1. Iris Whitelock says:

    What a brilliant article – thank you Kathleen for writing it, and IMHU for featuring it. It has been very thought provoking and has opened up some new perspectives on my own personal growth, and how I can better support my coaching and art therapy clients.

    I have had what I would call spiritual emergence, in that it didn’t erupt as an emergency. But the “mild” depression I experienced on and off for decades – which was diagnosed as post-natal depression, and for which I was prescribed anti-depressants for 6 years – was hell. I didn’t like myself, I felt I was damaging my children through being angry and detached, and my husband felt I had lost the spark I had had when I met him.

    Earlier in life I had been lucky enough to be referred to a counsellor who “can help [you] with emotional expression”, and from there went on to discover breathwork (called rebirthing at the time, in the mid-80’s). This was the most transformative experience – a true lift-off of joy, release of guilt, and a whole new way of relating to people around me, and the world. This gave me hope that I could find my way through the post-natal depression (which I had been told would “come back” right through life). Breathwork, and then later art therapy, both gave me tools to access my spirituality which hadn’t even been considered by health professionals. There seemed to be a kind of shyness around discussing spirituality – so it was re-framed as emotional expression.

    As a practising art therapist and life coach, I now discuss, right up front with my clients, whether they think their “breakdown” has been a spiritual emergence/emergency. We discuss the situation(s) that led to the breakdown/breakout.

    However, I am hesitant to talk about this outside the consulting room, or to recommend that people come off their medications, and therefore feel I am supporting the broken system that promotes psychiatric medication as the first step in treating people, rather than being an advocate for their agency. The line I tread is to recommend that a client checks in with her GP to help her reduce and eventually come off the medication. (And if necessary, find a GP that will support her to do this!)

    This was the process I went through myself when I came off Zoloft. But in spite of the doctor’s support, I experienced physical and psychological withdrawal. It was not easy and I was glad for his help. But most of all, I relied on my certainty that I could use the tools of art therapy and breathwork to help me get my life and vitality back. I can see now that my certainty was rooted in the confidence I have in my inner knowing – and this only came about from reconnecting with myself and God/Spirit/Higher Self through years of personal development work.

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