Studio’s Facebook
June 25, 2013 at 2:24am
I can remember the days when there were some O.T.s who ran some classes in printmaking, drawing, pottery and painting. But they had a big dream of having a program called “The Art Studios” where there would be a variety of different classes, run by the members for the members or the O.T.s assisted by a member. There would be a coordinator and other staff. In time it did happen. A space became available through THEO BC. In the first year, funding became available to hire a part-time coordinator and a part-time staff to run the studio. Members applied for volunteer positions to either run a class or assist. They were paid honorarium through the Consumer Initiative Fund. One lucky member got a position doing event planning and taking art work around to different teams. That was in 1997 and it was the first year The Art Studios had an Open House. In 1998 the coordinator position was made full time and there was another part-time position available. The lucky member who did the event planning and traveling art show applied for the job and got it. Lucky me. From there The Art Studios grew and thrived with new staff coming on board and with the principles of PSR that are so important being put more and more into practice The Art Studios’ members were having more of a say in how they thought the program was run. My last day was June 23, 2004 and I’ve not been back since. But it breaks my heart to think that after all these years of its ups and downs and near closure due to lack of space, it is now facing closure due to lack of funding. Hopefully some creative soul(s) will volunteer their time and get things going to really get some big fund raising events going. I sure hope so. It will truly will be a sad and tragic day if the doors to the building are locked for good.
If any errors or omissions have been made, it is a complete oversight on my part.”
“At 56 Yaho has ‘learned’ to be content doing his art. Since 2007 he has participated in many classes, workshops and open studios at The Art Studios. With fond memories of art classes of old, he had a lot of pleasure working with the various Occupational Therapists and Rehab Therapists of The Art Studios in and out of these classes.
He made some really fond friends and is now exhibiting with friends from The Art Studios (recently on south Granville). So Yaho believes that part of his recovery was staying busy making art at The Art Studios which helped him on his road.”