The Caring Together Art Journal Project

Mental health carers as partners in recovery

Lunch Therapy

Christmas arrives next week, and it’s that time for family get togethers and, hopefully, a fresh start and a fresh chance in the new year. It can be the best of times – or it can be the saddest and loneliest of times – simply because that’s not how it’s meant to be.

What is getting me through this year is simple. It’s a wonderful group of friends who are also carers. We met as part of an advisory group, brought together by our experiences and wish to make things better. This friendship was a bonus that I don’t think any of us ever expected.

We get together regularly to eat, to make gingerbread, to create felt scarves. Any excuse will do, really, to meet with this group of incredibly strong women who understand absolutely how things are. Those long lunches are a time when we don’t have to pretend. When we don’t have to fall silent as other parents talk about how wonderfully happy their kids are, their brilliant school reports, and how they are sure to win the Nobel Prize. With other carers I don’t have to explain why things are the way they are. I don’t have to feel guilty or feel a failure. I don’t have to be embarrassed. I don’t have to make up small talk, or try to hunt for something positive and funny to say. I can say anything at all without needing to hide the truth. We talk about things we would never dare mention in another group.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that a group of people getting together and talking about the shitty times could be a real downer. But that’s just not true. Being able to talk freely and honestly is a huge relief. It puts our lousy days out there, where they need to be – rather than destroying us from the inside out. It also puts things in perspective. Other people have gone through this before, and they have survived. We’re not alone – looking around the room is proof of that.

Not being alone changes everything.

These get togethers go much further than just letting loose with our anxieties. It’s a group where we share our strengths – and not our pity. But most amazing of all is our ability to laugh at things that are absolutely awful. We laugh at how unlikely our stories sound – because in this group the truth really is stranger than any fiction. We are all in the same boat, so we don’t judge each other. Where no-one else could possibly laugh, we can. So we do. We laugh and laugh and laugh. After all, what else could we possibly do? 

Last week we spent an afternoon making gingerbread together. Unexpectedly we found that one of our group was a master cake decorator, and she created the most beautiful and delicate decorations. But the best cookie of all, that said everything, was a simple rectangle with just two words on it:  “Shit happens”.

It made my day.

I’m dedicating this page to that very special group of friends to whom I owe so much.  Thank you guys. You know who you are. And I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful Christmas.

Written and illustrated by Helen Wilding 2011

Cite as: Wilding, H. (2011). Lunch therapy. The Caring Together Art Journal Project. Retrieved from


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