Thrive

Building the Healing Bridge You Need to Cross with Artist Tara Leaver

April 7, 2017 By

When you’re standing on one side of a river, and all you want in the world is on the opposite bank, what you need is a bridge. Experiencing an invisible illness is a very particular kind of riverbank, and each person’s bridge will consist of different materials, but for many of us, at least part of that bridge will be built with our hands.

Guest post by artist Tara Leaver about her journey with invisible illness and the power of art. Profound, beautiful, inspiring words…

…one of the most powerful tools for healing is often the thing that dies first…

If you’d like to experience Tara’s lovely accent speaking her words instead of reading, you can listen below.

For the better part of twenty years, my riverbank was ruled by the passive monster of depression. A lot of the time people didn’t know; one psychiatrist clearly didn’t even believe it because he said my {polite} smile indicated it ‘couldn’t be all that bad’.

Appearances aside however, it stripped me of {amongst other things} my passion for art and creativity, along with the energy, desire, and inspiration a creatively fulfilled life requires. It’s a great irony that one of the most powerful tools for healing is often the thing that dies first in service to the illness.

…it’s in the physical process of moving colour or manipulating clay or holding a brush that much of the transformative magic lies…

Much of my bridge from depression to healing was built with my hands. There were other factors of course, but the beautiful thing about hands is they’re tools; they are a way to come down out of your head where everything is painful, and bring something to life that didn’t exist before. They remind us at a time when we often feel utterly powerless that we do have power – to create. Frida Kahlo knew all about the power of hands when the rest of her body wasn’t able to cooperate.

Using my hands reminds me that not everything of value comes from the brain, {something many of us learned young}, and that I have two tools at my disposal that can act as catalysts, builders, explorers, and companions on a journey out of pain and into creative fulfillment. {Which in itself heals far more than just a lack of fulfillment.} Even if what I make doesn’t turn out as I’d hoped or intended, it’s in the physical process of moving colour or manipulating clay or holding a brush that much of the transformative magic lies.

Process is where we learn the most about who we are…

I’ve come to discover that the physicality and experience of process is the key to almost everything. Process is where we learn the most about who we are, what we’re capable of, what works for us in our uniqueness, what lessons we have yet to learn, what we know to be true in our bones, and how we’re going to best express that. It’s where we make unexpected discoveries and develop seeds of ideas, where we take meandering detours and sometimes feel lost for a while, and it’s a safe and forgiving space we can return to at any time. It creates pillars for the bridge.

I imagine my hands connected to both head and heart via invisible strands of light; it’s the combination of the three in process that brings things to life through me. The beauty of this is that even when you’re at a low ebb, if you’re able to sit up and move your hands, you’re able to press clay into shapes, knit rows of coloured yarn, or move a pencil across a page.

Perhaps the most that feels possible is a simple series of lines. But then maybe the next day those lines start to want some embellishment. Perhaps they want to be crossed with other lines. And perhaps the day after that they require some shading. Step by tiny step something is coming through, until after a while there’s a rich patchwork on a page that just a short time ago looked as empty as you felt.

I could be part of that world instead of watching…

There is more inside us than we can possibly imagine. But even if we’re suffering, we can spool it out in tiny increments. That’s what I did, when I started to recover my artist self. I began with simple crafts and basic sketches and daubings of paint. That allowed something to slowly awaken in me, and that something started to want things. It wanted to learn more, it wanted to read books and watch YouTube videos to discover new processes; then it wanted to start taking courses to expand ‘our’ boundaries.

After a time it wanted to connect with others doing similar things, and slowly a whole world opened up. And because the process was already in motion, I could be part of that world instead of watching as if through a pane of glass, feeling hopeless and alone.

Invisible illness often means we’re suffering alone inside a bubble that no one can see and that feels impossible to explain. Remembering that our hands are allies that can contribute in tiny but tangible ways to the creation of the bridge, allows us to tap into our own innate power to reach the other side.

MORE ABOUT TARA

Tara Leaver is an artist, author, and teacher working from her attic studio by the sea in England. Her blog, book, and e-courses support different aspects of the artist experience, with a focus on uncovering and developing your natural and unique artistic expression. Find out more, including a free course to help you find your artistic style, at taraleaver.com.



2 Comments on "Building the Healing Bridge You Need to Cross with Artist Tara Leaver"

  1. […] If you have an invisible illness, this is very encouraging -> Building the Healing Bridge You Need to Cross with Artist Tara Leaver. […]

  2. […] His latest book, Creative Calling, is a breath of fresh air. It’s not just for creatives, artists, or people who dream of being such. It’s for everyone, because creativity is for everyone. […]


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