Shekoli, Aaniin, Hello.
My name is Tisha Summers. I am from Oneida Nation of the Thames First Nation and Wasauksing Nation. I am Wolf clan and my spirit name is Grey Bear Woman. I am an Art Therapist, and the founder and owner of Heal Through Love Art Therapy. I want to share with you my story about why and how I became an Art Therapist. I have wanted to help people ever since I could remember. I desired to offer support and guidance to those who were struggling. I didn’t know how exactly, but I knew that it was my calling to he a helper.
At a young age, I remember always being so creative… I loved to dance, sing, draw, write and more. Everyday I woke up driven to create in some way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, at the age of 12, I was diagnosed with depression and struggled with it for years. I also struggled with and continue to struggle with anxiety in many forms, from social anxiety to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was referred by my doctor to a psychiatrist at a psychiatric hospital. It was an overwhelming experience to say the least. Taking a child to a psychiatric hospital where patients with severe mental health disorders reside was unsettling. Seeing individuals talking to themselves and patients getting restrained, as a 12 year old, scared me deeply. I never wanted to go back. So I turned inward and closed myself up even more. In doing so, I lost hold of the creative part of me.
During the darkest times of my depression I struggled with suicidal ideation, and self-harming behaviours. I felt as if no one could help me and I felt totally alone in the world. I can only explain this period of my life like I was dropped into a hole, surrounding me with total darkness, and all I could see was a faint light above me… the size of a pea. But no matter what I did I could not escape it. I tried to climb out, but couldn’t escape. Nothing helped. People tried to help. They offered support and kind words but no matter what anyone said to me, I could never see past the veil of black that was consuming me. Comments like, “you’re going to be fine,” “you’ll get over this,” or “nothing is wrong with you!” didn’t help matters.
In school, I was always interested in the arts, from fashion design, to photography, to vocals. In my sp
are time I began doing automatic writing exercises and creating poetry. In automatic writing, I would write whatever came to my mind, good or bad. I would allow myself to get all of the stuff that I was hanging on to out on the paper!
Many of these pieces were dark and angry, but I allowed myself to feel it, to explore it, and then, to release it. I would sketch and draw to go along with my writings. I soon found that while I was creating art I was totally present in the moment. It felt good. I kept doing this for years, until one day I found that the little pea sized light at the top of my darkness was widening and was getting closer. I found that I was taking interest in new things, socializing with friends again and feeling somewhat happy again. I began allowing and experiencing feelings that I had been numb to for so long.
After graduating high school and attending post-secondary education, I found myself needing to choose. Choose what career I
wanted, what path I would take. I was at a fork in the road. Do I choose a path of creativity or one of helping others. I didn’t think I could do both. I had heard people say there was no future or security in art. Referring to creatives as “starving artists.” So I decided to study mental health.
I went to school for Human Services Foundation, Child and Youth Worker, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in sociology. I loved the areas that I studied, but always felt that there was something missing. When I decided on that career path, I once again, cut my creative side off. I realized that I wanted to explore my creative side again, but didn’t know how and feared I wasn’t good enough as an artist. I didn’t know how to open that artistic side up again. I had ignored it for so long. I had to rediscover and reintroduce myself, to myself!
I stumbled upon art therapy when I met someone who was a practicing Art Therapist. This immediately sparked my interest, and I was instantly intrigued. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that this is where I belonged. There were a few barriers when I first reached out to begin the program, but everything began falling into place when the time was right! I completed the program and knew I had found exactly what I was meant to do. Without realizing it, I had used art therapy to get through the hardest parts of my life and now I had the ability to help hundreds of others in the same way.
My career as an Art Therapist has already allowed me help people and I am totally honoured to be a part of their healing journey in some small way!
My mission in life is to help those who are going through similar things to what I went through, and to be that little light in someone else’s life. To help someone navigate their way out of their darkness.
I have experienced darkness. That will always be a part of me. I honour that and I love myself. Every thing that has happened to me has prepared me to be the teacher and helper that I am!
Written by Tisha Summers
Tisha Summers is from Oneida Nation of the Thames First Nation and Wasauksing First Nation. Tisha has professional designation with the Canadian Art Therapy Association & qualifying registration with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. She has been working directly with children, youth and families for over 17 years in a variety of different settings and is the founder and owner of Heal Through Love Art Therapy.
On October 17, 2020, you can catch Tisha facilitating Supporting Well-Being and Mental Health Through Art Therapy In this fun, highly interactive, virtual session brought to you through the generous support of the Aboriginal Babies and Beyond Coalition, Tisha will introduce participants to ways in which they can use art therapy as a tool to release emotions.
Each participant will receive a prepared art kit, complete with all the necessary materials.