Well, on the personal front, I’m no sure how I’m doing exactly right now. We’ve been having a low pressure system here for the past few days, which has translated into a persistent migraine which turned me into a vegetable most of the weekend. It’s receded a bit today but is still lingering. Then I went to my photo group this afternoon and was quite discouraged with the experience. This is a photo project that my occupational therapist (OT) recruited me to participate in over the next few weeks of summer. She was quite excited about it, as she had attended some workshops on using photography as a recovery tool for mental health patients, which got her to start up a group at the Allan Memorial Institute. We started with our first meeting last week, which left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied, and after our session today I’m seriously considering dropping out.
It’s not so much what we did: pasting a photo of ourselves on a sheet and writing out answers to a series of questions about said photo, a project we were encouraged to do as creatively as possible with a bunch of art materials that were available to us. That part was fine. I’d say almost fun, even. The part I’m really struggling with is that the project is taking place at the mental health facility where I see my shrink and OT, and at least a couple of the participants are what you’d call “low functioning” individuals. In other words, their mental illness and/or drug treatment prevents them from communicating or operating in what might be considered anything close to a normal way. As I write this, I can’t help but wonder how that will come off sounding, because I recognize it makes me seem intolerant, which, I suppose I must be to a certain degree. I’ve never been very comfortable in group settings to begin with, even less so groups at mental health hospitals, and having to interact with people who are struggling even more than me is a challenge that is difficult to bear.
To be fair, I don’t think it’s pure intolerance on my part. For instance, at my art classes at the Visual Art Centre, there are plenty of people who have all kinds of personal troubles, including a couple of women who are also mental health patients, but because it’s a “normal” art school and not a mental institution the focus is on other things, so that I feel much more comfortable there. Part of the trouble is that I inevitably end up feeling that if I need to be in a group that is made up exclusively of psychiatric cases, then I must be worse off than I’m willing to admit to myself. Then on top of it all, I have to deal with all the guilt I feel about not being more compassionate. Also, in this specific instance, my OT had told me that this specific project would be open only to participants who were functional and able to communicate well, so that I feel like I was more or less misinformed and am now trapped in a situation that I would have avoided otherwise. In any case, I’m meeting my OT tomorrow for my bimonthly individual session and I’ll bring up these issues with her. All I know is these past two weeks I’ve walked out of those group meetings feeling worse than when I went in, which surely isn’t the point of the whole thing.
The photo: taken by me today at the grounds of the institute, though not as part of the group project since most people in the group don’t have a camera yet.