How Pottery Helped My PTSD

I have a confession to make. This blog is, after all, Confessions of a Pot-a-holic.

This is a case where I have given everything away in the headline. I mean why not? I am going to get a little vulnerable here.

My confession is that I have PTSD.

Now my intention is not to get into the reasons behind this, or how much PTSD sucks sometimes. I want to talk about the one thing that has made the biggest difference in helping my journey of healing.

Throwing pottery on a wheel.

Potter making a raku vase on the pottery wheel.
Putting the finishing touches on a vase.

Probably not the answer you were expecting. And I stumbled upon this quite by accident.

It was never my intention to learn to throw on a potter’s wheel to help my PTSD. In fact, learning how to center clay on a potter’s wheel may have made it slightly worse some days! But yet there was something about it that kept me coming back.

Was I under the spell of the clay? Or was I looking to create some order inside me?

It took me awhile to find out. I was not a natural. To be honest, I kind of sucked. I was also not in a place of order.

Like the un-centered clay I was slightly off kilter. Some days, more so than others. But, I was determined.

I would center that clay. And one day I did. Perfectly.

And beyond my joy at actually doing it I felt something else. A calmness. A peace. And maybe a little bit of serenity.

And also fear. The fear that I would never be able to do it again. That maybe it was just a fluke. That maybe it was just a lucky coincidence.

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But it wasn’t. I may have not centered the clay every time perfectly. But that became a more frequent occurrence. And then it became easier and easier, until eventually I could center the clay perfectly. Every time. And it became easy.

And as I progressed, I also felt a lot more centered. It felt like being in the flow, going with the tide, floating down a gentle stream.

Raku pottery vase levitating in the air
I have yet to master the art of levitation, but have some pretty zen days!

Was the clay a metaphor for my own journey?

I believe it was more than that.

There is a moment, just before centering clay on a potters wheel, where everything goes from chaos to order. Where the clay glides effortlessly through your hands. There is a certain stillness in that moment. Not only for the hands, but also for the mind.

There is a stillness in the clay once it is centered. And for some reason it cultivates a stillness within me and as I open up the pot, raise the walls and shape it, I am in the flow.

Things don’t always go how I plan. Sometimes I pull the walls too thin. Sometimes I react too quickly and the pot gets bumped. Sometimes I stretch the clay too much when shaping it. Sometimes the pot collapses.

But do you know what the beautiful thing about clay is?

You can wedge it back together. And get it back on the wheel.

The wheel still moves, but eventually, the clay is centered.

And somehow, so am I.

Wishing you all inner peace,

The Alchemist

**Photo Credit: Peter Reid Photography**

51 Comments

  1. Me too. Its amazing the various ways trauma occurs to cause PTSD. There is a CPTSD thats from emotional stress thats what I suffer from. Narcississistic abuse.I write on WordPress and read books on YouTube. Our peers teach.

  2. Pot-(ganja)holic (obsessed with clay) and raku πŸ”₯ burning πŸ”₯ bright red brown and blue 🀩 what ya meeting of ya proverbial πŸ™Œ ON YA WHEELSπŸ™πŸ•β™’οΈπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜„πŸŽˆπŸ˜ŽπŸ™‹have a productive day πŸ‘πŸΎ

  3. An artist friend’s painting and sculpture helped him in much the same way. He’d been in the DMZ in Vietnam and couldn’t talk about it. Last year, he returned to Vietnam to do a collaborative work with a dance company.

    1. It most definitely does. I appreciate that pottery allows me to do so. πŸ™ I hope you are keeping safe and well!

  4. So great you’re in a better place. Life is definitely worth living and wisdom, even in pottery comes with age… lol

    1. Thankfully one doesnt have to put oneself in a kiln at 1000 degrees to get that wisdom, which is nice!

    1. takes all kinds! creativity is so diverse, from cooking to writing poetry to photography to coding. being able to freely express is very healing regardless of the medium I think

    1. What a lovely thing to share! So glad to help introduce you to a bit more about pottery. There is much to learn and I am very much still learning.

    1. So glad to hear it resonated with you Ashwini! Thank you for your kind comment! πŸ™

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I subscribe to your blog because I have this calling to get my hands involved again in the making of things – for my mental health. Your little posts in my inbox keep me reminded of my own needs –
    You never know what a tiny confession can do in the world. πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Ren! So happy to be a part of your process! Getting one’s hands into clay (or even playdough or other things!) is a lovely thing to do. πŸ™

  6. We certainly can all feel like we are collapsing over and over again these days. I am ‘centered’ when I paint or write music. I get lost in the process and find a great peace from creating.. I tried the pottery wheel a couple of years ago. First time since high school. Oh man. It was SO stressful …ha ha. I wanted my bowl to be perfect the first time but the walls were too thin. I can imagine how good you must feel when you feel in control and let yourself fall into the beauty of creating. Peace. Peace indeed.

    1. It is a lovely feeling! I paint as well and it has its similarities with being in the flow and being centred. A wonderful experience to create! So glad to hear that it resonates with you Laura! πŸ™ Keep well

  7. Beautiful expression of self. I love your pottery (particularly those owls)and am happy you have found a way to deal with PTSD. I tried thowing clay on a wheel once or twice and was a miserable failure. Maybe I should have been more persistent. But, recently was reintroduced to Roku pottery and am in love all over again. Best, Ginny

    1. Wonderful to hear, Ginny! So glad to be a part of your pottery journey! If you would like to see more owls as well, they are all up at http://rakupottery.ca/raku-owls

      Persistence in pottery pays off! Alliteration as well it appears!

      I hope you are keeping well! πŸ™

    1. You are most welcome! It has been a wonderful journey with pottery so far and much more to come! πŸ™

    1. What a lovely way to describe it! Thank you for sharing and I hope you are keeping well! πŸ™

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