"Keep Drawing," Said My Psychiatrist

Almost as soon as I arrived in psychiatric hospital, I started drawing. (I’d forgotten to bring a toothbrush, but I brought a sketchbook and pens.)

This post is part of a series, introducing my book Psalms for the City.
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I drew what I saw, and I drew imaginary pictures of what I seemed to be going through. You can see some of those drawings below.

When I first met my psychiatrist, Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, I showed her what I’d done. She seemed rather struck by the drawings, and urged me to keep doing more.

It would help, she said.

Much later, after I’d been out of hospital for quite a while, I interviewed Henrietta (no longer my psychiatrist) for my podcast. You can listen to that episode here:


Drawings I made in hospital

Click to enlarge.

The Third Picture: One of the triggers for my breakdown was the serious illness of a relative. I started thinking about medical graphs, how they suddenly switch from regularity to chaotic disturbance. Having a breakdown was a bit like that. I made several images showing a regular linear progression from left to right, and then to introduce a chaotic boing, like coiled wires springing out, loose and tangled. I did it with the straight line of a horizon, with telegraph wires, with birds sitting on them, and with the straight lines of a musical stave. This picture combines them all.

The Last Picture: My hand drawing the picture it’s in, also features a glimpse of the building that appears on the cover of Psalms for the City.