As carers we know that caring has a major impact on our lives, for many caring is a long-term commitment, and even those who are supported by paid carers, still, come back home to do caring chores at the end of a working day. While our practical conditions will hopefully be improved through lobbying and by “caring” getting recognised as a protected characteristic in the future, the effects on our health, including stress levels, emotions, and feelings of isolation, go much further.
The Carers Support Centre’s “Carers Rights Days” and other campaigns, raise awareness about our emotional wellbeing. Our stories with photos of what we do get shared, we have mindfulness sessions, and enjoy a short massage. In the past we even had our art exhibited, at the Vassal Centre and through “The Art of Caring” event in June 2019 at The Space, Bristol.
Engaging in creativity, art and writing has supported me tremendously over many years. It has provided me with meaning, strength, and often condolence in the bleakest and loneliest moments in my life. As a carer, you can’t just simply walk out when facing a difficult situation. Even getting a break is rare and must be planned well. But creativity, art and writing open new worlds in your everyday life. It can be as simple as making new home decorations, or a painting to hang on the wall, while also providing connections to feelings, ambitions and dreams.
Here’s my wintery Snowman painting with poetry to go with it:
My book “Painted Poetry” is out now under my penname: ‘Painted Poetry’ by Pippi Wolfnitz | Arkbound | Charity Book Publisher
For me, art and painting provided support, as I could express my feelings and let them flow with the paintbrush and colours on the page. Writing poetry is very powerful and I often changed between writing and painting, until both, the artwork and the poem, were finalised together.
As carers, we get sometimes asked to describe our position and what we do to help raise awareness about what being a carer means. Then we need to put it down in facts and figures (what we do, why it is important, how often, when…) and even when we get asked how it makes us feel, there are set general categories to tick: stressed, overworked, isolated…
But art and writing connect, heal, and reach out telling our stories in a different, lived experience, creative way.
I attended a free Artist Support Day in 2016 in Bristol, provided by “Outside In” and they helped me to make my online gallery on their website, invited me to Chichester (paying the expenses for me and the person I care for) in 2018, to give a talk about my art and poetry for the European Outsider Art Conference. Then I became one of their ambassadors for Southwest England, and last year Outside In and all ambassadors received our late Queen’s award for voluntary services. In October this year, I was invited to give a talk at the Arnolfini through their Bristol outreach event.
I’m happy to help carers who create artwork to receive support from Outside In. Also, for the person/s you care for.
In 2017 I became a founder trustee of Arkbound Foundation, a charitable writing and publishing social enterprise, giving disadvantaged people a voice, supporting lived experience writers, and improving equality and diversity in publishing. My above book “Painted Poetry” was published through them for free. Writing has always been a very powerful tool for me to recall what is happening, and what could be improved and focus on possible lights at the end of the tunnel.
Writing things down already keeps us on track when we list dates, times and reasons for our chores, the symptoms of the person we care for, and making an expenses budget… but there is so much more in it, as it helps you to understand your situation and gives you self-help when you feel that others don’t understand you.
Val (Waltraud Pospischil)
Bristol Carers Rep for the Carers Support Centre