When I tell my friends I need to relax more, they often suggest that I should meditate. I’ve tried off an on for years to meditate, with mixed success. Trying to sit and think of nothing doesn’t work for me. Mantras and counting are a little better, but I confess I don’t meditate regularly because it’s just too hard. Then I came across Danny Gregory, an artist who says that drawing is a form of meditation because it keeps us in the moment. I recently put his idea to the test when my husband was having mysterious belly pains on a Sunday.

As soon as I knew we were on our way to urgent care, I began debating with myself. I knew we would have to wait, possibly for hours. Should I take my Kindle or my sketchbook along? I chose the sketchbook, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to read. I’m Anxiety Girl. The minute anything looks off, or there’s a hint of trouble, I’m leaping to horrific conclusions far beyond the facts of the moment. A racing mind has a hard time following even the best story. So I took the sketchbook, which turned out to be the perfect companion for our long day.


We spent nine hours getting medical help, and for more than half of it, we didn’t actually know what was wrong. Nurses asked questions. Doctors asked more questions. They poked and prodded Kurt. He described his last 24 hours, where it hurt, how it hurt, again and again. They drew blood, and we waited for results.

When my thoughts started to race — what if he needs surgery? what if they put him in the hospital? what if it’s something hidden and big, like cancer no one knew was there? — I would pick up my sketchbook and draw. Making notes of the progress we were making, even that we were just waiting, brought me back to where I was and helped me to avoid being afraid about the unknown.

I started just doodling, guessing I would get interrupted and we would be relocated fairly often.
I started drawing Kurt’s hand. They took him away before I could finish.

When we got the blood tests back, the doctor was clearly puzzled. Except for a slightly elevated white blood count, everything was normal. He was a good doctor, not giving anything away, but I sensed he wasn’t sure what was going on, and that was scary. He said the next step was a CT scan, so they did the scan, and we waited for those results.

I drew this while waiting for the CT scan results, then added the diagnosis when we got it.

At last, we had a diagnosis — appendicitis — and a plan of action — surgery, right away.

Everything went smoothly, and we were back home that night, looking at one another in amazement at the way our day had gone. I was especially proud of how calm I was, even when we were waiting for test results with no idea what was wrong. I learned that Danny Gregory was right. My drawing and doodling kept me in the moment and kept Anxiety Girl from busting out all over the place and freaking everyone out.

10 thoughts on “Drawing: One Way To Stay in the Moment”

  1. Drawing really helps to deal with anxiety ! I’m sorry you had to go through this, but it’s good that you found a way to cope with it !

    1. I’m grateful we got to the doctor in time to avoid complications and that the medical professionals where we live are so good. All of this could have been much worse than it was.

  2. That Danny Gregory! He sure has changed at lot of lives, mine too. Count me in. BTW I drew my way from an 8 am hospital morning to a Six thirty release from hospital day when my husband went in for a heart angiogram and stint, I drew everyone in every waiting room, him in bed, equipment, the whole shebang and yes it kept me grounded. Good for you, good for all of us!

    1. The one place I didn’t draw was the waiting room. It was the first time I was around people (other than my husband) and the Broncos were struggling to win the division title. Since I live in Colorado, everyone was focused on that, and it was enough of a distraction to keep me from fretting. I will definitely be taking the sketchbook to the doctor’s from now on.

  3. I’ve been in your shoes and know how scary it is to wait for answers. I’m glad the process was relatively smooth and that your hubby was back home quickly.

    Your post has given me something to think about. I have zero artistic talent but next time I’m in a similar situation, I will grab my adult coloring books. I, too, have a hard time staying focused on a book when stressed.

    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. I’m glad this has given you an idea for how to deal with your own stressful medical moments.

      I don’t feel like I have any artistic talent, either. What I’ve learned is that becoming proficient at an art is a really a skill. It’s a question of practice and persistance. Many people marvel at my sister’s artistic “talent”, but she has been drawing since she was a little kid. What she can do with a pencil today? Earned.

  4. Brilliant solution for controlling your anxiety at a very trying time! I don’t have a talent for drawing, but someone told me the adult coloring books are sold everywhere. I wonder if they would work just as well. I’m glad it all worked out for you.

    1. Anything that required focus would probably work, even some forms of needlework. We just have to keep our brains busy with something that isn’t worrying.

  5. Believe it or not, as soon as I started reading your post I thought appendix! Glad they took care of it and he is safe! I am Anxiety girl, too. I actually have Panic Disorder and have been on meds for it since mid 90’s. Now in process of coming off of them. Sketching is a perfect way to meditate and even pray. When I start working on a picture, the picture pretty much takes care of itself so that leaves me to pray, think, meditate, etc.

    1. Sorry to hear about your anxiety issues. Most of mine have improved greatly thanks to dietary changes, but it means I have to do without things I miss, like caffeine and chocolate. I’ve been trying to develop a meditation practice for years, and am now thinking about getting a sketchbook and just doing a five-minute sketch every day for a while and see how that goes. My rule-following self thinks this is completely cheating, but my hopeful self thinks this might actually work for me.

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