Recovering from loss, pain and anxiety: The ArtsHubbub Ep 3

In the third episode of The ArtsHubbub we share advice from creatives on ways that art can help us recover from some of life’s greatest challenges.

After the recent bushfires and now with the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems a pertinent time to talk about the ways we can heal once tragedy strikes – whether that tragedy be a loss of live, a struggle with addiction, or recovering from a broken heart.

In Episode 3 of The ArtsHubbub: How Can We Recover? we explore the myriad of ways art helps us to heal after trauma.

‘The arts have been completely central to my life and to my recovery and that’s probably for a few reasons. One is that the arts are really good at imagining different worlds, other possibilities, that you can inhabit a new way of living in your head before you realize it,’ said Chris Fleming, a writer, philosopher and Associate Professor at Western Sydney University.

‘The arts often deal in this hypothetical mode, not this “it is” but “what if?” and I think that the addict needs to be able to think in those terms that another form of living is possible.’

Fleming’s book On Drugs explores his lived experience of addiction and his journey through recovery, a word he is hesitant to use because of some of its suggested implications.

‘Part of it is all the associations it drags in of Ellen and Oprah and Dr. Phil and serious self-obsession and recovery speak. But I guess it also, for me, implies a kind of finality …  [instead of] an ongoing process, and for me, that doesn’t mean like relapsing and so on, but just means being at work in my life and making the right kind of decisions.’

For others, recovery is about simply getting on with life. In this episode, comedian Judith Lucy discusses recovering from a string of bad relationships with men, her decision to stop dating – and also the anxiety which almost put an end to her comedic career.

‘I think it’s just that I need to stop, but there’s not a support group, and God knows if I had $1 for every time someone said to me, “Well, you’re just batting for the wrong team.” I know I am! I know I am. But I just like penises and there’s simply nothing I can do about it,’ she told ArtsHub.

‘I just like penises and there’s simply nothing I can do about it.’

– Judith Lucy

‘I went through a pretty hideous period, which I have talked about, of just having shocking panic attacks on stage. And that became pretty debilitating.. But the horrible truth was I simply had nothing to fall back on. Apart from that the whole sandwich hand thing,’ said Lucy.

‘I have come out the other side and I’m currently actually enjoying [comedy] more than I probably have in a really long time. So I’m kind of glad I’ve stuck with it for now.’

We also hear from writer Ella Holcombe about the therapy that writing provided after she suffered devastating loss in the Black Saturday bushfires, and from Professor Jill Bennett, founder of the Big Anxiety Festival, who emphasised the importance of talking things through once trauma hits.

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