by Lydia Hawkins


I created a piece of artwork in order to delve deeper into the emotions of Jane’s* anxiety disorder. Jane explained that when she is experiencing a panic attack she just wants to ‘get out’ and in situations where she ‘can’t cope with not being able to get out’ her body goes into ‘shut down mode’. The focal point of the piece is my drawing of Jane, showing her hiding her face in her hands in order to reflect this ‘shut down mode’ depicting how inwardly focused she becomes as disorientation increases and she experiences ‘low awareness and hearing loss’. Jane explained to me that she tends to experience her panic attacks in crowded situations such as public transport and large meeting rooms. The patterns I incorporated into the background depict the busyness and confusion of these situations, which is interlaced with dark colours to echo the despair she feels. I included images of prison bars to illustrate her trapped feeling of not being able to get out and the arrows develop this theme of being overwhelmed further. The faint river of green and red running through the collage is intended to highlight her feelings of being ‘tense, worried, hot, feeling sick…high heart rate…rapid breathing...faint/dizzy’.

Tackling the issue of anxiety and trying to understand Jane’s emotions when developing my artwork has really helped me to understand her disorder better. It gave me the opportunity to talk in depth with her about it and thus appreciate it more from a patient’s viewpoint than from the distant viewpoint that one reads in textbooks. It has also disproved some of my preconceptions of the disorder (in Jane’s case, claustrophobia) and I hope as a result, I have learned a little more about how best to support her recovery.

*name changed to ensure patient confidentiality

Lydia Hawkins, Whole Person Care, Year One, 2013