Early Early Morning Leaves

Back in February and March 2021 when I was recovering from a pretty deep manic episode with a lot of delusions I was lucky enough to attend a free online Zoom course called New Leaf: Inspired by Nature, organized by Leeds Arts and Minds and run by artists from Skippko collective. We were sent a free box of materials and a sketchbook and some ideas, plus four Zoom sessions where two curators from Leeds Museums and Galleries shared some collection items to help inspire us. I challenged myself to make a piece of art every day for my sketchbook and managed to do this until the 11 April. 

Just a few days later I started to struggle with workplace anxiety and depression and started to have lots of suicidal thoughts. The hardest part is that all my creativity dried up. I just didn’t want to do anything and I couldn’t force myself to do anything. This is the thing I find most hard about ableist advice for times of mental health crisis, for instance to be proactive with things like exercise, because I find I just can’t do it.

When I was really low, I phoned Samaritans and talked for over an hour to a lovely woman who said a very wise thing – talking isn’t about finding solutions, it’s about seeing things from a different perspective.

This allowed me to re-engage with staff counselling through my work (when I was really depressed, I just thought what’s the point?), and then to start seeing a psychotherapist weekly. 

And as I started to talk, my creativity came back! I started to look at nature again and make art works – posting them on Twitter and Instagram. Now I’m in an upward phase of energy, and trying to keep myself from going manic again. This piece was made very early in the morning when I went out for a walk in the dark. The streetlight hit the fluttering autumn leaves emphasizing their yellow tones. I used black paper, chalk, biro and pencil crayon to get the effect. Now, making art is a good way to discharge some of my energy. I feel a positive connection to the world so hopefully I can keep this up and keep well. But it’s also a symbol that even in the darkest place, when it feels everything – including myself – is lost, there is still a glimmer of hope that the light will return.

Author: Phillippa

I love art - I’m a trained art historian and I make art and write poetry. I used to work for a museum but now I’m an administrator for a university. I am Buddhist and practice meditation and yoga. I’m married with two kids, one with special needs. I was diagnosed bipolar in early 2019 after being sectioned because of mania. I have struggled with depression throughout my life and experienced postnatal depression with both kids. The mania grew out of work related stress as I had to leave my museum job.

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