As you all know, I have had a tough time with my health for the past seven years. There’s been 9 surgeries, so many months in hospital, even more months of recovery at home. I dread to think how many strong painkillers I have taken over the past few years! My health has been so difficult. The main thing that has got me through this time is creativity.
Whether that is in the form of this blog, writing for other people or making art, I have learnt how important art is to humans.
I have had really difficult times in my physical health and as a consequence a bad time with my mental health. PTSD from the surgeries has caused anxiety, panic attacks and depression. What helped me through has been a combination of medication, talking therapies and art.
It is hard to be positive sometimes with a chronic illness. It is hard to plan for the future when your future feels so uncertain, when you don’t know if you will be having more surgery or just be too ill to get out of bed. When you are in pain every single day, it is hard to think about changing your life past just stopping the pain. I have had at least one major operation every year for the past seven years. So I struggle to think too much about the future.
But this isn’t making me happy. And so I started to think about what I want from life. What sort of job do I want to do in the future? I know the most important thing to me is to do a job that helps people and makes a difference.
I have done lots of different jobs in my life, mainly within the arts and helping people. And so I started to think about how I could put these things together. I truly believe that art heals the soul. It is a phenomenal tool to learn about yourself, to get through tough times, as a therapy to figure out your life. And I started to look into Art Therapy.
I looked at how to become an Art Therapist and saw that it was a Masters Degree after a Bachelor’s Degree. Almost immediately I threw this idea out of the window and started to look at other things I would like to do. I didn’t feel good enough to go to University. I never believed that someone like me could go to University.
When I sat my GCSE’s and from the age of 14 to 18, I was homeless. Not in the sense that I was sleeping on the streets, but I had no firm home. I stayed with my sisters, my aunt, on friends sofas, in random flats where a friend of a friend had space. I lived in so many places, I got a tiny, terrifying council flat just after my 16th birthday, I lived in a student flat and just all over! It was a really hard time, I felt so unsettled, so lost. I managed to get some good grades at GCSE and started my A-levels. But when you are trying to study in a flat where there are drug users, when you have no money, when you are worrying about where you will sleep, it is hard to give a shit about lessons.
I ended up leaving college, and then tried again the following year. But life was so chaotic. I had never felt more alone, more useless, more unloved. And honestly, I lost all belief in myself and I quit again. And so the thought of going to University always felt a million miles away from my life.
But my life is very different now. I have a home, a husband, a family. Though I struggle with my health, I have a great life. I have so many amazing friends and the most brilliant support system. So I thought, wellllll why not give it a try?
I decided to apply for a Fine Art degree, wholeheartedly believing I would be turned down, but at least I would have tried, right?
After months of creating a portfolio, of writing personal statements, interviews, open days and a lot of self doubt, I got an email today. I have been accepted onto the BA Honours in Fine Art starting in September!!!!
ME!!! Sam Cleasby. I am going to be a student!!! The plan is that in 3 years, I will have an Art degree and in 5 years I will have a masters in Art Therapy. I can’t believe it. I am terrified if I am honest!!! I am 39 and about to start University.
I don’t know what the future holds with my health. I’m not sure if this is the wisest of moves, but I am ready to try. After my surgery in February and the complications afterwards, I could have died. I could not be here right now, but I am. And so I owe it to myself to make the most of every single second.
I had a dream of making something of myself. Of studying and learning, of getting a degree and a masters and then having a dream job of being able to help others through creativity. I could have laughed it off, or thought I was too old and it was silly, I could have not bothered trying but I did and here I am.
I am at the start of a whole new part of my life, and you know what? I can’t wait!!!
Peace and love,