The 1st-7th February marks Children’s Mental Health Week 2021, and this year’s theme is ‘express yourself’. To honour this, I thought I’d note a few ways in which I’ve been able to express myself over the years and how these things have contributed positively to my mental health.
I never dismissed an opportunity to do something creative when I was younger; whether it was piano and harp lessons, singing competitions, acting classes, or simply doing what I do best and cosseting myself in a little writing nook. All of the above lent an opportunity for me to navigate my thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. My sight loss journey has been laden with a variety of feelings and emotions. Anxiety and grief have been constant features in my day-to-day life, but I’ve learned to value the gravity of self-expression over time, and appreciate the ways in which my hobbies and interests can contribute to better mental health.
Here are just a few things that allow me to channel my passions, and afford me the opportunity to be myself, without restrictions.
BLOGGING / WRITING
I couldn’t possibly write this article without giving a heartfelt nod to what has led me here in the first place.
I’ve been a writer of sorts for as long as I can remember. From penning short stories when I was in primary school, to very questionable songwriting, the creation of my blog, and specialising in creative writing as part of my degree, it’s safe to say that writing plays a big part in my identity.
I’ve always found catharsis through writing, whether that’s in a personal capacity in terms of noting my feelings and emotions, or through creating fictional characters and stories; it’s what I turn to no matter what mood I’m in.
Writing about my vision impairment has always felt much more natural to me – I think it’s the storyteller in me that loves putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, in my case) and being able to shape my experiences into something that feels a little more purposeful to me.
There’s no denying that writing takes the number one spot in the list of things that allow me to express myself in the most natural and authentic way. Despite the moments of stasis that like to attack my creative flow from time-to-time, I’ll always return to my keyboard.
Music is another source of self-expression for me. This takes its form in listening to music and going to concerts (pre-pandemic) nowadays, but I do take to having a little sing-song by the piano every once in a while. My harp on the other hand, makes for a very stereotypically Welsh Zoom background…
I loved to play instruments when I was younger. Going to my piano and harp lessons always brought me joy (well, most of the time…); I thrived off the fact that these things could be made accessible to me, and learning to play by ear when my eyesight deteriorated bestowed a sense of empowerment.
I could poise my fingers on the piano keys, or curl them around the harp strings, and let the music whisk me away to a place that was devoid of any misconceptions or prejudice.
The same applies now; I find solace in listening to my favourite artists. Back when we were able to attend concerts, I was able to seek joy in the knowledge that I was in an arena of people that had one thing in common – a passion and enjoyment for music. There was always something really powerful in that and I hope that live music can become a reality again soon.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
As someone who has grown up in the countryside with yawning fields, dotted with sheep, being the only view beyond my window, it’s safe to say that I love being outside. The fresh air is always a welcome relief for my busy brain, and the bleats of the lambs bring a smile to my face every spring.
My brother and I spent day in, day out, outside when we were younger. We would go on bike rides, build a den in the woods, do tricks on the trampoline – there wasn’t many things I would turn down.
Despite their fears, my parents never wrapped me up in cotton wool, and this afforded me the space to try things for myself and seek joy through doing so.
It’s safe to say that I’m not so adventurous these days, my chronic illness had a little something to say about the active lifestyle, but a short walk or a sit down in the garden never goes a miss.
I didn’t gain an interest in fashion until I was about 14. Before then, I didn’t inject much care or consideration into my outfits. But when I stumbled across fashion vloggers on YouTube and ventured on little shopping trips around my local town with my friends, it gave space for a passion to blossom.
Now, I absolutely love to incorporate elements of the latest trends into my own style, and I’ve learned to appreciate the deeper relationship I’ve been able to forge with fashion that goes beyond the visual elements that it’s so often considered for.
I love to express myself through the clothes I wear and the outfits I put together. I can’t wait until we can go out and about a little more so I can revive and showcase my passion again. Although, I couldn’t possibly fault this live-in jogger life.
There’s no denying that life as a disabled person does come complete with its challenges, but one thing I’ve always promised myself is that I won’t let my passion for all of the above to deteriorate along with my eyesight.
There are difficult moments, some of which can taint my zeal for moving on positively, but remembering that I can channel my feelings and emotions through these forms of expression helps me to find the light amongst the darkness.