The following story was submitted by a reader named Sarah. She wanted to share her story about how she used art therapy to help with an eating disorder and how art and the process of creativity has helped her recover. Her story, along with art work and examples of her writing are below. Much thanks to Sarah for sharing her story and examples of her art work and creativity through very tough times. Truly inspiring!
If you have a story you’d like to share, let us know. Meanwhile, enjoy this great testament to the power of art and creativity…
Eating Disorder Therapy – Art Examples
Here are some examples of Sarah’s art work and self-therapy while recovering from an eating disorder:
Mariposa: A creative interpretation of my recovery from an eating disorder
My name is Sarah. I’m twenty four years old. I’m happy, healthy and I love life. I have lots of interests, but in particular I am fascinated by the concept of art therapy. Art was a central part of my recovery from an eating disorder, and has enabled me to better understand myself. I want to tell you a little more about how it has helped me.
Only a year ago my life was very different indeed. It was a cold, dark and scary place, an existence that revolved around exercise, starvation, binging and vomiting. I was deeply unhappy, and the only means of expression I seemed able or willing to utilise, was self destruction. I wanted to die, and I very nearly did.
I was suffering from an eating disorder, and when I ended up hospital, at a dangerously low weight and with a heart rate to match, I struggled to comprehend what was happening. Why was I doing this? Why was I so intent on destroying myself? A coherent explanation evaded me, and so in desperation I proceeded to draw, write, paint and take photos. I made collages and cards. I used art to explore my thoughts and feelings, to keep a journal of the journey upon which I had embarked. Recovery is a complicated business, and sometimes images, objects and abstract verse were the only way I could make sense of what was going on inside my head.
In the grip of my disorder, I drew and painted emaciated human figures. Idols to which I aspired. Expressions of what I wanted to be, how I wanted to look, and the internal suffering that I wanted to use my outer body to convey. Later on, in recovery, I used art to interpret my complex and often seemingly incomprehensible feelings, and towards the end of my journey, I used it to reflect on where I had come from, and what I had become.
Publishing a book was never the outcome I anticipated. I wanted to keep a record for myself, and an explanation for my friends and family. As I shared my work more widely, I found that it helped people understand me and the disorder. It reassured other sufferers that they were not alone. The process of compiling my artistic representations was therapeutic in itself, and the resulting book has become a lasting part of my recovery.
The book is called Mariposa. It is a scrapbook of all the different methods I used to express and understand myself throughout the recovery process. My account is strikingly honest and I leave no stone unturned. By presenting my message creatively through a combination of art and writing, I hope to reach out to more people than the eating disorder literature currently informs. Many are discouraged from seeking help due to the stigma associated with mental illness. It is difficult for people to recognise the signs of disorder in a world in which we are taught to perceive food and ourselves in a negative light.
I want to raise awareness of eating disorders and the brutal reality of a life dominated by food and weight. Ultimately, however, I want to give hope to others, that recovery is possible, and life is worth living. In publicly displaying my artistic interpretations, I want share my escape from the monster that nearly consumed me, and show that eating disorders can be beaten.
Mine is a positive story; an explanation of how a shy, negative and depressed girl, terrified of growing up, blossoms into a confident, positive and colourful young woman who realises that there is more to life than she had ever imagined before.
I invite you to share in my recovery by taking a look at my book, which is available as an ebook on the link below. The paperback will be released later this year.
There is also a facebook group: