When Pip Barrett was diagnosed with mental health problems, she used her love of painting to help her through the stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
The 24-year-old from Cardiff started to suffer from anxiety during her final year at university and believes it was aggravated by the stress of coursework and exams.
What were her feelings like?
“It was a feeling of being totally overwhelmed,” said Pip.
“I felt like I just couldn’t cope with normal stresses or problems that I would usually take in my stride.
“I put myself under more and more pressure and it felt like my brain was on overload.”
This is what happened next
Pip started to suffer from panic attacks – an overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety.
“I had no idea what was happening,” she recalled.
“I thought something terrible was happening, I thought I was having a heart attack.”
What was actually happening?
According to Mind, a panic attack is an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement.
Signs include a pounding heartbeat, feeling unable to breathe, sweating, nausea, shaky limbs and feeling faint.
She had to seek help
“I didn’t realise that stress could have such a physical impact,” she said.
“I felt tired all the time. I would have a burst of energy and then crash and feel exhausted.”
Pip, a student at Cardiff School of Art and Design, sought help from her local GP and student medical services.
Here’s what she was asked to do
She was advised to start keeping a diary of her thoughts and feelings and began translating her entries into drawings.
“Keeping a diary helped me to take things hour-by-hour, rather than feeling overwhelmed by everything all at once,” she said.
“Drawing has always been part of my life, but I realised it could be therapeutic and it became an important part of my mental wellbeing.
“I was trying to get rid of the anxiety and I wanted to use my art as a way to get it out.”
Then, she went one further
Pip used her skills to run an art class for other people affected by mental health problems as a volunteer for Mind.
Despite her difficulties, she managed to achieve a First in her Illustration BA and went on to complete a Masters in Fine Art.
She specialises oil painting, but also enjoys creating sculpture, as well as working in wood and ceramics.
What is Pip’s work like?
Her works are based on her thoughts, anxieties and memories and she hopes they will help to challenge the stigma around mental health.
Last month, her work was displayed at Arcade Cardiff – an artist-run project space in the city centre.
“People don’t talk enough about mental health,” she said.
“Perhaps it’s not quite a taboo subject anymore, but I do think people are a bit scared to talk about it and also don’t know how to talk about it.
“Yet it affects most people at some point – maybe you are affected by stress yourself, or know a friend or family member who suffers from anxiety or depression.”
Why Pip is part of the #iwill campaign
Pip, who lives in Roath , hopes her art will encourage people to discuss mental health, without dictating a set message.
The artist said she is still affected by anxiety, but has learnt to manage the symptoms using techniques like meditation and mindfulness.
She added: “I know there are a lot of other people out there who want to talk about mental health and I hope I’ve helped to start a conversation.”
Pip is part of the #iwill campaign, encouraging more young people to get involved in volunteering, campaigning and fundraising.
WalesOnline is looking for 1,000 people to sign up to the campaign in the next six months.
For more information, visit www.campaign.iwill.org.uk/wales