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**

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