Ruth Girvan is chair of the Teapot Trust (

TWO years ago, at the age of six, my daughter Neve was diagnosed with a chronic invisible illness called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Overnight, our house went from one filled with music and carefree weekends out riding bikes or walking the dog to not knowing what we would face each day, whether Neve could join in or if we’d need to carry her because she was in too much pain or too tired from her medication. She lost all confidence. She no longer danced or sang, and my bubbly little girl slipped further and further away as fear, pain and the trauma of her treatment, operations and medication took over. Every room felt unsafe. Every adult became untrustworthy. She constantly expected them to stick needles in her, pull her joints around and make her swallow foul tasting medication.

I started to become desperate. I tried everything to calm her, reassure her and help her to cope with things like weekly injections which left her screaming. She was terrified of having blood taken, which meant we had to have three adults physically restraining her to keep her safe. No mother wants to put their child through that trauma. Nothing I nor the medical and psychotherapy team did worked to help Neve or any of the family cope.

I found Teapot Trust, which specialises in art therapy for children, by accident. It has given Neve her voice back. I’ll never forget the first session. Neve was hiding under the desk and clinging to me. I watched in awe as the therapist skilfully, and gently, encouraged Neve to draw and paint. Unicorns featured often in Neve’s artworks and particularly a beautiful strong unicorn called “Breathe”. Neve was taught to use “Breathe” and her other characters to find words to understand and express what was happening to her and why.

The biggest challenge we face now is the "invisibility" of the illness. Neve looks like every other child. Her pain and exhaustion isn’t something others can see. Art therapy has given her the words and the confidence to speak up when someone’s words or actions hurt her. Two years on and Neve is a much more confident young person and copes much better when I’m not around. Teapot Trust’s art therapy has given her the confidence to be able to tell the world “Today I’m not 100%.... This is the help I need today… and that is OK."

I stepped up to chair of Teapot Trust earlier this year. I am driven by the deep passion to ensure that any young person diagnosed with a chronic invisible illness is aware of and can access the transformative power of Teapot Trust’s art therapy so they too can find their voice again. The work we’re doing alongside Semple Begg, and with the generous support of Project Giving Back to create the Teapot Trust Elsewhere Garden at RHS Chelsea – we are the only Scottish charity to win a show garden at RHS Chelsea next year – will really help to raise awareness of Teapot Trust and what we do and ultimately help more young people.