I’m not sure how, but I managed to reach the age of 31 without ever carving a pumpkin for Halloween. 2018 was the year this would all change.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that one of the main things I found useful while I was on Stanage ward was the amount of occupational therapy on offer. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s basically activities designed to help improve mental wellbeing by keeping busy, completing a task, learning a new skill or being creative. One of the occupational therapists was called Jo, and she was a lovely, kind woman with excellent eye make up, who organised a lot of the daily OT activities. These were often seasonal – hence the pumpkin carving.
Nine times out of ten, when it came to OT, I never ever wanted to take part. I was unconvinced that doing some colouring in or hacking up an autumnal vegetable could improve my mood, and I thought the whole thing would make me feel like a bit of a tit, to be honest. But I had a lot of friends and family (hello, Val) who were adamant that getting involved with activities would help me. I wanted to be able to text them and say I’d tried, so I dragged myself along despite how I felt, often with tears pouring down my face.
On Halloween, Jo had organised for us to carve some pumpkins in the dining room, using tools designed for this exact purpose (who knew they even existed??), so I flopped into a seat and watched her demonstrate how to do it. And in spite of myself, my interest and creativity were piqued. So I carved the damn pumpkin. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t right good, but it was the first one I’d ever done and I by the time I was finished I was strangely proud of it. Plus, using a miniature saw to carve a grotesque face was unsurprisingly cathartic. Our finished pumpkins were displayed in the dining room for the other patients to ‘admire’.
I think this was the first time during my stay that I’d actually allowed myself to enjoy an activity, and to feel proud of myself for my attempts. I started to realise that maybe OT wasn’t just an airy fairy babyish thing, but could be a useful tool for helping me to start feeling better.