One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself is start my art/gratitude journal. Starting this journal connected me to my quiet self and gave me a tool to help heal myself. Since coming out of surgery – probably the second day after – I started drawing and colouring. With drawing and colouring, I was able to tune out a lot of my pain, other patients, and the busyness of the medical staff and support staff around me.
The first things I made while I was in the hospital contain a loving kindness meditation mantra that I learned many years ago in a mindfulness meditation course. The mantra is
May I live in safety
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I live my life with ease
I often say this mantra when I feel anxiety. It helps to calm and ground me. Drawing it helped me feel less anxious about all the things that were happening to me in the first few days of my recovery. Things like the drastic drop in my blood pressure (it fell to 60/45), the unbearable pain flare when they removed my epidural, then my blood pressure spiking in response to the pain, and starting to walk again, which was incredibly painful. It was all very intense, so I needed something to keep me calm; as the doctors and nurses did their jobs to get my vitals back within normal ranges and prepare me to go home.
I’m glad I had the forethought to pack my art/gratitude journal, my Zentangle notebook, a new sketchbook, coloured pencils, and markers in my suitcase. I’m glad I’ve found things I can do, even under the fog of pain medication, that relax and calm me while giving me a creative outlet. The things that so many people believe are meant only for children have become significant tools for coping with my pain, and they are contributing to my healing.