SCAD patients benefit from creative workshops

Creativity helps SCAD patients' wellbeing

When SCAD patient Giedre Calverley decided to run some creative workshops for other SCAD patients, she had a great response.

She told SCAD patients: “The purpose is to have a peer group where we could ‘make sense’ of changes in our lives caused by SCAD in a safe, facilitated creative space. Similar to peer groups in caring professions where people deal with difficult or even traumatic events by mutual reflection and support, this could be a confidential survivors’ group that helps in the same way.”

The idea to run the workshops came to Giedre because “Several months after my first SCAD in November 2018, I took a break from being a consultant psychiatrist in the NHS and started as a fine art student at my local college. Making art has become my main avenue for problem-solving, expression and maintenance of my health and wellbeing,” says Giedre.

“I explore ideas, think and make sense, develop meanings, tell and re-tell stories whilst drawing. I used to play music and sing as an amateur musician but in visual art I get to be a creator myself. It is as invigorating and mind-clearing as going for long walks in nature but with the added benefit of getting things off my chest. Making art takes me to a space where my mind wanders freely and I feel present and alive.”

Having benefited from making art herself, Giedre decided to share her experience with other SCAD patients. The weekly online workshops started in early March and ran for eight weeks. Five SCAD patients joined Giedre for the sessions.

Giedre explains, “Each week we had a different theme and activities to start us off: a warm-up activity and the main activity loosely based on a theme. We looked at making time to care for ourselves, being present and journalling. We explored our connections with others, looked at our strengths, explored our senses with a particular focus on touch (this session was beaming with laughter) and made drawings in response to our favourite text. We shared illustrated recipes of meals that are good for our hearts and took time to dream about our future.”

No previous experience in creating art was needed and during the workshops the group members made collages, painted with watercolour, did charcoal and pencil drawings and played some games with words and associations.

Giedre says, “An open mindset and willingness to learn, try something new and connect with others are much more important than any experience in art.”

Some of the participants said doing these sessions via Zoom meant that they could create in the privacy of their own home, and not feel they had to compare themselves and their art to others. “At the end of each session we discuss our experience in the session but image sharing is entirely optional and some people do not show what they make,” says Giedre.

Having a SCAD can shake your confidence and lead to anxiety and depression, but having a creative outlet can help recovery. One participant, Kay Deadman, said: “Giedre makes you feel so welcome and kept checking that you understood what you were doing but without any pressure to do it any particular way but to do it how you want to. This really challenged me as I had felt I had lost confidence of who I was and what I wanted when I had the SCAD and, at first, thought I wouldn’t be able to think of anything [to draw], but with Giedre’s gentle nature and guidance I was amazed with what I had done. I really enjoyed engaging with the others while doing art and we chatted and talked about our experiences and worries of SCAD, which helped me immensely.”

Giedre asked whether the workshops had improved participants’ confidence and everyone who responded to her feedback survey said their confidence had improved and they felt inspired to carry on creating, which is a great endorsement for the workshops.

Kay said the benefits of the sessions included: “Engaging with others who have experienced SCAD and starting to form friendships through art. There was something special about engaging in the same activity but each creating something totally different.”

Another participant said, “The SCAD stories and others’ advice and experience has been great in helping me deal with my own. The laughing is an additional medicine!”

Improving wellbeing was one of the aims of the workshops and, when asked if participants had seen any change and whether their feelings about SCAD had changed, the answers were extremely positive. “I have more confidence that I will be OK having met some lovely people who are further down the line than I am and are doing great,” said one.

Kay added, “Talking to other people who have experienced SCAD really helped me see that we can get our life back and to not be so scared of the future.”

The group members enjoyed the workshops so much they agreed to continue for another eight weeks and would thoroughly recommend other SCAD patients to take part in future workshops. Lucie Haddon, whose artwork is pictured here, said: “These wonderful sessions have been really beneficial for me. I have loved meeting the other SCAD ladies, including Giedre, and I have rediscovered the creative side of me. We have lots of laughs as well as the more serious conversations about our shared experiences.”

Giedre says she learnt a lot during these sessions. “The biggest and most gratifying experience for me was one of a human spirit – the depth and wisdom, the ability to create, transform, problem solve, draw and evolve meaning, see and create beauty, endure uncertainty, tolerate ambiguity, move forward despite discomfort, reflect and learn, share generously, care about others and laugh together! Each woman in the group brings her unique viewpoint, style, a collection of strengths and experiences yet underneath all the superficial differences beats a warm, brave and vast human heart.”

To see some of Giedre’s art, have a look on Instagram @giedr_art and see @Healing_scad_h_art for some of the art created by the SCAD patient group.

SCAD patients benefit from creative workshops