Art Therapy & Eating Disorders

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.

http://chipmunkapublishing.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1528

There is also a facebook group:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=288162502508&ref=mf

Comments

  1. Susan says

    I think Sarah is so brave and so kind to share what she’s been through to everyone in the world. This is such a meaningful act to so many people.

    Thank you Sarah. :)

    Regards,

    Susan

  2. Claire says

    This is great! Thank you so much Sarah for sharing. I’m about to graduate with a Masters Degree in Art Therapy and when I read your story it re-emphasized the power of the artistic process as a means to heal our open wounds, and guide us to our true self discovery. I know that your own passion to overcome this disorder is felt in your artwork and I know that you will inspire many more people with your personal story. Thank you for your authenticity.

    Keep Creating :)

  3. says

    DEAR SARAH… IT IS TRULY AMAZING TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH THE WORLD.. AND THOSE OF US EXSPECIALLY INTERESTED IN ART THERAPY STORIES… I AM RECOVERING FROM AN ILLNESS MYSELF .. AND I AM ALSO INSPIRED BY ART AND DRAWING… IT HAS HELPED ME NO END TO RELEIVE MY PAIN AND SUFFERING THROUGH ART THERAPY THANK YOU DEBORAH

  4. says

    I’m so glad a way through and beyond your particular hell. Art has helped me process my own issues in so many ways. Spread the word.

  5. says

    What an inspiring story! It’s amazing what art can do for a person when the words can’t or don’t want to come. Congrats to Sarah and best of luck in all of her many future accomplishments in life!

  6. says

    This was such an inspiring story; thanks so much for sharing it!

    I am writing on behalf of The Healing Muse, a literary magazine at SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities. The Healing Muse is a publication in which writers and artists share their personal healing- and health-related work.

    One of the Muse’s stories that might be of interest to the writer or to those who have read this post is “Disappearing Act” by Kayleen Wilkinson. Kayleen’s story details her struggle with anorexia and her incredible recovery. It is available online at http://www.upstate.edu/bioethics/thehealingmuse/09_muse/09_wilkinson_disappearingact.php. It is well worth a read!

    In addition to that, The Healing Muse accepts short entries (under 500 words) for our blog, http://thehealingmusecafe.blogspot.com/. If you have something that would be of interest to us, we would love to have you submit. We hope all of you wonderful supporters of art therapy will check it out!

  7. randi says

    Sarah,
    I am so glad to hear that your are in a better place both within yourself and in your world. My own sister has been struggling with eating disorders for many years now, and it’s been a big struggle for her, for us (her family and friends), and for the many therapists that are aiding her long recovery. A big facet in her recovery process has been like yours: art. She draws, colors, and writes journal after journal, attempting to put her own confusing and shifting thoughts and feelings into perspective both for herself and for others with whom she wishes to share.
    Anyhow, it’s amazing that others have so many similarities to her, and I will definitely point her to your work, and this website, when she is able (she is in an inpatient therapy at this time). I think it is really key to know you are not alone in how you feel, and in how you cope. A major boost for her lately has been this stamp contest sponsored by Canada Post promoting mental health. She submitted one of her drawings, and is currently ranked first in the contest! I would like to share her entry in case any are interested, and please feel free to vote for her, an insider talking about something she knows deeply:
    Thanks for your lovely story!

  8. says

    this is beautiful. wonderful and very special.
    i also express myself via creatiivity and explore parts of myself-depression + eating disorder.feel free to take a peek here readers who are into exploring the healing power of expression:

    http://arttohealtheheart.blogspot.com/

    eve xx

  9. says

    I can completely relate to you. I have also used art to help me with my eating disorder. Check out my website and go to gallery starting on the second page and you can see my works that I did about my anorexia for an art show.

  10. C says

    Ive been in recovery for my eating disorder for about 2.5 years now. Art has helped my process so many of the intense emotions I’ve gone through (and go through) as my feelings are recognized and felt without behaviors. What a courageous story and images to share – thank you for posting this.

  11. Morgan says

    I draw a lot sense I’ve been back from treatment. It helps the fact that you also get to see what your feeling. But in a different ways. Not by the pictures of your wrist. But by paper. Life with an eating disorder sucks and even though I ve been to treatment I’ve never been worse. Just the one thing you have to remember is that you are amazing and strong and that you do deserve to be healthy and to love yourself. TRUST ME! We will all see it sooner or later. Don’t give up. please..

  12. Roxana says

    Sarah,
    I congratulatu your on your braveness and resilience of this disease¡¡ I am so happy thta you can speak up and give hope to so many people suffering from eating disorders.
    God Bless you ando continue to fly like the mariposa

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