Not long after I started The Mind Sanctuary, an old school friend got in touch to share her experience of depression and anxiety, and introduce me to an approach that really helped her. Below is an account written by Rachel Ward from Norfolk, providing an insight into how discovering the clown within helped her to change her thought patterns and relieve anxiety and worry.
Discovering The Clown Within – By Rachel Ward
I somehow became interested in finding out about clowning as a type of therapy. I’m not a lover of clowns, all the over the top make up, thoughts of humiliation, underlying waves of concern prompted by horror films…..in fact a lot of films! How I became interested is complicated. I now refer to it as the start of my clown journey. Clowning isn’t something you do and then, ‘dan-ar’, I’m a clown. It becomes as interwoven with daily life as any belief or lifestyle choice.
Before clowning I’d suffered on and off with depression. I’m naturally a depressive person, but it was more rational pre children. After my first child I suffered really bad post natal depression. My mother naturally risk assesses everything. For some reason, as a mum I really embraced and mimicked this behaviour. Everything would lead to imminent disaster! At the time this all seemed completely normal to me, but for those around me it was really hard. I didn’t want to go out. I couldn’t get it together to shop, cook and maintain the house chores. For every minute my husband was late home, I would climb further into panic and desperation. With the help of my husband and Health Visitor I started to pull myself out of this cycle.
Two years after my first child I gave birth to my stillborn second son. I had suffered a severe placenta abruption and nearly lost my own life. I ended up in intensive care and lost a total of 20 units of blood and had a further 20 units of platelets and plasma. If it hadn’t been for my first son I don’t really know how I would have come through it. But I did. In fact, because this event happened despite how cautious I was, I was kicked completely out of the cycle of continuous risk assessments! It made me want to embrace life to the full.
How does all this fit in with the clowning…..well….I suppose it’s really hard to break a cycle, particularly one that you’ve kinda inherited from your mum! The clowning has helped me to embrace things as they happen. To question and feel things for myself, not take the information from other people. It has also given me a faith that ‘it’ will work out ok. I can’t really explain this last sentence. Maybe you can liken it to a kind or ‘Zen’, or ‘fate’. It’s an optimistic thing. It means the pressure has been taken off my life…mostly! I don’t lose things like my keys or purse anymore. Just calmly believing that realistically they probably have not been stolen by a passerby or put in the bin by one of the kids, means that they will turn up and I don’t need to turn the family and home upside down to find them! It works for everything, even assignments at college. I have, for the first time every passed a proper recognised course, a BTEC.
OK so I’ve said kinda how I fell into clowning and what the outcome of clowning has been for me, but I haven’t really said what it’s all about, what we do.
When I went to my first ‘clowning within’ course there was a huge amount of anticipation. Mainly of myself! How was I going to be in the course? What was the instructor going to think of me? Would I be brilliant and funny, or terrible and embarrassing? The instructor started us off with some exercises that grounded us in the group and the space. We then learnt how to play and look at objects as if we had never experienced them before. We were then encouraged to let down some of our barriers by expressing ourselves through sound when playing with the objects. We danced to music in pairs, taking it in turns and appreciating each other. That may sound really scary to you. But there are rules to clowning. You have to take things as they are at that very moment, so no planning or doing what you think you should do. Also there are no rules….so for example if dancing, you don’t have to dance to the music….you can just move how you want to. You also put your own feelings of the moment into it. Whether you are tired, bored or happy, you express it. This means you are being completely real and don’t conform to preconceived ideas. You aren’t doing what you think you should be doing. You are looking at things as if you have never looked at them before. And….AND…you are doing it with a complete understanding and recognition of how you feel at that time. What is more, by doing this with a partner or on a stage with people watching, you realise how much others actually appreciate that honesty. Watching others, you also realise how much you appreciate their honesty.
I hope that you can be inspired by my clown journey. I can’t really tell you how to get onto the first rung of the clown ladder! All I can say is that if inspired at the right time, clowning will find you. You will suddenly come across a course in your area, or a clown weekend somewhere else. Key words could be ‘clowning within’ or ‘inner clown’.
Even if clowning isn’t for you, I hope that you can consider some of the concepts. Next time you meet someone really look at them and take in their features. Pick up an object and just play with it. See what happens. If something happens that you liked do it again. Then put some of your own emotion of the moment into it. Exaggerate that emotion. What does it lead to? If you lose something, don’t stress. Just look out for it along your journey….(including your sanity!)
For more info on clowning try these websites: