The art of the matter

A new hobby got me thinking clearly

Published by: Polly Taylor & Amy Thompson
Published on: 5th May 2011

No matter how hard I tried to block it out, the noise filled my ears until I felt like my head was going to explode.
‘Charlie, enough!’ I shrieked, picking up my wailing one-year-old and carrying him upstairs to his cot. Stepping out of the room, I sank to the floor and burst into tears.
I know what you’re thinking – all first-time mums have moments when they feel they can’t cope. Only, I wasn’t a first-time mum…
I had six kids! As well as Charlie, there was Claire, 26, Hannah, 20, Aidan, 18, Daisy, seven, and little Jacob who’d been born a month earlier. I’d seen it all before – teething, tantrums, teenagers…
But Jacob’s birth hadn’t been as straightforward as the others. I’d had an emergency Caesarean and, when I’d come round, there he was, nestled in a cot beside me. I’d missed that first magical moment of the doctor placing him in my arms.
Ever since, I’d struggled with depression. While my hubby Phil, 32, was at work, I spent hours sobbing. And now this. What was happening to me? Calling Phil, I got him to come home, and I told him how low I was. ‘We’ll sort it out,’ he said, hugging me.
I went to my doctor, and was diagnosed with postnatal depression and prescribed antidepressants.
Phil gave up work to look after me, and Jacob even started going to him rather than me when he wanted something.
But it was two years later, when I was admitted to the Brooker Centre, a psychiatric hospital in Runcorn, that I felt I’d failed my family.
I felt helpless.
So when a nurse suggested I try art classes, I decided to go along. I’ll sit and watch, I thought, knowing that I couldn’t draw.
The tutor John had other ideas, though. ‘Just copy a picture from one of the books,’ he said. ‘Give it a go.’
Picking up a pencil and flicking through to a picture of a frog, I sat down to draw. Before I knew it, my feelings of frustration, sadness and guilt began to disappear. The more I concentrated, the more relaxed I felt.
And the end result surprised me! ‘Wow!’ John beamed. ‘You’ve got a natural talent.’
I spent two months at the Brooker Centre and, with the art therapy, I realised there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Almost a year on, I’m much better. I still have off days, but I’ve  just set up a community art group, and my paintings have been donated to hospitals. One even hangs in Daisy’s school.
I’m determined to use my experience to help other women suffering with postnatal depression. Art might not be to everyone’s taste, but I’m proof you can picture a better future for yourself.
Bobby Slavin, 44, Runcorn, Cheshire