Guest Post by Simone Lisa: Heart Open Please Enter

*As we continue our Mental Health discussion, here’s a post by a very special guest, Simone Lisa.  Thank you, Simone, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us! 

 

There’s a little glimmer of warmth, burrowing into my chest. And a chink of light, peeking into my spirit. If I listen carefully I can almost hear a heart-warming song. It has taken me awhile to recognise it – the song of hope. Unfamiliar. Really scary. Really positive. Hope.

Hope has a few different acronyms:

  • Hold On Pain Ends
  • Have Only Positive Expectations
  • tHink pOsitive oPportunity comEs
  • Help Open People’s Eyes
  • Hanging Onto Positive Expectations

But I think my favourite is…

  • Heart Open Please Enter

I have had years of being knocked over and having to pick myself up again.

  • Grief after eight different family members died.
  • Worry as my teenage boys dabbled in the risky behaviours so many indulge in as they grow into adulthood.
  • Sorrow as my marriage started to crumble.
  • Stress as my elderly grandmother became more and more dependent on me.
  • Fear as my body aged and my youth disappeared.
  • Pain as my back deteriorated.

Coupled with a lifetime of burying emotions and not dealing with personal issues as they arose, it became too much for me to cope with and I crumbled. Every time I thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, I was wrong. Every time I tried to stand up and move on, another phone call came in. Someone needed me again. Someone wanted my help. Someone else had died. Another problem arose. Too much. Endlessly and relentlessly battering me to the ground, and in 51 years I had never learned positive mechanisms to deal with stress. The past two years have been eye opening and debilitating, and while I went a long way backwards, perhaps that is the direction I first needed to travel before I could embark upon a different path.

The past few days I have felt hopeful. Every time I become aware of that sense of positivity, that I may have a future and  things will improve, I worry I’m going to be battered to the ground any minute. The phone will ring and I’ll be given bad news. Again. I’ll be needed. Again. The phone will ring and I’ll be forced to choose between doing the right thing by family or the right thing by work. I’ll be put in lose-lose situations. Again.

But you know what 2017 has shown me so far? Nothing but positivity. Sure there are major stresses I’m still dealing with – but they are last years’ stresses and we’re working toward positive outcomes.

  • My teenage boys have grown into beautiful young men.
  • My marriage is receiving some tender care with tentative hope for the future.
  • Nobody else died.
  • My grandmother is being cared for in the nursing home.
  • I love my job. I love my friends and family.
  • My physical health is good and my mental health has improved.

You know what else? I found myself singing in the car. Singing!! I love singing and I’d stopped years ago. It is so good for the soul. Like alcohol however, I can’t indulge when I’m sad and stressed. I don’t drink to cheer myself up – I drink because I’m cheery. I don’t sing to cheer myself up – I sing because I’m cheery. When I realised I was singing, I realised I must be cheery.

So it turns out I have hope.

  • I am hopeful my beautiful boys will be okay – they will grow into the wonderful young men they are destined to be. They will experience love and happiness and success. They will contribute. They make me proud.
  • I am hopeful our marriage will continue. Hovering on the brink of separation has taught us both we’re not ready to throw in the towel. We value what we have enough to put in the hard yards.
  • I am hopeful my mental health will improve. My depression and anxiety are alleviating. I recognise them for what they are and have strategies in place to deal with signs and symptoms as they arise.
  • I am hopeful my life will go on. My story isn’t over yet. I have the opportunity and means to contribute financially to our family and meaningfully to society. I have abandoned plans to end my life and instead accept I have a lot of time ahead of me.
  • I am hopeful my elderly grandmother and ageing father are in safe hands. Their health is good and they are well cared for. I also accept that yes, I will have to farewell them both in the future, but they have had wonderful, happy, long, productive lives and I have support to deal with the grief when it inevitably strikes.
  • I am hopeful my back pain will go. I am thrilled about this in fact. I finally have a diagnosis and treatment plans and it is not major or degenerative and I will once again be able to exercise pain free.

More significant than all of these put together however, I am starting to feel a small sense of hope my eating disorder will improve. I won’t say disappear. Or aim for full recovery. I would be glad of those things – but so early in the phase of recovery (I may have been doing this a long time, but I went backwards before I moved forward. It’s a long and winding road…) I don’t want to jinx myself with unrealistic expectations.

You know what else? Without hope, I can’t recover. Without hope it is an intellectual exercise. Without hope I won’t make the right choice when faced with a difficult situation – I will make the most familiar and immediately comforting choice. Even if that decision leads to a poorer outcome. Because without hope, recovery is pointless. It feels temporary. Why would I make a good choice today if tomorrow it’s all going to fall apart anyway? I may as well eat a box of chocolate and be happy for five minutes.

Recovery is reliant on hope. Recovery needs my heart to be receptive – not just my head to be willing. So for today I want to say, my Heart’s Open Please Enter.

 

(Post originally appeared on Simone Lisa’s Blog )

Story Sunday: Journal of Life

 

January 15th

Where to begin? Because of so and so, and of something that happened, I’m to start keeping a journal of my thoughts and feelings and whatever else I care to share. WTH.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Carla Jones. I’m twenty-five, and I live with my parents. Eh, that sounds like an opener for one of those Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. I’m not an alcoholic, but I am a screw-up.

Damn. That sounds pretty harsh now that it’s out there. But this is what my shrink wants to read, so there you go.

I lived a fairly normal life, I guess. Grew up in a small town in the mountains. Mom was a telephone operator for many years before switching to being an administrative assistance at a local community college. Dad’s a salesperson at a hardware store.  I have two sisters. Trish, the eldest, moved out of the house when she was eighteen. She joined the Navy. I hardly ever see her. Mandy, the baby, is off to college, studying power engineering. She’s the brains, like Dad.

Me? I’m the oddball. The one with all the problems.

Heck, I’m not even related to these people. Not by blood anyway. You see, my parents tried to have another baby after Trish was born, but nothing happened after four years.  So, they adopted me. Mandy came along as a complete surprise three years later. That left me, a brunette with blue eyes, sandwiched between these blonde-haired, brown-eyed individuals. Yep, like an oddball.

We lived next to Mom’s parents (Dad’s parents died when he was a boy).  Nana and Papa to Trish and Mandy, but not to me. They made that well known as soon as I was old enough to understand. I was to call them Pat and Dave.

Ugh.

Trish and Mandy were always into sports. I tried, but I was deemed too klutzy to play on any team. So, I turned to running. I never competed, though. All that hardcore training and competing in meets or races never interested me.

I never excelled in anything in school. It’s not for the lack of trying…it’s just that I really didn’t care. I studied just enough to pass the exams. That’s it. Mom and Dad never really pushed me. They pretty much let me do my own thing. They rode the other two daily, though. They accepted nothing less than As or Bs from them.

When it came time to head off to college, I had no clue what to major in. I wasn’t interested in science or math or business. I ended up picking a major in Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. I had always doodled with poetry and wrote in my journal, so why not take them one step further, right? Boy, my Dad was not happy with that. I asked, what’s wrong with being a writer or a journalist?   He said that those weren’t respectable fields. So, in order to appease him, I switched to a major in Kinesiology with a minor in Athletic Training.

I got as far as sophomore year before dropping out. I sucked in science classes and ended up failing them.

I refused to move back home—didn’t want to endure the daily scorn from Pat and Dave or the disappointed looks from my parents. Instead, I moved to a small city an hour from home and got a job working as a writer for the city’s newspaper. I rented a tiny, run-down apartment downtown that robbed me of over half of my monthly salary. I had no furniture, slept on an air mattress, and ate meals on the grungy carpet.

I guess I got too carried away with my sudden independence, or perhaps I was just overly desperate to be accepted for who I was. The people I ended up hanging out with liked to smoke pot. Personally, I hated pot, but these people made me feel like I was a somebody, like I actually mattered, so I just went with it.

Anyway, I ended up getting caught with some weed and was sent to jail. Lost my job and my apartment. Dad bailed me out and took me back home. Not sure what he did, but he somehow got the charges against me reduced so that there was no court or jail time for me. However, the judge ordered me to see this shrink, and since I liked to write, this same shrink gave me this ridiculous journal assignment.

 

 

January 29th

I’m writing this from my hospital bed. Actually, I’m in a psych ward within the hospital. The day after I wrote the first entry to this journaling assignment, Dad and I got into a big fight. Apparently, I’m a hardship to him and Mom, and it’s starting to affect their health and job stability. I guess I just lost it. I yelled at him saying something like, well, if I’m such a hardship, perhaps I should just remove myself from their lives.

I ran into the only bathroom in the house and locked myself in. I grabbed a shaving razor and proceeded to slash the top of my hands. Freaking out, Mom called 911. From there on, everything’s just a blur. I remember waking up in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. My whole body felt bruised. Mom was sitting beside me, crying.  Dad, well, I haven’t seen him since that night. She said that it took three people tackling me to stop me from continuing to slice my wrists. I don’t remember that part, but she was right, both of my wrists are bandaged up. The top of my hands are also bandaged, so I can barely write this stupid entry.

This stupid assignment. Stupid shrink. I hate him. I hate them all.

 

 

February 3rd

I’m still here, in the psych ward. It seems that I’m not ready to be released yet. Or rather, my parents aren’t ready to take me back home. Either way, I don’t give a rip.

 

February 7th

Mandy visited me yesterday. She said she was worried about me. She then turned around and told me how angry she was with me. How could I be so selfish to have hurt Mom and Dad. I told her to get out of my face. I don’t need this from her or from anyone for that matter!

 

 

February 12th

Why is everyone against me? What have I done so wrong to be treated so? Pat stopped by for a few minutes. Long enough to tell me that my own parents were seriously considering having me permanently committed. She went on to tell me that she did some research on my biological parents. My mother gave birth to me at the age of 13. She had been raped by her 16-year-old cousin who then committed suicide shortly afterward. Pat said that I should never have been adopted and that I’ve been nothing but a heartache to Mom and Dad.

After she left, I just lied down on the bed and cried.

 

 

February 15th

The shrink told me that I was actually starting to make progress and that I should continue to journal. Whatever.

Today, I wrote my first poem in months. It’s called “Alone.”

Heart is the bridge to

one’s soul, break it in

pieces and it will

strand you, immerse you

with unspeakable loneliness

You know what? After writing this, I felt better. Purged. Does that make any sense? I’m looking back over it, and am wondering…where did this come from? Am I really that pathetic? Do I really feel that way?

The answer is yes.

 

 

March 2nd

It’s been a while since the last entry. I have a good reason. Well, make that twenty-five reasons, as that’s how many poems I’ve written. I’m somewhat amazed at how dark and desperate some sounded. I thought about rewriting a few so they don’t make me out to be some kind of psychotic bitch, but I didn’t.

I worked up the courage and gave some to the shrink to read. I felt certain that he would definitely have me permanently committed after reading those particular ones (that would just please the family wouldn’t it?). I was stunned when he said that they were really good. Then he had to ask if I had thought about submitting them to places to have them published.

Seriously?

Hmm…

 

 

March 27th

I’ve been released from the hospital/psych ward. Since I’m no longer welcome home, I’m now living in a halfway house of sorts. I’m working part-time as a dishwasher at a college. It’s nothing glamorous, just a no-brainer, tedious job. I did something last week that scared the crap out of me, though. I submitted a few of my poems to four literary journals. Shrink seems confident that one of these places will publish my work. I have serious doubts. I mean, who would want to read my stuff? They’re just stupid poems. Nothing special about them at all.

 

 

April 30th

I’m in disbelief. I received word yesterday that my poems have been accepted by Julienne Literary Journal to be published. Oh. My. God.

I think I may have even hyperventilated because I found myself on the floor breathing hysterically with a bag over my face. All those poor people at the post office. God bless them for not freaking out on me.

 

 

May 16th

Good news keeps rolling in. Apparently, Dad has been working with a judge to try and get my criminal/drug/psych ward incarceration expunged from my record since it was my first offense, and guess what? As of this morning, I’m a free woman with a clean record! I’ve a feeling that my shrink may have had a hand in this even though he vehemently denied it. I know better.

This will be my last entry for the journaling assignment—the psych sessions are ending. As I read through the earlier entries, I hadn’t realized just how full of anger I was, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned that I no longer need to be. There is so much more to life than holding on to the feeling of anger because people refused to accept me as I am. No more. I want to live my own life the way I feel is best for me. I no longer need to rely on others to help me feel worthy. I can do that for myself. Writing poems and journaling have shown me that. They became the keys to unlocking my true soul.

*First published with GFT Press March 2016

Creativity and Mental Illness

I read an article recently that got me thinking about creativity and its role in mental illness (or vice versa): Creativity and mental illness share genetic markers on Genetic Literacy Project.

“Scientists in Iceland report that genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often in people in creative professions.”

Hmm, this statement wasn’t anything I did NOT know; however…

“Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, a genetics company based in Reykjavik, said the findings, described in the journal Nature Neuroscience, point to a common biology for some mental disorders and creativity. ‘To be creative, you have to think differently,’ he told the Guardian. ‘And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.’”

Wait, there’s more…

“Stefansson believes that scores of genes increase the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These may alter the ways in which many people think, but in most people do nothing very harmful. But for 1% of the population, genetic factors, life experiences and other influences can culminate in problems, and a diagnosis of mental illness.”

Not only do we, as creatives, think differently I believe we also feel differently.  And we just don’t look (or feel) at the surface, we dig deep.

Very deep.

We dare to.

We must.

It’s okay if we’re viewed as being different.

Odd.

We’re used to being alone, standing in a room full of strangers (even family members tend to be viewed as strangers at times).

But do all of these make us mentally ill?

We tend to delve so deeply into our minds that we start to see things (and people) that may or may not be there.

We talk to our characters that no one else can hear.

Our minds…our imagination are our greatest weapons.

And our downfall.

All because “normal” people do not understand us.

But does that make us mentally ill?

Mental Health and Artistic Endeavors (Polls)

 

 

**More posts to follow on this subject.  Stay tuned.

Writing and Mental Health

mental health

* Journal of Life-“A piece of fiction from Carrie Ann Golden; written as journal entries of a young lady struggling with mental illness/family.” –GFT Press

I wrote a short fiction for GFT Press which was published late last week.  I took various experiences from my past, and wrote them into this particular story of a young woman.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but writing can be used as a therapeutic tool while working through life challenges.

What about you?  Has writing helped you through various dark and troubling times in your life?

Are All Artists Crazy???

trials

In your opinion, do you think-in general-that creatives (writers, poets, painters, actors; even scientists and philosophers) are a bit, er, “crazy”?    Would you consider some to have some form of mental illness?

Here are some quotes to consider:

“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence.” Edgar Allan Poe

“The notion that  inspiration requires  regression and dipping into irrationality in order to access unconscious symbols and thought has been popular across disciplines for hundreds of years. Plato said that creativity is a “divine madness…a gift from the gods”. Maureen Neihart, Psy.D.

“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” Aristotle

“It is only too true that a lot of artists are mentally ill-it’s a life which, to put it mildly, makes one an outsider.  I’m all right when I completely immerse myself in work, but I’ll always remain half crazy.”  Vincent van Gogh

“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
– Sylvia Plath

Studies have shown that creative individuals tend to exhibit some form of mental illness (such as mood disorder or bipolar or depression) more so than non-creative individuals.

Why?

Could it be because we look at the world and at our experiences differently from others?  Could it possibly be that we tend to be hyper-aware of all that goes on around and within us?

Any thoughts or personal experience on this?

 

*Additional readings:

Madness and Creativity: Do we need to be crazy?

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness

The Sylvia Plath Effect

Writing and Mental Health

 

 

 

3 Ways To Raise Self-Awareness (and end those destructive behaviors)

In an earlier post, Sabotaging Your Own Dream, one of the readers asked a valid question: are there specific ways of increasing one’s self-awareness?

Yes, there are.

I hunted through the world of web and found these three basic tips below to help increase self-awareness:

 

Pause:  

In a modern world that is full of distraction, noise, and chaos, we find it increasingly difficult to allocate time for ourselves in order to re-connect.   In turn, stress and negative habits build until they threaten to overwhelm us, causing us to lose sight of who we are as individuals, and of our dreams.

Studies have shown that it is essential for our mental health to be able to spend quality time with ourselves; but, how do you even begin?

The first step is take a break from your usual hectic lifestyle.  Pause. Be still.  This can mean taking a long, hot bath; or, taking your lunch to sit in your car while listening to soothing music; or even finding a closet and shutting yourself in it.  For others this could be found while going out on a leisurely walk, or gardening, or while washing the dishes.  The key is finding your “quiet” place where you can be alone with your thoughts and feelings.

Reflect:

Turn your focus to your thoughts and feelings and reflect on them.  What’s bothering you?  Are you where you want to be at this point in life?  If not, what is preventing you?  What’s holding you back?  Be honest with yourself.  Recognize and acknowledge each thought and/or feeling that surfaces. Don’t push it away. If it’s helpful, keep a notepad with you and write about these thoughts and feelings.  Don’t hold anything back.

Redirect:

Wait a day or two and then go back and review what you wrote.  Chances are you may see a pattern of behavior (overtly or not) emerging.  If it’s a negative one, it could be responsible for preventing you from realizing a particular dream.  If it is, what changes can you make to remove or convert it into a more positive behavior?  Make note of them, and then put them into action.

 

For further readings on increasing your own self-awareness, please refer to below sources:

An epic guide to developing self-awareness: how to improve your leadership skills by understanding yourself

Self-Awareness

Tidbits and a Guest Post

It’s already day three for Camp NaNoWriMo and I haven’t really gotten started.

Yet.

I knew this month may be a busy one between son’s spring break, and planting/tending our garden and ever-growing fruit/berry orchard on our 3/4 acre land.

I hope to get caught up with writing later today.

In the meantime, a new post went up on Artistic Crossroads called Writing and Artistic Creativity for Mental Health, written by our guest blogger Valerie Johnston.  In this she talks about a mental disorder that affects many people, and how writing can help.

Happy writing 🙂