A 1000 Words

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Especially after last Fridays’ therapeutic art workshop at the Lighthouse where the loved ladies were creating images of their past, present and future anxiety. One of the most creative and poignantly eloquent responses was a jagged picture frame a woman held up in front of her face saying as she swept her hand from head to toe, “This is anxiety. All of me is anxiety.”   

Many were very open about how they had turned to drugs and alcohol as a means of numbing their unmanageable anxiety that manifested itself in a wide variety of concerns.

A quiet woman unfolded her ten-year struggle with agoraphobia in three brief stick figure sketches – the four years of entrapped isolation in her home, the struggle with doing something as “simple” as buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and her dream of someday being comfortable enjoying a public park in the city.

Never enough money, bad and broken relationship fueled the past chaotic anxiety of another Lighthouse lady. In the process of working with her present anxiety, she is learning how to weigh what matters more effectively as her “on the one hand or on the other” drawing suggests. 

For these wonderful women doing the hard work of recovering from substance abuse, their past anxieties included images of wide-eyed confusion, feelings of being scared, isolated and all alone, overwhelming depression framed with red hot anger, entangling chains, jail bars, and the broken-heartedness of bad choices and bad relationships even when childhood had been essentially positive.

From time to time visitors come to observe what’s up during our therapeutic art workshops. This last week we were privileged to have a USC social work grad student interning at another non-profit in the county. She’s interested in using the arts in her future work and was enjoying a hands on experience. She dove into the activity along with all the other women who were delighted when she shared her past anxiety monster. It was beautifully balanced with her future anxiety that she hopes will have a more calm questioning attitude…and a willingness to be boxed and parked on a convenient shelf until she has the opportunity to explore it more thoughtfully.  

All in all, a bunch of heartfelt pictures worth a thousand words from women who are embracing the grace and hope of a renewed present and a transformed future.

If you could tell the story of your anxiety in three panels, what story would you tell? If you were to create pictures of your past, present and future anxiety, what would they look like? What title would you give each one?

The women at the Lighthouse and I look forward to your comments. They feel wonderfully empowered knowing their work is impacting and influencing others around the world.

PS – The Lighthouse is a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for women engaged in substance abuse recovery.

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3 comments to A 1000 Words

  • Cassie Sorenson

    Wow! As the Director at the Lighthouse I am always amazed at the strength and courage these ladies have. I am also always amazed at how clearly the Art Therapy class impacts them – and then others – me in particular. These ladies are living proof that victory over all is possible with God and they are my heros!

  • Robin Rice

    What a . . . fun isn’t the word. . . engaging? Deep? Anyway, I am going to try this activity. Off the top of my head, my past anxiety was my marriage relationship, my present anxiety is dealing with not working/money/ guilt over how much I contribute and my future is health, my kids, my parents. I’m going to collage these!

  • Sandra

    My future anxiety is the health and death of my husband. My past anxieties seem small by comparison. Yet, the theme that runs through all of it is, will I be strong for myself, for my children, for my friends. These women are on the other side of their mountain, going downhill. I’m still going uphill… They inspire hope.
    Lynne, I can’t believe you have elicited a response…

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