I found these four artist’s cards yesterday with some of my first Zentangle drawings. I made these almost two years ago while in a mental health respite centre. They are dated and given titles on the reverse.
6/11/15 Mourning into dancing (bottom right)
Every tear is precious (bottom left)
Growth is messy and beautiful (top left)
Beauty in the Now, not Yet (top right)
I was in respite on an important birthday for Eldest. Hope felt hard to reach, hard to hold on to. The guilt of my daughter going through this milestone birthday with a very poorly mum. It wasn’t hospital, at least.
Through a haze of sorrow, I found there was immense tenderness within me. Firstly, towards Eldest – this helped me find the energy to make a trip into the local town and buy ingredients for birthday cupcakes topped with her favourite American candy, (Reece’s pieces and Reece’s peanut butter cups!) A support worker took time the evening before her birthday to help me make them. The conversation was gentle.
On the day, we opened presents in my small respite bedroom and I was able to take some leave for the morning. I was there to hold her hands while she had her ears pierced, and to buy her some pretty silver studs. A landmark celebrated, not as we would have hoped, but together. For better, for worse.
Compassion towards myself was beginning to grow. I can see it now in the Zentangles. I knew that this was a time of tears, of mourning, of mess. I felt it deeply, but I knew there was the capacity for beauty in me, in the way I was living this illness.
Today, almost two years later, I met staff newly recruited to the community perinatal mental health team here in Devon. As part of their induction, I had the opportunity to talk them through our story of postnatal illness and beyond, and to help them reflect on how a mother’s mental health impacts upon the whole family; dad, baby, siblings. When I talk to staff, I use a photo-story, with pictures of both my beautiful girls as babies and as they have grown.
Finding the Zentangles was the right timing; growth is messy. Today it felt beautiful.