Alana Bosgra’s perspective on anxiety is best captured in her artwork description exhibited at the 2022 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition:
"Sometimes anxiety is a gnawing monster that gets hungry. I try and walk the other way; I listen and hear it but I won't let myself be a meal. I have a life to live."
After years of hard work, Alana is living the life she’s always wanted – all the while coexisting with an unwelcome passenger who used to be much noisier but has recently quietened down.
“The fact that I’ve made room for anxiety and know exactly what it is helps me and helps other people around me know how to handle it. If I listen to the anxiety all the time, it will lead my life into absolute chaos. I know when to listen and when not to listen, and I trust my own voice much more than I once did.”
Anxiety has played a role in Alana’s life since high school, when she found herself in the depths of a problematic friendship group. Desperate to fit in, she became a ‘ball of anxiety’ and struggled with depression. When she turned 18 and alcohol was added to the mix, Alana was stuck in a self-destructive spiral – when a lifeline suddenly revealed itself.
“I couldn’t get out of this cycle of drinking and feeling really empty. I didn’t want to be doing it, but I didn’t feel that I had an alternative. When an opportunity to travel with a Christian singing group appeared, I grabbed it. That’s when everything began to change for me.”
“We travelled to various schools and churches over a two-year period. I would share my art with everyone and explain the stories behind them – all of which centred on my mental health. I was able to give a bit of hope to kids who may be dealing with the same thing. It gave me so much confidence, it got me out of a rut – it basically saved my life.”
|"Gnawing Anxiety" by Alana Bosgra on display at the 2022 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
This formative experience would go on to shape Alana’s career trajectory, setting her on the path to become an art therapist – a role she has loved for the past four years.
“Having gone through mental health struggles gives me that little bit more compassion to sit beside someone who may be taking a long time to recover from something. I know how it feels to be paralysed with decision making and how irrational anxiety can feel. I remember how their body and mind might be feeling.”
“I’ve seen people progress from being suicidal and not wanting to leave the house to then asking for more support and being engaged with what I do with them. Witnessing them become interested in life again is a special moment. I absolutely love what I do – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Sharing her artwork in the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition is important for Alana, who believes events such as these do much to break down the stigma that is still alive and well in society.
“I think people hear ‘mental illness’ and want to look the other way. But the reality is you’ve probably experienced it to some extent – it’s a very common part of being human. I’d love to see mental illness become a more acceptable part of people’s life stories.”
In the face of adversity, Alana radiates gratitude and optimism. She is testament to the fact that we alone are responsible for our future and building the life we deserve.
“The older I’ve gotten, the more grounded and balanced I feel. I have found the sweet spot with my medication and I have found my place in the community. Over time, I have developed the maturity to tolerate uncertainty, tolerate not knowing and even learnt to tolerate anxiety. I find myself reflecting every day on what I have and I’m very aware of not wasting this gift.”