For some, a mental illness diagnosis is devastating, for some it’s liberating – the key that helps make sense of the world. The latter is true for Amy Parker, who knew something was wrong for many years prior to her borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis 18 months ago.
“I’ve been in and out of hospital, seeing different psychiatrists and psychologists, taking different meds, for years. Having the BPD diagnosis answers a lot of questions I’ve always had – Why can’t I control my emotions? Why can’t I make friends? Why am I so impulsive? Why am I sometimes destructive? Why are these things always happening to me?”
Upon receiving the diagnosis, Amy threw herself into a multitude of courses and classes, to help her manage her condition. Building the tools and techniques she needs to thrive has been a gamer-changer for Amy, especially when she was required to go off her medications during pregnancy.
“I’ve worked really hard on managing my mental health, immersing myself into my Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) workshop. That’s pretty powerful stuff if you wholeheartedly commit to it. I have also done other courses with Neami including art therapy, Wise Choices and Flourish.”
Art has been a vital component of Amy’s life since she was a little girl. She remembers sitting in a Welsh classroom during primary school doing a drawing which would earn her praise from all the teachers.
“All the teachers said my art was amazing and I got all these awards for it. I thought, ‘wow, I’m actually good at something’. My nan also got me into crafts, crocheting and knitting. Despite that, my painting for the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition was my first painting since I was 13!”
|"Border Me" by Amy Parker on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
Amy’s striking painting caught many eyes at the exhibition, and she said she was ‘over the moon’ at the opportunity to display it. And to achieve such a feat with two kids and a third on the way was nothing short of remarkable! Amy says art provides her much-needed respite from her busy brain.
“Painting takes me out of my head, which is a place I can usually never shut off. My inner voice is questioning everything and everyone 24/7. But as soon as I pick up and pencil or paintbrush, my mind goes quiet – it’s a really, really mindful and peaceful activity.”
Loss of identity can be a huge part of mental illness, and Amy says art helps remind her who she truly is.
“I am, and have always been, a creative and artistic person, and that’s something I can hold onto in the face of everything – my BPD, motherhood. It’s something just for me, it keeps me who I am.”
While BPD is naturally a significant part of Amy’s life, she doesn’t let it consume her.
“There’s much more to me than just my diagnosis. Mental health often threatens to smother our entire lives, which can make it difficult to carry on and do the things that make our lives meaningful. But it’s only as powerful as we let it be. I read that we should make friends with the monster – it’s not going anywhere, so we can either be constantly looking over our shoulders in fear, or we can let it become part of the furniture and get on with our lives.”