The term "arts and crafts" has a bad connotation for some of us because it connotes visual images of patients in mental hospitals making ashtrays. And I imagine that if I’d been forced into doing art therapy, I wouldn't enjoy it either. But when one thinks of arts and crafts as a voluntary pursuit, it’s got a lot going for it.
My first attempt at identifying a fitting form of artistic expression was based on wanting to enhance my mood charts. I had kept them for six years in my DayTimer, and while they were illuminating, they were visually uninteresting. I wondered how I could enliven them, given my lack of artistic talent.
I thought about it for months and one day when I was at a bookstore, I saw a rubber stamp kit and decided that rubber stamps were the perfect solution. On the days when I felt well, wouldn’t it be fun to stamp a happy face, or perhaps a flower, star, or even a heart? On the days when I felt depressed—since there were so many more of these—I could use a sad face, rain, dead flowers, thunder, lightning…well you get my drift.
When I looked more closely at the little kit, I realized the happy faces, flowers, and stars didn’t do it for me. And, of course, there were no sad images at all. In the upcoming weeks, I went to a few local stamp stores but while I found many stamps that symbolize happiness and well being, I just couldn’t find the bleak stuff.
So I logged onto Rubber Stamps of America and after skimming a few of their many categories, I found Ken Brown’s stamps. He's a genius and his rubber stamp art is extraordinary. When I first clicked on "Shrieking Woman" (top left), I was sure Ken must know how I felt when taking Wellbutrin. And "Crazed Housewife"(left) was a perfect portrayal of me on Geodon. "Sobber" (right) was a fairly accurate view of how I felt when none of the medication worked or the side effects were so awful. Of course, I only wished I would have remained as well coiffed and dressed as Ken's sobber.
(By the way, the stamps for men are even more evocative. My two favorites are "Ave Ai Ai" and "Screamer," although I think it's a bit bleak so you'll have to look at it online. The "men" stamps are bigger and I don't know how to reduce them further.)
Soon, I plan on ordering my stamps online, and I'll buy some stamp pads as well. It's all quite exciting. If you think I'm beginning to sound a bit like Pollyanna (the main character in a 1960 North American film who believes that every cloud has a silver lining), I'd have to say, "Isn't it great that this illness is causing me to pursue an area of interest I never would have anticipated?" (Kind of makes you want to gag, doesn't it?)