Tom’s Story – From Volunteering to Carve Fin Art
Hi, I’m Tom Metcalf and I’m the artist behind Carve Fin Art, a series of linocut surf fin art prints. I’ve been volunteering with The Wave Project at Bigbury Beach in South Devon and I’ve also run the Great West Run (while carrying a surfboard the whole way!), to raise money for this amazing charity.
In early 2015, I had a pretty serious breakdown while at work, which resulted in my employer taking me straight to hospital. It wasn’t the first time that I’d reached this point, but while I was sat in the hospital room being assessed by the mental health practitioner, amongst many other things, we talked about what it was that kept leading me back to this point.
In the months that followed I thought a lot about what we’d discussed in that room and how I could try and break this recurring cycle of mental health breakdowns that I’d struggled with since my early 20s (I was now in my mid 30s). These were breakdowns that had cost me countless relationships, jobs, a business (when I was forced to go bankrupt due to one) and on a number of occasions, almost my life.
Although this was far from being my first breakdown, it was the first time that I’d actually accepted that I had issues with my mental health that really needed addressing. That might sound strange (especially coming from someone who’d suffered from recurrent major depressive episodes for over a decade), but generally once the dark storms had passed and I was climbing out the other side of depression, it was very easy to pretend that nothing had happened and just carry on with life as usual. In fact, I’d say that it’s actually far more tempting, as I didn’t have to think about or process how bad I was actually feeling while I was at my worst (which was pretty painful to deal with) and as they say, ignorance is bliss.
The problem with this view of things, is that you’re often then totally ignoring what’s caused you to get to that point in the first place, like I’d done previously, which is why I kept on ending up back there. This time I wanted to approach it differently, more openly and honestly, especially with myself, but also with those around me too. I had to admit that there was a real problem and actually give myself time to heal, rather than just putting a brave face on it and pretending everything was alright…until the next time it reared its ugly head.
I also, when I felt well enough, tried to spend as much time as possible doing the things that I loved and made me feel the most alive. For me, this was spending time on the water, kitesurfing and surfing. When I was in the grips of depression, it felt as though I became disconnected from everything and I was somehow lost in space and time, so to me, there was no better feeling than being totally connected with my environment in that moment, powered by the wind and the waves. This tied in with a course of mindfulness based cognitive therapy I was sent on as part of my recovery too.
A few months later, with my new found acceptance of the difficulties with my mental health and this passion for being on the water, I began to look in to opportunities where I could possibly combine my understanding of these two things and that’s when I found The Wave Project, while searching on the internet one day. It sounded perfect from what I saw on the website, so I got in contact right away and I was in luck, as a local course in Bigbury had just recently started, so I was able to go along and get involved with that.