I am participating in the 52 Week Illustration Challenge – where a whole community illustrates to a different theme each week.

Last week the theme was SIMPLICITY….. while simplistic artwork is one of the most complicated to do, I found many ideas came easily with one illustration taking me on a retrospective emotional journey as I remembered one of the most difficult times of my life.

Nearly 16 years ago, my first son was born. All I ever wanted, was to be a mum.  We couldn’t have been happier with the news of our growing family. However, things took a drastic turn.

Only 4 weeks after his birth I was diagnosed with Post-Natal Depression and was hospitalised in a ‘Mother/Baby Unit’ for a week which was extended to two weeks due to the severity of my condition. I was then transferred to a private hospital (another Mother baby unit) where I spent another 8 weeks receiving treatment for PND, learning how to look after my baby and beating the demons that told me I was such an inadequate mother.

These demons robbed me of the first year of my son’s life, where I truly believed he was safer and better off with anyone else other than me. I loved him SO much that I struggled to bond with him and be responsible for him. When I look back now all these years later, I still feel that heartbreaking pain – but I have since forgiven myself and understand the condition so ineptly now I know that I had absolutely no control.

What does this have to do with my illustration challenge?

I don’t make a habit of torturing myself with mother guilt very often, but when I painted a ‘simplistic blob’ then pushed the paint around a little bit – in about 5 minutes I created this image…

Week 14-simplicity-by-Nicky-Johnston

A mother holding her baby, making eye contact showing the love flowing between them.

I was so taken back by the power of the simplicity of this illustration, I became completely overcome with emotion. It took me back 16 years to that very dark place.

You see, this is the image that I used to visualise while staying in the Mother/Baby hospital. This is how I imagined it felt like to be a mother for everyone else. This was what I desperately wanted to feel.

In one of the therapy sessions, we were asked to create a model using clay to represent our emotions – I created this image in clay. I still remember the sadness in the eyes of the psychiatrist when I cried saying I wanted to hold my son like this, but was too scared to. (*I had severe anxiety and feared that I would drop him accidentally and he would be injured or die because I was such a bad mother*)

While creating this illustration took me back 16 years, experiencing the emotions all over again, it also showed me how much I have truly healed. How far I have come, how I have never visited that black hole again. How I continued to have 3 more children without suffering PND (although I was terrified I would!).

It showed me that this image is EXACTLY how I feel as a mother – and a bloody good one at that.

Staying creative,
Nicky x

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