Art Therapy Saved My Life
For most of her life, Elizabeth Hipwell lived with undiagnosed mental illness. Her complex mental health challenges resulted in her living with intense depression. Elizabeth lived life thinking that she just needed to suppress her thoughts and feelings.
“I would drop into deep depression for months on end,” said Elizabeth. “But as an educated person, society had me thinking that whatever I was feeling was entirely fixable by willpower and self-control.”
Despite her mental health challenges, Elizabeth achieved her undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, after the death of both her parents within six months of each other, her intensified struggles and internalized pain caused Elizabeth to turn to cutting.
Without treatment, Elizabeth’s mental health problems continued.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s undiagnosed mental illness reached a breaking point and she ended up in the hospital. Although Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) approached her in the hospital to recommend treatment options for Elizabeth, she was not ready to follow up with them. It was not until her second hospitalization that Elizabeth decided to seek help from C4.
Among the treatment options from C4 was Art Therapy. As a former cutter, this was especially helpful to Elizabeth because it provided a way for her to express emotions through working with her hands.
The Art Therapy program changed Elizabeth’s life forever.
“I’ll never forget the day when suddenly everything came together,” Elizabeth said. “I was working on a drawing and became frustrated with it, unable to make it perfect. So I decided to try something different and intentionally abandoned the notion of perfection, resulting in a more abstract drawing. I really liked what I saw! At that moment everything clicked, my world opened up and I realized that all I have to do is embrace imperfection.”
This was a life changing moment for Elizabeth. Art Therapy became a way that she could not only occupy her hands and give her an outlet to her feelings, but it was a liberating and healing way for her to see her life in a new, brighter, more colorful light.
“If I could accept imperfection in my art, than I can also do that in my life,” she said. “I was able to accept, embrace and rebuild myself in a way that made me comfortable and happy. I became more assertive and confident in my mental health, which helped me do the same in my physical health as well.”
As Elizabeth maintains her health and wellbeing through art, she continues to be active in C4’s Art Therapy program. Elizabeth is also using her mental health experiences to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. She became inspired to co-found Silent Voices, a writing workshop group held at the C4 Drop-In Center within the Broadway location. Silent Voices gives a voice to people who are disenfranchised by society; specifically people with mental health challenges; and anyone else on the fringes of society’s radar.
Today, Elizabeth feels empowered. She credits C4 and the Art Therapy program for her health and wellbeing. “Art Therapy saved my life,” she says.
Interested in journaling or other C4 services? Call 773.769.0205 to get started.