It may seem a little strange to ask a client suffering from depression if they have any colored pencils. But, once appropriate medication and therapy has been addressed, living with depression can become an art form.
Transforming a notebook into a journal can be an important place to begin the work of art that is your life. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist and psychoanalyst, made extensive use of color as a symbol of the mental states. His interest in and use of mandalas, or graphic designs, addressed the shadows and motivations in a life that words cannot express.
While coloring books sometimes use pre-made mandalas that are to be personalized with color, a set of colored pencils may be enough to spark the creative process as a helpful antidote for depressive moods. The penciling does not need to be sketching, only rendering. When we allow our unconscious mind to be free in this way, the obsessive loop of worry that often accompanies depression can be interrupted.
In my days of working with emotionally disturbed children, I spent many therapy hours coloring with my young clients. In the silence of those times, more often than not, the unexpressible feelings held within began to find words. As important as my diagnostic manuals and play therapy equipment, my best helpers were long rolls of paper and paints and markers and glue and scissors and all manners of odds and ends.
As adults we spend lots of time in our heads, stressing over the past and “angsting” over the future. For those who live with cyclic depression, especially, this can be a frustrating time of feeling little motivation to do anything and a numbness to the things we used enjoy. A work of art just demands showing up and not trying too hard to figure things out. This can be a good time to give the colored pencils and the journal a chance to speak to us from our “deep heart’s core.”