Andrea Selley, 51, and her son Isaac, 17, were both traumatized when a close friend took his own life in 2013.
The former physiotherapist was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2019.
She had spent 31 years helping children with muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders. But working through the pandemic brought her negative emotions back and it became too much for her to handle.
Andrea said: “My post-traumatic stress disorder was related to the feeling that I had let my friend down and failed to prevent his suicide, so it feels like working in a hospital that isn’t very good at meeting everyone’s needs, was overwhelming. At the local NHS Trust where I worked, things got very stressful and I felt my well being needs were not being supported.”
Andrea and Isaac had received support from Parenting Mental Health, a charity that provides help and support for young people and their parents who have mental health issues.
When Andrea’s illness reappeared during Covid, they were able to help her again. She took part in an online art therapy course organized as a little relief for parents of anxious children.
Andrea found this very helpful for connecting with other parents via Zoom.
“It really wasn’t about being great at art, it was just about expressing your feelings. Find out how you felt using different types of art and some mindfulness mandalas. It was through the charity, so I knew everyone there had an understanding, they all had children with mental health issues.”
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But during the sessions she discovered a hidden talent – inspired by her nine-year-old Bichon Frize, Rafi.
“The therapist suggested that I think about what a really good friend would say to me without judgement. I found that really difficult, but it was so much easier to imagine my dog having a voice and saying those things because he’s really encouraging me.”
So now she has a whole series of paintings, all featuring her dog and a positive message.
“The messages are about finding the good in difficult circumstances and taking things one step at a time and not letting negativity overwhelm you.”
She quit her job at the Royal Preston Hospital in December 2021 to focus on the art she uses to spread her messages of hope and recovery.
“It was a big decision to quit work, but I realized that taking care of my well-being was more important. Experiencing something for yourself makes you really passionate about not wanting other people to suffer.”
Andrea now sells her work at craft markets in Kirkham and craft fairs in Lytham.
And in early 2022, she made the final 12 in a national art competition from 4,338 entries — which was a huge confidence boost.
Simon Wadsworth, director of Wraptious, a gifts and homewares company that organized the talent search, said: “Your work stood out for all the right reasons – in terms of creativity, mindfulness and connection. Values we need to be reminded of in society.”